Beginnings of Flame Retardant and Flame Resistant Fabrics and Its Uses
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Beginnings of Flame Retardant and Flame Resistant Fabrics and Its Uses

Flame retardant/resistant fabrics have been developed for special reasons and uses. Some professionals that work with flammables require the use of these types of materials for safety and efficiency of their jobs . . .

It is said that Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac is credited with the development of fire retardants from back in 1820. Studies have continued through the 1800’s and further in to the 1900’s where experiments with other chemicals have been used to make wood, materials and clothing more resistant to flammability. Clothing that is treated with chemicals to drastically reduce the flammability is known as flame retardant clothing. Flame retardants were developed back in the early 1700’s with slow progression until the 1960’s at which time more studies continued with great success.

According to, the history of flame retardant clothing began in 1735 when Obadiah Wyld received a patent for the first flame retardant mixture of alum, ferrous sulfate and borax to be used on fabrics. Though studies continued, some attempts for a durable flame retardant fabric failed because it was discovered that the flame retardant agents on the fabrics washed out. Chemist William Perkins developed a process in 1912 using stannic oxide on the clothing which could stand up to two years of weekly washings without losing the effectiveness of the flame retardant agents.

History further claims that a gentleman by the name of Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac is credited with developing flame retardants as well back in 1820 when he first treated wood with ammonium phosphates and borax, as stated on Systems similar to his are still in practice today as studies have continued through the 1950’s with a slow use of flame retardant products. By the 1960’s the use quadrupled as there was an increased awareness of the considerable safety benefits of fire retardants.

Further research was performed by Wilson Reeves and J. D. Guthrie into the durable flame retardant tetrakis hydroxymethyl phosphonium chloride (THPC), though the fabric lost its strength. Scientist raised the pH on the THPC which did result in a less stiff stronger fabric. These fabrics were also treated with bromine compounds and ammonia to produce flame retardant clothing that is more light weight, breathable, soft and effective.

Chemicals such as ammonium phosphate, ammonium sulfate and a mixture of ammonium phosphate with chloride, nitrogen, halogen and other inorganic chemicals have treated fabrics to make flame retardant clothing.

Professionals that work close to any flammable materials would benefit from flame retardant clothing that is comfortable as well as protective. Firefighters, military personnel, police officers, paramedics, welders and many industrial workers are required to wear protective flame retardant clothing while performing their jobs. Aside from professionals using the flame retardant fabrics, we know that children’s sleepwear has been made of special materials as well.

Fire retardant clothing according to will not burn, melt or smoulder when near open flames. The fabric does not lose its self-extinguishing properties for the life of the fabric, keeps its’ shape and is very durable.

Every type of fiber will burn sooner or later. Different fabrics do burn faster than others such as cotton, rayon and cellulose fabrics. Polyester, nylon, wool and silk are quite hard to ignite. The effectiveness of flame retardant clothing is dependent upon its reaction to combustion. The fabric will take time to burn, giving the wearer time to escape from a flammable condition.


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