||The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (September 2010)|
Fire retardant fabrics are textiles that are naturally more resistant to fire than others through chemical treatment or manufactured fireproof fibers.
Terminology and test limitations
The term fire retardant as applied to organic (i.e., containing carbon) materials, is intended to refer to reduced fire hazard, as all will burn under certain circumstances. The tests used specified in building codes, such as NFPA 701, are more correctly flame resistance tests, which test a fabric's ability to resist ignition with the flame size and duration in the test conditions. The result is a comparative test, which provides a measure of the material's resistance to propagating combustion caused by small scale ignition sources. These tests do not predict the burning characteristics of full scale hazards. In many cases, if exposed to a sufficiently large and sustained exposure fire, the fire retardant fabrics will burn vigorously.
Fire retardant fabrics and stage drapery
Fabric flammability is an important textile issue, especially for stage drapery that will be used in a public space such as a school, theatre or special event venue. In the United States, Federal regulations require that drapery fabrics used in such spaces be certified as flame or fire retardant. For draperies and other fabrics used in public places, this is known as the NFPA 701 Test, which follows standards developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Although all fabrics will burn, some are naturally more resistant to fire than others. Those that are more flammable can have their fire resistance drastically improved by treatment with fire retardant chemicals.
It is possible to use inherently flame retardant fabrics that due to the nature of the fabric do not flare up when subjected to naked flames. An example of these is a polyester. You can print directly onto polyester to have as many designs as you like and to get superior designs. It is possible to buy manufactured fire resistant polyester fabrics all around the world and get them in the colours and designs that you want. It is advisable to check with your fire safety officer to ensure that fire resistant Polyester is inline with your national standards and requirements. See you local standards. An example is British Standards
Fire retardancy fabric treatment
Fire retardant fabrics are normally treated to different British Standards (BS) normally this depends on the end usage of the fabrics, it is a little bit of a grey area. BS 476 is a fire treatment for fabrics that are normally for wall hanging, and must only be used as for that purpose, where as CRIB 5 is a fabric fire treatment for upholstery and must only be used for furnishing and upholstrey purpose, even though both fabrics have been treated for fire retardancy.
The M1 standard is a European standard that is widely used in Europe only. Most UK fire officers are reluctant to accept MI certification, they prefer BS certificates.
Durability and cleaning of fabric and drapes
When a fabric is designated as inherently fire retardant, permanently fire retardant, or durably fire retardant, the flame retardancy will last for the life of the fabric.The drapery can be laundered or dry-cleaned as recommended by the drapery manufacturer. In the case of fabrics that are designated as fire retardant, that have been topically treated with chemicals, the flame retardancy of the fabric will dissipate over time, particularly with repeated cleaning. These fabrics must be dry-cleaned with a non-liquid cleaning agent.
Typically, the flame retardancy of topically treated fabric is certified for one year, though the actual length of time in which the treatment remains effective will vary based on the number of times the drapery is dry-cleaned and the environmental conditions in the location in which the drapery is used. It is recommended that topically treated drapery be re-tested for fire retardancy on an annual basis and re-treated by a qualified professional as needed.