Understanding Flame Retardant and Fire Retardant Fabrics | (2022)

Understanding Flame Retardant and Fire Retardant Fabrics | (1)

Flame retardant fabrics are essential to use for a number of residential and commercial applications. Fire retardant fabrics are often a necessary safety feature to incorporate within any venue, from bars and restaurants to hotel rooms. Flame retardant fabric is considered safer as it takes a longer time to burn than normal, combustible fabrics. The longer the flame takes to burn through the fabric, the higher the flame retardant properties of the textile. Flame retardant fabric works to protect both your customers and staff, while enhancing your health and safety approach.

In this guide to understanding flame retardant and fire retardant fabrics, we’ll discuss the different types of fabric options available. We’ll discuss their individual properties, and how they work to resist fire.

Tests for Flame Retardant and Fire Retardant Upholstery Fabrics

There are certain laws in place that ensure all upholstery fabrics are relatively fire resistant. These regulations are there to prevent unnecessary fires, and tests such as the ‘match test’ are undertaken in order to confirm that all regulations are met. The following is an overview of the types of tests for certain flame retardant fabrics.

Match Test – This is where the fabric must be able to withstand a naked flame. The match test is carried out to ensure fabrics meet the regulations for use in domestic or residential settings, such as in the home.

Cigarette Test – This is where fabrics can be used without special fire retardant treatments. Cigarette tested fabric only meets domestic guidelines if it is accompanied with a Schedule 3 Fire Barrier or interliner fabric. Upholstery fabrics accompanied with thicker fire barrier textiles are often not suitable for use as curtains, as the draping properties of the fabric will be altered. Some flame resistant interlinings, however, are specifically manufactured to improve the look and feel of draped curtains.

Crib 5 – a Crib 5 test for flame retardant fabrics is done within a lab. This ensures the fabric is suitable for settings where fires are more likely to start due to the nature of the venue, such as in restaurants, bars and hotels. This is the most common fire retardant rating found when shopping with commercial upholstery and curtain fabric suppliers in the UK.

Crib 7 – The highest of the fire rating tests, the Crib 7 test is for high risk applications where fires are much more likely to occur. In particular, the crib 7 test is used for fabrics in places where it would be difficult to evacuate everyone if a fire was to break out. Hospitals and prisons may choose to incorporate crib 7 tested fabrics.

What is the Difference Between Flame Retardant and Fire Retardant Fabrics?

Fire retardant fabrics are manufactured to be more resistant to fire and flames. Fire retardant fabrics aim to reduce the fire hazard, rather than actively stop it from spreading. Fire retardant fabrics are not usually as effective as flame retardant fabrics, as fires can still burn on without the special chemical additions often found in flame retardant fabrics.

Flame retardant fabric is often made to actively stop fire from spreading further. These are often woven from flame resistant yarns from the beginning. This is can be done by adding special chemical coatings that enable the textile to ‘self-extinguish’ when exposed to a flame. The flame ignites a reaction within the chemical products that actually leads to extinguishing the flame itself.


Flame retardant textiles are made in two ways, which we’ll discuss in further detail below.

What are the 2 Types of Flame Retardant Fabric?

There are two types of fire retardant fabric used today. Non durable flame retardant finishing fabric, and permanent, or inherently flame retardant fabric are the two types of fire resistant fabrics. Here, we’ll discuss the properties between the two, and which fabric may be more suitable for your project.

Non-Durable Flame Retardant Finishing Fabric

Non durable fire retardant fabrics are made from cotton or polyester. These are actually combustible fabrics, that are simply treated with flame retardant substances after manufacturing.

Coating: Coating techniques can be used to carefully cover the textile with the flame retardant chemicals. When fabric has been made using coating technique for non durable flame retardant finishing fabrics, the extra layer leads to a more structured fabric. This means coated non durable flame retardant finishing fabrics are less appropriate for curtains, as we want curtains to fall into a soft drape.

Dipping: The dipping technique is where fabrics (often made from more natural fibers) are dipped into the chemical solution. This allows the fabric to absorb the flame retardant chemicals, which then work to put out any flames if a fire does begin. The dipping technique is great for non durable flame retardant finishing fabrics for use as curtains, as the process does not stiffen the fabric. This means you can achieve a natural draping look, while benefitting from flame resistant curtains.

These types of fabrics are labelled as ‘non durable’ flame retardant fabrics, as they do not withstand plenty of washing. After the non durable fire retardant fabrics are washed a number of times, they begin to lose their flame retardant properties.

Permanent Flame Retardant Fabric

In comparison with non durable flame retardant fabric and fire retardant finishing fabric, permanent flame retardant fabric can be washed without losing its effectiveness. This is because the fabric itself is inherently flame retardant, due to the yarns used when weaving the fabric together from the very beginning. Permanent flame resistant fabric is therefore used in venues where fabric requires frequent washing, such as in hospitals or hotels.

Why do I Need Fire Retardant Curtains and Fire Retardant Upholstery?

Businesses have a high level of responsibility when it comes to ensuring their customers are safe from potential harm. If you’re reading this because you’re looking for upholstery and curtain fabrics for a commercial venture, you need to consider the health and safety implications with regards to taking care of your customers and visitors.

Bars and restaurants frequently use fire retardant curtains and upholstery. This is because they are venues with a higher chance of fires breaking out. Any fire from restaurant kitchens has the potential to grow and spread to other areas of the venue, such as the dining area. Alongside this, restaurants and bars often use candles and other fire-based decorations in order to uplift the ambience of the room.

Fire retardant fabrics used for curtains and upholstery can protect your furnishings from potential fire damage. Whether it’s a commercial kitchen fire that spreads throughout the seating area, or a customer accidentally knocks over a small candle; flame retardant fabrics are extremely useful in both situations. Without fire retardant fabrics, the potential for fire to spread as it burns through fabric is higher. You’ll also see more damage on your curtains and upholstery, due to small burns caused by candle lit accidents.

Flame Retardant Upholstery and Curtain Fabrics by Edmund Bell

One of the UK’s leading upholstery and curtain textiles manufacturers, Edmund Bell have spent years refining and perfecting their approach to flame retardant fabrics. From the luxurious Lustre fabric, with its metallic sheen and crushed velvet appearance, to the beautifully textured Eclipse fabric with its charming country feel, Edmund Bell offer a variety of fire and flame retardant fabrics for all commercial purposes.

Their Enduracare coating technology ensures fabrics are both flame retardant and stain resistant, maintaining a quality standard within your surroundings for years to come.

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