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25 02, 2015

Why Don’t We Recommend Dry Cleaners…

By |February 25th, 2015|Education, Fabrics, Flame Retardancy|2 Comments

Occasionally, we get requests for dry cleaner recommendations to clean drapery.  We typically do not recommend dry cleaners because repeated dry cleaning can damage drapery.  In addition, dry cleaning drapery that has been topically treated will cause the flame retardancy chemical to dissipate over time and repeated cleaning.


One thing you may want to try to remove accumulated dust from drapery with a napped or brushed surface (such as theatrical velour) is to brush the drape with a soft bristled brush, which will remove any accumulated dust and make your drapes look fresher and cleaner.  Read more of our drapery maintenance recommendations on our website.



24 06, 2014

Five Common Misconceptions About Flame Retardancy

By |June 24th, 2014|Education, Flame Retardancy|0 Comments

I have posted on the subject of flame retardancy of stage drapery before, but when I received several inquiries yesterday from clients asking questions about flame retardancy, I thought this was a good time to post again.



Flame retardancy can be somewhat complex, in regards to the various laws, rules and regulations surrounding the subject.  For that reason, we have posted several white papers on the subject on our website.  However, I do find a few questions / misconceptions popping up repeatedly, so I thought that a blog post would be a good place to address some of these misconceptions.

I don’t need to have my drapes checked for flame retardancy. It’s not my problem.

When drapes are being used in any public space, whether it is a theatre, a school, a restaurant, or any other “public gathering place,” it is the responsibility of the owner or user of the drapes to take appropriate steps to ensure that the public is safe while frequenting the space. This includes ensuring that the drapery meets requirements for flame retardancy. Otherwise, the best case scenario is a Fire Marshal may require you to remove the drapes. The worst case scenario is that there could be a fire…

A flame certificate is good forever.

A Certificate of Flame Retardancy is typically only good for one year. After that year, it is the responsibility of the owner/user of the drapes to confirm that the drapes remain flame retardant.

I am just using the drapes once, so they don’t need to be flame retardant.

Whether drapes are being used for a long-term permanent installation or just for a one-time, single-day event, they always must be certified as flame retardant. You never know when a fire could break out.

IFR (Inherently Flame Retardant) means that the fabric will be flame retardant forever, no matter what.

Not necessarily. While a fabric that has been certified as “inherently flame retardant” or “permanently flame retardant” or “durably flame retardant” is intended to remain flame retardant for the life of the fabric, environmental conditions can affect that “permanent” flame retardancy. For example, a drape that has been hanging for a long time without maintenance may accumulate a heavy layer of dust on the drape. You may not realize this, but dust is full of all kinds of flammable matter – so although the fabric (technically) is permanently flame retardant, the drape may become flammable.

No retesting is needed, especially not for IFR fabrics.

We recommend (and many Fire Marshals require) annual re-testing of all FR fabrics (including IFR/PFR/DFR) to ensure that the drapes remain flame retardant. A certified testing company should always be used, and assuming that the drapery passes the test, a Certificate of Conformance (similar to a Certificate of Flame Retardancy) should be provided by the testing company.

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

29 01, 2014

To Repair, Replace, or Re-Flameproof Your Theatrical Drapery

By |January 29th, 2014|Education, Fabrics, Flame Retardancy|1 Comment

Is the drapery in your theatre starting to look dingy or dirty?  Are you concerned that the drapes may no longer be flame retardant? Are you confused as to whether to repair, replace, or re-treat your drapes? Here are a few quick tricks……… tricks of the “drapery-trade” that is.

In order to make the best decision regarding your drapery maintenance, there are a few questions you need to answer…..

1) Gather together all the dimensions of the various items, including whether or not they are flat or pleated with fullness.

2) What type of textile is it? Cotton, Polyester or Nylon?

3) Are the drapes dirty – do they need washing?

4) When were the drapes made? Are they over a year old?

SO – what does all that mean – and why does it matter?

1) Gather together all the dimensions of the various items, including whether or not they are flat or pleated with fullness.

Here is a great place to start! Get a quote to replace your drapes. This will come in handy as you begin looking at the bigger picture of repairing, washing, re-flameproofing or replacing. Supply all the required info in order to get a real “apples to apples” comparison for replacement costs. Consider all the costs, such as shipping and taxes that might be applicable – that is your ground zero as a price point comparison.

2) What type of textile is it? Cotton, Polyester or Nylon?

Cottons can fade – so doing a repair, a wash or a retreat of FR can be problematic.  If you need to replace or patch large areas of drape, you will more than likely see the color variance with a cotton.

Polyester washes well, doesn’t fade and is fairly easy to re-treat, dries nicely and doesn’t spot too much. Poly textiles are good candidates for repairing and retreating. Many of the poly weaves and velours make super durable draperies and some are even Inherently Flame Retardant.

Beware of Nylon drapes – while they may have been treated initially, if they are washed the topical treatment will be immediately stripped. Many nylons can’t be effectively treated. Often with a nylon you might find you have to trash it and start over.

3) Are the drapes dirty – do they need washing?

Spot cleaning can be viable sometimes – but be cautious, as many cleaning products are flammable and will impact the flame retardancy. Overall washing is only viable for polyesters – as cottons will shrink drastically and won’t fit in height or width upon return to you. As mentioned earlier, nylons are usually a no go for washing as you can’t effectively re-spray them for FR.

