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Why fire retardant fabric is important

Author: CC

Mar. 07, 2024

87 0

Tags: Textiles & Leather Products

It’s beauty rather than safety most people are thinking about when they’re making their decision to buy curtains and soft furnishings. However, when the 2005 Fire Safety Order (RFFSO) was introduced, it meant the operator of non-domestic buildings such as care homes and hotels had to appoint a Responsible Person for fire safety. This includes ensuring fabrics and soft furnishings adhere to British Standards.

How flame retardant fabrics work

The majority of fabrics you see in many public buildings can be identified as a fire hazard which is why they’re required, by law, to be certified as flame retardant. 

Benefits

  • They take longer to burn or self-extinguish so the spread of fire is limited

  • The buildup of heat is significantly reduced to prevent rapid-fire development or flashovers

There are two types of flame retardant fabrics

Coated fabrics: topical treatment is applied to the reverse of the fabric reducing flammability to make it fire retardant. However, a couple of drawbacks are the treatment decreases over time whilst they aren’t suitable for washing – far from ideal for commercial buildings such as hotels and care homes.

Inherent Fabrics: a yarn that has been scientifically enhanced is woven into the fabric to help reduce its flammability. Subsequently, this means the fabric remains flame retardant for the full life of the material, providing a fabric that’s going to meet legal requirements for as long as it’s used. 

Understanding Key British Standards

  • The building’s environment and its relative risk factors such as fire access, occupancy levels, fire detection systems, mobility and noise all help determine the British Standards your establishment must adhere to.

  • There are different classifications for different types of venues, as decided by the FIRA (Furniture Industry Research Association) which usually classifies hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues as ‘Medium Hazard’ and offices, museums, schools, colleges and universities as ‘Low Hazard’.

  • Knowing where your establishment sits in these classifications will help you determine which British Standard you need to adhere to when buying any soft furnishings. Nevertheless, it’s still important to consider that a fire safety assessment may rule a singular product being assigned to a lower or higher level.

At Fresh Furnishings we work with major flame retardant fabric suppliers, ensuring our customers the very best, and safest, soft furnishing products to meet all specifications and needs. Get in touch via our contact form or call 01200 440254 today.

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Let’s take a look at inherently fire-resistant fabrics. Before we start, it’s important to note that no fabric is fireproof; given enough time, it will burn. That being said, some materials out there resist fire more than others. For example, we all know that cotton burns easily and rapidly. However, wool and Kevlar inherently resist flames because of the fiber's structure. A tightly woven wool fabric will take longer to burn than cotton or linen.

Inherent vs. Treated

The first thing you should know about fire retardant fabrics is that there are two main types: Inherently or Chemically Treated. A fabric is inherently or chemically flame retardant, which matters when it comes to what you’re using the fabric for and how long you want it to last. Over time you can wash out chemicals, but if you take care of your fabric, it can last a long time. Remember, some fabrics are naturally more resistant to catching fire than others. Like tightly woven wool takes longer to burn than cotton.

Inherently fire-retardant fabrics are excellent for use in your home, especially for things like curtains and drapes. (This is one way to protect your home and family from fire and chemically treated materials). These fabrics can also be used in tents, health care fabrics, drapes, tarps, military applications, awnings, banners, and signs.

Finding the proper manufacturer for your fire retardant project/product is essential, especially when considering chemically treated fire retardant fabrics. That’s why Herculite Inc. offers customers a variety of products that are not only fire retardant but meets the National Fire Protection Association standards.

The NFPA is the world’s leading advocate of fire prevention and an authoritative source on public safety; NFPA develops, publishes, and disseminates more than 300 consensus codes and standards.

The application of flame-retardant fabrics is far-reaching. For example, Herculite Inc. offers the Sure-Chek® high-performance fire barrier fabric. The Sure-Chek® fire barrier fabric is flame resistant and self-extinguishes when removing a source flame. These products are manufactured and tested by accepted industry standards.

Additionally, Herculite offers an ultra-high fire barrier fabric Sure-Chek® Blaze Blocker HP, an open-flame barrier fabric. This inner liner fabric enables mattresses to pass the California Technical Bulletin 129, Boston Fire Code 9-XII (full-scale open flame, complete mattress burn tests). Sure-Chek® Blaze Blocker HP also passes California Technical Bulletin 133 (full-scale open flame, full chair burn test).

Herculite’s awning composite textiles are also excellent examples of an inherently flame [C1] retardant fabric (PVC composite) with practical uses. Some municipalities will mandate fire-resistant awning fabrics, and checking ahead will reduce potential project delays.

Where are flame-retardant fabrics used?

