Flame-resistant and fire-retardant fabrics are essential safety tools in a variety of industrial, commercial, and municipal applications. Technological improvements in these fabrics have facilitated the development flame barriers, coverings, numerous types of personal protective equipment, and more. This blog post will discuss the differences between flame-resistant and fire-retardant fabrics, common applications of these fabrics, and more.
Flame-Resistant (FR) Fabrics
While there is significant overlap in fire-resistant and flame-retardant fabric—both in terminology and physical usage—the two fabric types have distinct differences.
Fire-Retardant Fabric vs. Fire-Resistant Fabric
Fire-retardant fabrics and fire-resistant fabrics are two different classes of material. Each class has unique attributes that make them advantageous for intense heat or open flame applications, but they use different mechanisms to do so.
- Fire-retardant fabrics, also known as chemically flame retardant fabrics, are standard fabrics that have been treated with a special flame-retardant coating. They will burn, but at a much slower rate than untreated standard fabrics. Flame retardancy is classified into three groups: flame retardant (FR), inherently flame retardant (IFR), and durably flame retardant (DFR).
- Flame-resistant fabrics are made up of typically synthetic fibers that resist ignition under prolonged exposure to flame or heat. Because of this construction, they are also sometimes referred to as inherently flame-retardant fabrics. Instead of burning, these fabrics will eventually begin to melt. The degree of inherently flame-resistant fibers within a flame-resistant fabric can vary widely from a few percent of the fibers to a full construction, depending on the manufacturer.
Nylon and Polyester Fabric Fire Resistance
Synthetic fibers comprise most of the top choices for fire-resistant fabrics. While most natural fibers are flammable, plastic-based fibers will often melt due to the heat instead of igniting. Nylon and polyester fabrics have become especially popular due to their high melting points and low thermal conductivity. For additional protection, manufacturers can treat the fibers with a solution of fire-resistant chemicals.
Adding a Fire-Resistant Fabric Finish
Certain chemicals can treat natural and synthetic fibers to increase their fire resistance. These chemicals are classified into four different groups based on their effects:
- Soft Fire Resistant (FR)
- Medium Crisp Fire Resistant (FR)
- Medium Soft Fire Resistant (MSFR)
- Heat Set Fire Resistant (HSFR)
Fire-resistant and fire-retardant fabrics are necessary in a wide variety of applications. Many industries regulate the types of fabrics allowed in various settings to ensure that facilities meet minimum application safety standards. Some of the most popular applications for these fabrics include the following:
- Aeronautical, automotive, and marine applications, which require fire-retardant or fire-resistant fabrics for seating, cargo nets, and interior finishes
- Hospital uses, such as material for drapes, sheets, and mattress covers
- Military applications, such as protective military clothing
- Occupational safety, with applications primarily focused on worker safety and PPE in industrial and outdoor settings
- Recreation, especially in camping, fishing, golfing, hiking, hunting, and shooting
More Information on Fire Resistant/Retardant Fabrics
At Jason Mills, we manufacture a wide variety of knit textiles, including flame-retardant and fire-resistant fabrics. Our materials meet strict industrial and safety standards to ensure every protective fabric is as safe as possible. Our team can research and develop custom fibers to create knit fabrics that target specific operational challenges. Contact us today or request a quote to see how our capabilities can serve your operation.