Is Nylon Fire Retardant?

All fabrics are inherently prone to burning, some quicker than others. While some materials are more resilient when exposed to flame or heat, they eventually burn if untreated. In industrial settings where the workforce is exposed to flame, the risk of burns is high, and hence it is imperative to take measures to ensure employee safety. It is why businesses must look into which fabric can be more suitable for clothing in such workplaces. 

While there are multiple fabric variants, not all can be considered appropriate for fire retardant clothing. This article explores the utility of synthetic fabrics and discusses if materials like nylon and polyester are fire retardant and, if not, how they can be made so. Continue reading to learn more.

Is Nylon Fire Retardant?

As suggested earlier, untreated fabric, regardless of its composition, is prone to burning. This is especially true for untreated natural materials like cotton and silk that can quickly burn when exposed. At the same time, fabric like wool may take longer as it is difficult to ignite and burns at a lower speed. 

On the other hand, synthetic fabrics have the ability to resist ignition. Nylon is one of the most popular synthetic materials, composed of synthetic polymers, and is strong, durable, and easy to maintain. Originally created in the 1930s as a substitute for silk, nylon is now used widely in clothing, upholstery, and other textile applications. 

Nylon is more sturdy and resistant to wear and tear compared to other synthetic fabrics. However, it is not a naturally fire-retardant material, and to make it resistant to fire, it must be treated with chemicals.

Is Polyester fire retardant?

Like nylon, polyester also does not have natural fire retardant characteristics. Manufacturers use specific chemicals to make it more resistant to catching fire than standard untreated fabric.

Fire retarding treatment is a must to make the clothing safe against fire. It is because while synthetic fabrics like nylon, polyester, or acrylic can resist flame, once they are ignited, they will melt. When they melt, they turn into a hot and sticky substance that can cause severe localized burns. The hazard increases when a blend of natural and synthetic fiber is used in the clothing. In some cases, the danger of burns may be more than if the two fabrics are used individually. 

The Factor that can affect flammability

Besides the kind of fabric, the fabric’s weave and weight can also affect how quickly the fabric will catch fire and then burn. For instance, when treated with flame retardants, a fabric with a tight weave, like 100% polyester and nylon, is a good option for fire retardant clothing. Heavy fabrics with a tight weave tend to burn more slowly than lightweight fabrics with a loose weave, even if made from the same material. 

Another important consideration is the fabric’s surface texture. Fabrics having a tight and hard surface will ignite slower than loose and fluffy fabrics, and in some cases, the flame may even flash across the fabric without causing ignition.

The clothing’s design is another factor that can affect the clothing’s flammability. If the garment is loose or long, it is more prone to getting ignited and will have a higher burning rate as there is more exposure. Hence, hand close-fitting is more appropriate. 

How Can Polyester and Nylon Be Made To Be Fire Retardant?

Untreated nylon and polyester are not fire retardant but are a good choice for fire retardant clothing. There are a few ways through which nylon and polyester fabrics can be made flame retardant, which are discussed below.

How to make nylon fire retardant?

Nylon can be made flame retardant through the addition of a flame retardant chemical during the manufacturing process. Alternatively, a fire retardant solution can be added to the fabric once the clothing has been manufactured.

In this regard, bromine is the most common retardant chemical that can be added to nylon. It accounts for more than 50% of flame retardant chemicals used in the textile sector. Bromine may make the nylon fabric more combustible, but it effectively prevents combustion and extinguishes the fire quickly. Alternatively, magnesium or zinc salts can be used to make nylon fire retardant. However, salts are hard on the environment. 

Another method through which nylon can be made flame retardant is through the use of pigments or dyes. When added to clothing, they change color whenever exposed to fire or heat, which can alert individuals if something is wrong with the fabric. The dyes change color according to the temperature. For instance, a dye may turn red from blue or green from yellow when the temperature rises beyond a certain level. 

How to make polyester fire retardant?

Polyester fabric can be made fire retardant by adding a fire retardant chemical during the manufacturing procedure. The most commonly used fire retardant chemicals used to treat polyester are chlorinated flame retardants or brominated flame retardants (BFR). 

When applied to the fabric, both chemicals create a barrier on its surface and inhibit the fire to prevent it from spreading. BFRs are added to the fiber during the spinning phase and do not impact the fabric’s feel or appearance. On the other hand, CFRs are added after the spinning process to impact the fabric’s feel and appearance.

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