Flame-retardant textiles are used in various applications where fire safety is critical. These textiles are designed to resist ignition, delay flame spread, and limit the extent of burning when exposed to a fire or heat source. Here are some common uses of flame-retardant textiles:

  1. Protective Clothing:

    Flame-retardant textiles are widely used in protective clothing for workers in industries with a risk of fire or exposure to heat. This includes firefighters' gear and industrial workers in oil and gas, welding, chemical processing, and electrical industries. Flame-resistant clothing provides additional protection, reducing the risk of burns and injuries in fire incidents.
  2. Upholstery and Furnishings: Flame-retardant textiles are used in upholstery and furnishings for homes, offices, and public spaces. This includes furniture upholstery, curtains, drapes, carpets, and bedding. These textiles help enhance the fire safety of these products, reducing the potential for rapid flame spread and contributing to overall building safety.
  3. Transportation Industry: Flame-retardant textiles are utilized in the transportation industry, including the automotive, aerospace, and railway sectors. They are used in the interior components of vehicles, such as seat covers, carpets, headliners, and insulation materials. Incorporating flame-retardant textiles can minimize the risk of fire incidents and the spread of flames in case of accidents or electrical malfunctions.
  4. Military and Defense Applications:

    Flame-retardant textiles are vital in military and defense applications. They are used in uniforms, combat gear, tents, sleeping bags, and other equipment to protect personnel from fire hazards during combat, training, or emergencies.
  5. Hospitality and Public Spaces: Flame-retardant textiles are commonly employed in hotels, restaurants, theaters, and other public spaces to comply with fire safety regulations. They are used in curtains, drapes, bedding, upholstery, and carpets to reduce the risk of fire incidents and ensure the safety of occupants. Even windows will need to be flame resistant.
  6. Medical and Healthcare:

    In medical environments, flame-retardant textiles are utilized in bedding, curtains, and drapes to enhance patient safety. These textiles help minimize the risk of fire accidents and contribute to maintaining a safe healthcare environment.
  7. Electrical and Electronics: Flame-retardant textiles find applications in the electrical and electronics industries. They are used as insulation materials, cable and wire coatings, and protective covers for electrical components to minimize the fire risk caused by electrical faults, short circuits, or overheating.

Flame-retardant textiles are crucial in various industries and settings where fire safety is paramount. They provide an added layer of protection, reduce the spread of flames, and allow more time for evacuation or fire suppression measures in emergencies.

What are some of the significant testing standards for flame-retardant textiles?

Flame standards for textiles refer to regulations and testing methods that determine the flammability characteristics of textile materials. These standards assess the fabric's resistance to ignition, flame spread, and other fire-related behaviors. Compliance with flame standards ensures that textiles meet specific safety requirements and reduce the risk of fire hazards. Here are some commonly used flame standards for materials:

  1. NFPA 701: The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 701 is a widely recognized standard in the United States for flame propagation of textiles and films. It addresses the fire behavior of fabrics used in curtains, draperies, and similar applications. The test evaluates the fabric's response to a small-scale flame and measures parameters such as ignition time, flame spread, and after-flame duration.
  2. ISO 15025: This International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard is known as the "vertical flame test" or "vertical strip test." It assesses the flame resistance of textiles when exposed to a small flame applied vertically. It measures after-flame, after-glow, and damage length to determine the fabric's performance.
  3. BS 5852: The British Standard 5852 is a flame-retardant test method used in the United Kingdom. It assesses the ignition resistance of upholstery materials used in furniture, including fabrics, foams, and fillings. Part 1 covers ignition sources for a cigarette and match flames, while Part 2 addresses using a gas flame as an ignition source.
  4. DIN 4102: The German standard DIN 4102 evaluates the fire behavior of materials, including textiles. Multiple classifications, such as B1, B2, and B3, indicate different flammability levels. B1 is the highest level, meaning a material that is difficult to ignite and has limited flame spread.
  5. AS/NZS 1530: The Australian/New Zealand Standard 1530 assesses the fire performance of building materials, including textiles. It comprises two parts: Part 2 measures the flammability properties, such as ignition time, flame spread, and heat release rate, while Part 3 evaluates the spread of flame on external walls.

These are just a few examples of flame standards for textiles. Different countries may have national or regional standards that manufacturers and suppliers must comply with to ensure the safety of textile products. It is essential to consult the relevant standards and regulations applicable to your specific region or intended market to make sure it is in compliance.

So what have chemically treated fire retardant fabrics?

Well, they are fabrics that have been coated with a fire-resistant chemical. Today, there are more than 175 different types of flame retardants, according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI). These chemical types are brominated, chlorinated, phosphorus-containing, nitrogen-containing, and inorganic flame retardants.  Flame retardant chemicals are also known as PBDEs or polybrominated diphenyl ethers.

Keep in mind that PBDEs are chemical, and you might have questions about their safety. Visit the Center for Disease Control’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s Web site for more information at: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=900&tid=183.

If you buy a treated fabric, remember that the chemical starts to wear down as you wash and use it. Inherently fire retardant fabrics don’t suffer from this issue.  You may also consider that adding an FR treatment to a material may void the manufacturer's warranty.

So, when buying a flame retardant fabric, whether inherently or chemically treated, remember to choose the proper manufacturer – like Herculite Inc. – who understands the importance of quality and safety.

Now that you know more about flame retardant fabrics, download our free guide, "Five Factors to Consider When Determining Awning Fabric Quality."

 

Why fire retardant fabric is important

Fire Retardant Fabrics 101

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