What Makes Flame Resistant Clothing Flame Resistant? (Guest Post)

Another great article sent to us by Maree Kyle.

For anyone who works closely with high temperatures and/or open flames, flame-resistant materials are an essential accessory. While these materials aren’t fireproof, they can offer just enough resistance to help you escape danger before a crisis breaks out. Flame-resistant materials can also slow the progress of an expanding fire, creating a larger window to combat the flames and subdue the fire before it gets out of hand. Not all flame-resistant materials are created equal. Understand what options are available to you and how they might affect what you are hoping to achieve by wearing protective clothing. Here’s a quick guide to how flame-resistant products are made and what you need to consider before investing in these materials.

Understanding the definition of flame-resistant

If you throw a flame-resistant shirt into a fire, it will burn. That’s because the materials aren’t immune to combustion; they’ve just been created to withstand heat for a period of time. If kept in contact with the heat source, though, they eventually will ignite. Even though flame-resistant gear, including shoe covers, coveralls and face shields, doesn’t provide an invincible barrier for its wearer, the protection is crucial in a number of industries, including welding and electrical work. Forgoing its use is both unwise and against safety regulations set forth by an employee’s company.

The materials used

Some types of fabric are naturally more resistant to combustion than others. Wool, for example, takes longer to ignite than many other fabrics. Generally speaking, synthetic materials take longer to burn than other natural fabrics. In the case of wool, tighter and heavier wool knits will be more fire resistant than loose, lightweight wool. No matter what type of material used, flame resistance can be enhanced by applying a chemical treatment that adds a layer of coating to the fabric fibers. In fact, most good flame-resistant products feature this chemical coating.

Maintaining materials to preserve their efficacy

One key to preserving the flame-resistance of protective clothing is washing the products according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Certain soaps, fabric softeners and other cleaning methods can remove the chemical coating on the materials or otherwise reduce the flame resistance of the product. In some cases, cleaning products could leave a residue that serves as a fuel for combustion when exposed to a heat source. Find out the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning and follow those guidelines exactly to avoid ruining the fabric.

Regardless of how you plan to use flame-resistant materials, make sure you’re very careful in your handling of them to prolong their lifespan. If you’re counting on these materials to protect you in the event of an emergency, don’t take any chances. Observe safety precautions posted around your workplace, be very diligent in your care of the garments and their accessories and always be sure to invest in high-quality materials.