With the focus of our business being on stage curtains for the music touring business, ensuring that the drapery we provide meets flame retardancy standards is a key issue for us and for our clients. However, we do find that some of our clients don’t fully understand the standards and ask for their drapes to be “flame proof.”
The reality is that no fabric is “flame proof.” Any fabric will burn in a fire. However, the goal of flame retardancy standards is to minimize that fire danger.
A fabric designated as flame retardant would be better described as “flame resistant” rather than “flame proof.” If a flame is introduced, the fabric may burn, but the flame spread will be “retarded” (or lessened) and, once the flame origin is removed, it will almost immediately self-extinguish. Flame retardant fabrics are typically designated as “FR” or “DFR/IFR.”
“FR” means that the fabric has been topically treated with a chemical to render the fabric flame retardant. As the flame retardancy chemical is on the surface of the fabric, it will be removed by laundering or other exposure to liquids. Multiple dry-cleaning may also diminish or remove the flame retardancy chemicals, and in time, even without cleaning, environmental conditions (such as high humidity) may do the same.
“DFR” (durably flame retardant) and “IFR” (inherently flame retardant) means that either the fibers have subjected to a durable flame retardant process during the manufacturing process this is typical of most, though not all, polyesters) or that the fibers are flame retardant on a molecular basis (such as Avora and Trevira). Since there is no chemical on the surface of the fabric, it can be laundered or dry-cleaned without any affect of the flame retardancy of the fabric.
Regardless of whether a fabric is designated as “FR” or “DFR/IFR,” we recommend (and some fire marshals require) that the fabric be retested and recertified annually by a certified flame retardancy specialist. This is because certain environmental conditions, such as surface dust accumulation or exposure to pyrotechnic chemicals, can cause an otherwise flame retardant fabric to become flammable.
For more information, please download our White Paper “What’s the Difference Between Flame Retardant and Flame Proof Fabrics?” (opens as a printable pdf) or visit the Flame Retardancy section of our website.