Bear in mind – once you wash a drape ($), you usually will then have to retreat it for flame retardancy as well ($$). With our rental inventory, we usually only wash white drapes that are poly and made of IFR materials – so that we know for the most part they will need only washing and won’t need to be retreated. We test ALL items after washing to make sure they pass the FR requirements. You should do the same thing, too!

Ask the supplier for a quote to include washing, flameproofing as applicable and also any taxes or service fees for pick ups and return of your drapes. Be sure to get a firm time frame too.

4) When were the drapes made? Are they over a year old?

Most venues or Fire Marshals are looking for certificates that are dated within the last 12 months – so even with an “Inherently Fire Retardant” fabric that is hypothetically flame retardant for the life of the fabric – they may still be looking for an up to date certificate. SO – if your drapes are old – you might want to get a quote for testing (a NFPA705 field test) and from there you can decide, based on whether they pass or fail, whether you want to pay to retreat them or not. Heads up – it can cost AS MUCH to retreat certain items as to replace them!

The FR treatment facility will need to know specific information on the drapery– sizes, fullness, number of pieces and fabric content, as well as your time frame. Beware of rush fees.  As you have to have “drying time” when items are being sprayed topically, it’s hard to retreat “quickly”.

Last but not least – compare costs and finished product with your available time frame and budget. Much like patching a pair of jeans – repairing tears and holes in drapes can leave you looking a little bit scrappy – so just be sure you are going to be happy with the finished product.


9 12, 2013

Top 5 Steps to Navigating Flame Retardancy Requirements for Touring Soft Goods

By |December 9th, 2013|Education, Flame Retardancy|1 Comment

If you are a tour manager for an artist or band, we understand that you have a ton of tasks on your plate. You are coordinating everything from the hard and soft goods for the set design to the staging companies to the travel schedule. Sometimes it feels as if there just isn’t enough time in the day to take care of everything. I thought I’d help out by passing on a little information on flame retardancy for stage drapery. With this information upfront, hopefully it will mean less for you to worry about.


  1. Request 12” x 12” burn samples of the fabric(s) used for your newly purchased and rented stage drapes and other soft goods. Even with a Certificate of Flame Retardancy, a Fire Marshal at a venue may ask for a burn sample in order to do a field test onsite.
  2. Request the appropriate Certificate(s) of Flame Retardancy based on the tour schedule. Flame retardancy requirements vary state to state (and even city to city), and so letting your soft goods supplier know upfront where the tour is headed will help ensure that you have all the necessary certification.
  3. If a tour is headed to Boston, complete a Boston Fire Department Use Application and send it to Boston Fire Department, along with a 12” x 12” burn sample of each drapery fabric. This is typically required two to four weeks in advance of the Boston show.
  4. If your soft goods are more than a year old, have the drapery tested and re-certified by a certified flame retardancy company before the new tour begins. Some local Fire Marshals may be satisfied with doing a field burn test but others may not pass a drape for use at a show if the certificate is more than one year old.
  5. Don’t try to figure it out all on your own – ask questions! If you are unsure or unclear about any flame retardancy issue related to your new or existing soft goods, talk to your drapery supplier! They are the experts in the subject and can help you navigate this often complex subject.


4 04, 2012

Choosing Fabric for a Painters Backdrop

By |April 4th, 2012|Education, Fabrics, Flame Retardancy, Products|0 Comments

Recently I posted about the difference between canvas and muslin, and in that post, I mentioned painters backdrops and promised a future post on the subject. 

There can be confusion as to whether to choose flame retardant or non-flame retardant heavy weight theatrical muslin for a painters backdrop.   The fact is, when paint is added to the surface of a flame retardant fabric, the fabric becomes non-flame retardant.  Therefore, steps must be taking to make a painted backdrop flame retardant.

First, prior to painting, a special flame retardant additive should be added to the paint.  A FR paint additive will not change the color or opacity of the paint, and it will help ensure that the face of the theatrical backdrop is flame retardant.  Second, after the face of the backdrop is painted and the paint has dried, the back of the backdrop should be sprayed with a topical flame retardant chemical designed for natural fibers.

Since painting a backdrop nullifies the flame retardancy, you would think that you should always choose a non-flame retardant muslin for a painters backdrop.  Non-flame retardant muslin is more affordable than flame retardant muslin, so why spend the extra money for flame retardant muslin when you will have to retreat it anyway?

The reason to consider utilizing flame retardant muslin for a painters backdrop is related to the issue of shrinkage.  As theatrical muslin is composed of cotton fibers, it is prone to shrinkage.  When a water-based flame retardant is applied at the mill, the fabric then becomes “sized” (pre-shrunken).  Therefore, once the FR muslin is sewn into a backdrop at the desired finished size (height and width), and then paint and additional flame retardant is applied to the surface, there is very little (or no) additional shrinkage of the material.  The painted backdrop will end up at approximately the same size as the sewn but unpainted backdrop.

For experienced scenic painters who plan to utilize a paint frame, a non flame retardant muslin works fine.  The tension of the paint frame helps prevent shrinkage.  For less experienced scenic painters and/or those who will not be using a paint frame, we recommend purchasing a painters backdrop manufactured using flame retardant muslin.  This way, shrinkage will not be a significant concern.