Home / Support / Products / What is fire retardant fabric?

What is fire retardant fabric?

What is fire retardant fabric?

Fire retardant fabric (‘fire resistant fabric’, or ‘FR fabric’) is material that meets certain fire safety standards set by law. A fabric can either be inherently fire retardant (many wool fabrics, for example, tend to pass to domestic upholstery standards without further treatment), or an otherwise non-FR fabric can be treated to make it fire retardant.

There are many different FR standards in the UK, but most people only come across two or three.

Domestic upholstery standards

Fabric used on upholstery in a domestic environment has to pass to domestic upholstery standards, also known as BS5852, Source 0 + 1, or simply as ‘cigarette and match‘. If you’ve ever bought a sofa or armchair of your own you might recall seeing large tags with green borders attached to it, declaring that the piece meets domestic standards.

I’m recovering my own sofa–do I need FR fabric?

The short answer is: no, not necessarily. You should give it serious consideration, and we strongly recommend it, but there is no agency or body in the UK that will force you to cover your own furniture in FR fabric. The safety advantages are obvious, but if cost is a paramount concern then you can usually save a few pounds per metre by buying a non-FR fabric.

If you’re sending furniture off to a professional upholsterer, however, and providing your own fabric, then any reputable tradesperson will likely insist that you choose an FR fabric, and may refuse to work with your choice if you can’t supply an FR certificate. This is because upholsterers can be as liable under the law as a retailer would be if they tried to sell you a piece of furniture that doesn’t meet safety standards, even if they’re only recovering it.

Contract upholstery standards

The domestic standard doesn’t cover all scenarios. If you’re using the fabric in a contract environment–offices, hotels, restaurants, bars, pubs, clubs, etc…–then the fabric has to pass to a higher contract upholstery standard. Known as BS5852, Source 5, or simply Crib 5 (named so for the equipment used to test the fabric in a laboratory–a small wooden crib).

This fabric will usually be more expensive, as a heavier application of FR chemicals is often required to bring a non-FR fabric up to standards.

Domestic curtains

There are actually no UK standards for fabric used in domestic curtains. If you were making curtains for yourself then arguably this makes little difference, as you could have chosen a non-FR fabric anyway, but it also means that you can make curtains for sale to the general public without having to worry over requirements.

Contract curtains

There are requirements for curtains used in a contract environment, and the British standard is known as BS5867 Part 2. There are many sub-types to the standard according to the environment risk – an office, for example, is considered relatively low risk, whereas a hospital or prison would be considered a much higher risk.

The best advice we can offer when trying to get to grips with this standard would be to contact your local fire officer.

We don’t currently sell any fabrics that have been explicitly tested to the BS5867 standard. Some may, but you would need to have them tested yourself in order to confirm, and we offer no warranty or guarantee as to a particular result.

What if I don’t use FR fabric?

A common question. Aside from the obvious safety concerns, it depends on where the end product is being used.

If you’re making something yourself, for use in your own home, then there should no other risks than the obvious safety implications. If you’re making products that you plan to sell on, however, then you could be exposing yourself to both civil and criminal liability if the worst happens.

If you’re buying for a contract environment, then you’ll need to be able to supply proof that your upholstery and curtains meet UK standards if you’re ever inspected by your local fire office. How likely such an inspection is to happen will depend on the locality, but it shouldn’t be considered worth the risk.

I’ve bought an FR fabric and it still caught fire. Why?

Another common question. A fire retardant or resistant fabric isn’t a fire proof fabric. It will still burn if you set fire to it. The aim of treatment, and the British standards in general, isn’t to stop the fabric from catching on fire, but rather to slow the spread of flames enough that it gives you and your family time to escape the property.

Still need help?

Contact us by email

General Enquiries

Contact us by phone

General Enquiries

  • +44 (0)871 423 2806 1

After-sales Support

  • See emails or delivery paperwork 2
Open Monday–Thursday 08:15–17:00 / Friday 08:15–14:45 / Closed Saturday & Sunday

1 Our customer support team are best able to assist by email. Calls to our customer service line may be charged up to 13p per minute plus your network's standard access charge.

2 If you have already placed an order with us, please refer to your order confirmation email or delivery paperwork for the best contact details, which includes a non-premium rate support number for after-sales enquiries.

The UK's #1 online fabric retailer. We stock a huge range of high quality fabrics at affordable prices. Buy online with free UK delivery over £150 (conditions apply).
We accept...
Copyright © Fabric Online 2011-24, a trading name and registered trademark of Ambassador Textiles Limited. All rights reserved.