Textile Materials: An Overview on Flame Retardant Fabric

It doesn’t take an expert to know that fabrics and fire don’t go well together. With the threat of house fires growing in number in the past few years, primarily due to cigarette-related flame accidents, the death toll of 11,000 people became a concern for the UK to impose strict flame-retardant standards.

In the UK and Europe, flame retardant standards apply to both domestic and contract fabrics. These materials can be found through domestic and contracted manufacturing products. Because of this, strict guidelines require the testing of these textile materials to ensure that it’s safe for residential and commercial use. If you’re running a company in the hospitality industry, you need to be familiar with what fabrics to use best for your business.

Different flame-retardant ratings

Commercial business is only allowed to use a specific flame retardant rating attached to its fabric’s purpose. Depending on the purpose and nature of the fabric, different tests ensure its safety with regards to its use and environmental setting.

  • British Standard 5852:2006: This rating applies to fabric used for upholstered furnishings, primarily for couches and chairs. This standard ensures that light flames, mainly from matches or lit cigarettes, won’t be enough to ignite the material.
  • British Standard 5867: This rating is done to confirm if the textile material is flammable on the edges and if the fabric can spread and cause a fire.
  • British Standard 5438: This is primarily for fabric used on curtains that are hung vertically. It requires a second testing of BS 5852:2006 and 5867.
  • M1 Standard: This rating indicates that a specific fabric is permanently non-flammable after rigorous testing. Except for the UK and Ireland, this standard is accepted to all European countries. Part of why it’s not accepted in the UK is because fire inspectors prefer the British Standards for testing.

Examples of flame-retardant treatments

Because textile products have different base materials, flame retardant treatment can vary depending on their use and purpose.

  • Mixed chemical flame retardants: This method uses brominated flame retardants that are mixed with nitrogen derivatives and phosphorate compounds. Manufacturers use this specific mixture as back-coating for materials, such as faux and genuine leather, leather, cotton, and polyester.
  • Fabric mixtures: Wool is applied to 15 to 20% of the material’s proportions to achieve this flame-resistant treatment, creating a coat that’s mixed to fabrics, such as polyacrylic, polyester, or polyamide.
  • Halogen compounds: This treatment involves acrylic resins, which is used for synthetic fabrics. It allows synthetics with chlorination from halogen monomers to have intrinsic fireproofing. However, fabrics that received chlorination treatment aren’t fit for this chemical modification.

Manufacturers are only allowed to use fabrics that are coated with these three treatments to pass the flame retardant guidelines listed above.


The UK’s strictness on flame retardant standards has made residents and business owners to be more cautious about their purchases. Because of this, textile manufacturers need to pay attention to the fireproofing levels in their fabrics, whether it’s used for curtains or furniture upholsteries. You can read through the Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA)’s free booklet if you want to learn more about the domestic and contract standards for textile materials in the UK.

If you’re looking for a reliable supplier of flame retardant fabrics in the UK, we at Direct Fabrics can help you. We offer beddings, fabrics, and curtains with different types of textures for your business’s needs. Get in touch with us today to find the right product for you!