The Flammability of Fabrics
All fabrics will burn but some are more combustible than others. Untreated natural fibers such as cotton, linen and silk burn more readily than wool, which is more difficult to ignite and burns with a low flame velocity.
The weight and weave of the fabric will affect how easily the material will ignite and burn. Recommended fabrics are materials with a tight weave. Heavy, tight weave fabrics will burn more slowly than loose weave, light fabrics of the same material. The surface texture of the fabric also affects flammability. Fabrics with long, loose, fluffy pile or “brushed” nap will ignite more readily than fabrics with a hard, tight surface, and in some cases will result in flames flashing across the fabric surface.
Most synthetic fabrics, such as nylon, acrylic or polyester resist ignition. However, once ignited, the fabrics melt. This hot, sticky, melted substance causes localized and extremely severe burns. When natural and synthetic fibers are blended, the hazard may increase because the combination of high rate of burning and fabric melting usually will result in serious burns. In some cases, the hazard may be greater than that of either fabric individually.
Curtains, draperies and other articles in the home can have their burning rates reduced with flame retardants applied through chemical treatment. Such flame-retardant treatment after manufacturing is not recommended for clothing.
In terms of flammability, silk may be the worst with a high burning rate, which may be increased by the dyes and other additives to provide color.
Cotton and linen also have a high burning rate but this can be alleviated by the application of flame-retardant chemical additives.
Acetate and triacetate are as flammable or slightly less flammable than cotton. However, they can be made flame-retardant with chemical treatment.
Nylon, polyester and acrylic tend to be slow to ignite but once ignited, severe melting and dripping occurs.
Wool is comparatively flame-retardant. If ignited, it usually has a low burning rate and may self-extinguish.
Glass fibers and moacrylic are almost flame-resistant. These synthetic fibers are designed and manufactured to possess flame-retardant properties.
What is a Fire Retardant
People unfamiliar with fire retardants are surprised to hear that wood or fabric can qualify as a non-combustible material to a certain degree. Should a fire strike, the chemicals react with combustible gases and tars normally generated by the material. The tars are converted to carbon char which forms on the surface, slowing the burning rate . The combustible gases are rendered nonflammable for the most part due to dilution with harmless carbon dioxide and water vapor released in the reaction. This happens automatically, driven by the heat of the fire, and requires no coating maintenance, batteries, or plumbing; it is true passive protection.
According to the NFPA’s National Fire Safety Survey findings: Although the U.S. has a higher fire death rate than Canada, Western Europe and the Pacific Rim, the majority of Americans are very confident about their fire safety. Older adults express the greatest confidence even though they have the greatest risk of fire death. Men are more confident about fire safety than women; although, of the two groups, men are at a higher risk of fire death. The majority of Americans feel safest from fire in their homes, when in truth, home fires account for roughly 80% of all fires – and they pose the greatest threat to life. The cost of operating public fire prevention services in the U.S. costs the taxpayers billions of dollars per year, most of which is spent on suppression of fire. Many people have the attitude that “fire only happens to other people.” But until fire strikes their home and family, fire prevention is ignored. Once fire prevention week comes and goes each October, little thought is given to fire safety and prevention until next year’s campaign. Fire suppression is a necessary and vitally important service. It is, however, “after-the-fact”. This includes smoke detectors, alarms, sprinklers and extinguishers. The use of fire retardants or firestops are logical “before-the-fact” steps that should be taken. Fire spreads 1100% in the first 4 minutes. Heat rises at 90 feet per second or approximately 60 mph. Approximately 90% of fire fatalities are in the home and 90% of the fatalities occur during the sleeping hours 10pm to 6am. Remember, smoke alarms and sprinklers cannot prevent the fire, but fire retardants in most cases can prevent and/or slow the spread of fire, which can greatly prevent lose of life and property in addition to using smoke alarms or sprinklers. By applying fire retardants to your curtains, furniture, carpeting, etc., is very easy and is an added safety precaution for smokers and small children in the home. Your home and family deserve the best fire protection possible, so why not invest in it.
For more information or to order a fire retardant, please visit National Fireproofing Co. at: www.natfire.com We supply non-toxic, non-staining formulas specifically for fabrics.