Flame Retardant Fabric: British Standards For Fabric

Flame Retardant Fabric: British Standards For Fabric

Flame retardant standards in the United Kingdom and Europe apply to domestic and contract fabrics. These materials appear within upholstery and curtain fabrics used domestically or through contracted manufacturing. Strict guidelines require testing of fabrics to ensure that they are safe for use in homes and commercially to eliminate fire risks. The arrival of the standards requiring the testing of these fabrics came to pass as home fires grew in numbers. The most disastrous of the fires were primarily cigarette-related and resulted in 11,000 deaths in the United Kingdom alone.


The standards require labelling of the fabrics following tests and limit the usage of the materials both domestic and contract to specific purposes. For instance, the creation of curtains requires fabrics tested for curtain use. The same is true for fabrics used in upholstering furniture.


Flame Retardant Standards

M1 Standard indicates that the fabric is permanently non-flammable after testing. This standard is accepted in most countries in Europe, excluding the United Kingdom and Ireland. The M1 Standard is typically not acceptable to United Kingdom fire inspectors who have a preference for British Standards.


British Standard 5852:2006 applies to fabric used to upholster furnishings for the home, primarily couch and chair upholstery. The standard requires testing of the fabric to ensure that fire or flame caused by a match or lit cigarette would not ignite the material. Fabric tested under this standard requires use for its intended purpose, which is to upholster furnishings.


British Standard 5867 applies to flame retardant testing for curtain fabric. The British Standard tests the flammability of the material. It establishes whether flames reaching the lowest or highest edge of the material ignites and further spreads a fire.


British Standard 5438 applies to the testing of fabrics for curtains, which hang vertically. BS 5852:2006 and 5867 are required by the second test within this standard.


Types of Flame Retardant Treatments

Mixed Chemical Flame Retardants: These fireproofing options consist of brominated flame retardants mixed with a combination of nitrogen derivatives and phosphorate compounds. Manufacturers use this mixture as a back-coating for materials to include artificial leather, polyester, leather, and cotton.


Fabric Mixtures: Wool mixed with 15% to 20% variation of material proportions such as wool mixed with polyamide, polyacrylic, or polyester creates fireproofing.


Halogen Compounds: These options include acrylic resins or polyethylene terephthalate used for synthetic fabrics. However, synthetics that possess chlorination by these halogen monomers possess intrinsic fireproofing. Fabrics with previous chlorination treatments lack the requirement for chemical modification.


In conclusion, the United Kingdom requires fabric users, whether domestic or contract to adhere to strict guidelines. These standards consist of testing fireproofing levels in fabrics used in the design of curtains and furniture upholsteries. Additionally, the British Standards require that the users select fabrics according to its intended purpose as indicated by testing labels. For instance, BS 5852:2006 applies to upholstery fabric. Manufacturers use only fabrics tested under this standard to cover furniture. Back-coating and other flame retardant treatments consist of halogen compounds; mixed chemical treatments, and fabric blend.


Further Reading

The FIRA (Furniture Industry Research Association) have a free booklet, with everything you need to know for both contract and domestic standards in the UK. You can find a downloadable PDF of it here.


Alternatively, you can view the original legislation from 1988 and the amendments that followed below:


The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988

The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) (Amendment) Regulations 1989

The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) (Amendment) Regulations 1993

The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) (Amendment) Regulations 2010