beautiful closeups of rust coloured fr fabrics
Back to overview August 01, 2023

The Evolution of Fire-Retardant Fabrics

Fire-retardant fabrics have a long history and are used in many applications today—from protective clothing to industrial uses. Here we trace the historical development of fire-retardant fabrics, leading up to the emergence of FR-One's inherently fire-retardant fabrics.

The Great Fire of London: a key historical event in the story of fire-retardant fabrics

In 1666, a devastating fire swept through London, destroying thousands of houses and public buildings, including the iconic St. Paul’s Cathedral.

As a result, London had to be almost entirely rebuilt, and The Great Fire of London led to a chain of events that resulted in the discovery and implementation of fire-retardant materials, as well as building safety standards. This is much like the way the Titanic disaster was instrumental in the creation of proper legislation for safety at sea.

FR fabrics were also being developed for 18th century theatres

One of the results of this chain reaction was the installation of the first iron safety curtain at a theatre in London called Drury Lane, in 1794.

This came from the idea of treating stage curtains to make them fireproof and help prevent the spread of fire from the stage to the auditorium.

FR fabric breakthroughs in 19th century France

In 1820, chemist Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac conducted the first serious experimentation into making fabrics flame retardant. This was thanks to his obsession with early hot air balloons that ran on hydrogen – and which frequently caught on fire.

These balloons were the first successful human-carrying flight technology, and so understandably were extremely popular at the time for scientists and people across all levels of society.

Gay-Lussac realised that there were two types of salts capable of making fabrics somewhat flame resistant. The first salt was low melting and able to form a glassy layer over fabrics. The second broke down into a non-flammable vapor when it was heated.

Other chemists further perfected Gay-Lussac’s method by incorporating other compounds into fabrics to make them flame retardant. These fabrics were much more effective than those of the past, but there was still room for improvement.

FR fabrics in the 20th century and beyond

In the early 20th century, many new fibres were developed made from synthetic materials, like polyester and nylon.

Some of these synthetic fibres had a direct effect on the story of fire retardancy, as they were much more effective at preventing fires from spreading, quickly becoming industry standard materials.

At the same time, industrial requirements regarding FR textiles were being developed.

These requirements have been updated and refined over time, but they are still based on the original idea that FR fabrics need to be able to withstand a certain amount of heat before they begin to melt. This is often referred to as the ‘ignition temperature’ or ‘flash point’.

The Rise of FR-One's Inherently Fire-Retardant Fabrics

FR-One is a leading brand in the fire-retardant fabric industry because of our focus on global safety and sustainability in the textiles industry.

Our fabrics are Inherently Fire Retardant. This means that they were not treated with a chemical fire retardant after their manufacture, but their FR properties are already inside the molecular structure of each fibre.

This has several benefits for our customers, including the fact that when our FR fabrics are washed, they don't release any harmful finishes into the environment.

FR-One Fire Retardant fabrics are the gold-standard for FR safety

Our fabrics are in high demand among interior designers, architects, and other professionals because they meet the highest standards of fire retardancy, on land or sea, worldwide.

In fact, FR-One's fabrics are one of the only decorative fabrics in the world that are certified as module E under the Maritime Equipment Directive and are approved by the US coastguard.

Future trends and innovations in FR textiles

Research and development in fire retardant technology are continually evolving, driven by new materials, regulations, and customer needs.

Emerging trends include the advancement of eco-friendly alternatives and the integration of technology, such as smart textiles, to enhance functionality and safety.

Fire retardant fabrics have come a long way since their early origins

Fire retardant fabrics have come a long way since their early origins, with FR-One leading the charge in the development of inherently fire-retardant fabrics using eco-friendly alternative means of manufacturing.

Fires present a constant danger and it's important to prioritise fire safety by choosing brands that are globally recognised, such as FR-One.



Tags within this article

Fabric Techniques