I have posted a number of times on the issue of flame retardancy of stage curtains, in part because it is one of my areas of expertise (though I still have a lot to learn) but mostly because I find that it is not only an important topic, but also an area about which there are many misconceptions.

Last June, for example, I posted about the differences between IFR, FR,  NFR and other related terms.  The primary difference between FR and IFR is the method in which a fabric is made flame retardant.  Either it is made flame retardant in the fiber stage (IFR) or it is made flame retardant after weaving (FR). 

Occasionally, we have clients who request an IFR fabric because they believe that it is “more” flame retardant than an FR fabric.  For example, they will state that, because the drapery will be near pyrotechnics on a rock show stage, they prefer to use an IFR fabric.

The reality, though, is that a brand new IFR fabric is neither more nor less flame retardant than a brand new FR fabric, and vice versa.  Both fabric have been tested and certified to meet specific flame retardancy standards, such as NFPA 701 and California’s Title 19. 

Now, there is a difference in longevity of flame retardancy between IFR and FR.  Typically, an IFR fabric will remain flame retardant for the life of the fabric (regardless of whether it is laundered, dry-cleaned, etc).  However, an FR fabric will eventually lose its flame retardancy (usually due to laundering, repeated dry cleaning, or extended exposure to high humidity conditions).  Once it is retreated, though, it again is “equal” to the IFR fabric in terms of flame retardancy.

And remember, there are instances in which a drape made from a flame retardant fabric will lose its flame retardant properties.  One way is if dust is allowed to accummulate on the surface of the drape.  Did you know that dust (as it is composed primarily of organic matter) is flammable?  In such a case, it doesn’t matter if the drape is made of IFR fabric or FR fabric – if there is a layer of dust on the surface, the drape might not be flame retardant.

So, when choosing the fabric for stage curtains, there are many factors that are important to consider – budget, longevity, cleaning options, durability, and much more.  But choosing IFR over FR because it seems “more flame retardant” should not be one of the factors.

Questions on Fire Retardancy? See our whitepaper, “Five Common Misconceptions About Flame Retardancy”.

Questions on IFR vs FR Fabrics? See our whitepaper, Does “IFR” Mean it’s More Flame Retardant than “FR”?