Laboratory flammability test – flammability standards for clothing

Uncompromising Flammability Regulations for the U.S. Apparel Market

By: QIMA Nov 18, 2022

When you are giving your consumers the guarantee that your textile products are as safe and resistant to flammability as possible, there can be no room for error.

This is particularly true in the United States, where stringent regulations against the sale and distribution of highly flammable fabrics began developing with the establishment of The Flammable Fabrics Act of 1953. This act was developed as a response to multiple cases of serious injuries and deaths resulting from burns connected to garments made from high-pile rayon. In 1972, enforcement of this act was given to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Classifying flammability in fabrics

In accordance with the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), a simple “Class 1 to 3” flammability grade is given to all textile fabrics:

Neither plain nor raised surface fabrics with a Class 3 rating can be sold in the U.S.

U.S. flammability standards for general wearing apparel

The 16 CFR 1610 Standard covers flammability for clothing textiles. The 5 inch fabric specimen is held to a ⅝ inch flame at a 45 degree angle for one minute and timed until the flame has completely crossed the specimen. This procedure is performed twice--before and after washing and dry cleaning--and the lowest of the two times is used for classification.

Once the product has been found to be Class 1 and acceptable for the U.S. market, the manufacturing or importing company must certify the product in a written statement known as a General Certificate of Conformity (GCC), which includes specific details about the product, the applicable testing requirements and results, contact information of the individual maintaining test records, and information about any third-party testing service that was used. For more information concerning GCC requirements, click here.

Exemptions

A fabric’s flammability can be influenced by its substance as well as its weight and weave, but fabrics made from untreated natural fibers like cotton and linen often have the greatest ignition potential. On the opposite end of this scale are a number of (usually) synthetic fibers which, according to the CPSC “consistently pass as Class 1 textiles and are exempt from the reasonable and representative testing requirements for firms issuing a flammability guarantee on these fabrics.”

Plain surface fabrics, regardless of fiber content, weighing 2.6 ounces per square yard or more; and fabrics, both plain and raised, consist of fibers made entirely from one or a combination of the following fibers:

Children’s sleepwear

The 16 CFR 1615 & 1616 Standard, which regulates the flammability of children’s sleepwear, is stricter than the general clothing textiles burn test. Here, the end of 3 ½ by 10 inch specimens (multiple samples representing different aspects of the design) is held to a 1 ½ inch flame for 3 seconds and the resulting “char length” is measured. Testing must be done on each sample, once as produced (or after a single laundering) and once again after 50 launderings. No five samples can average more than a 7 inch char length.

There is an exemption to this test for sizes 0-9 months, provided that the sleepwear passes certain tight fitting measurements laid out in the CFR Standard.

Avoid violations by ensuring supply chain compliance

For a company that wants to avoid violation fines, maintain brand integrity and ensure the safety of its consumers, it is imperative to make sure that the fabrics and garments delivered by their supplier factories consistently comply with all market regulations. But what is the best way of going about it?

If you are buying finished products from suppliers, make sure they can guarantee compliance with all flammability standards, as well as back up their claims with frequent and properly maintained testing records.

And if you have contracted a factory to produce your textile products, the most failsafe way to maintain complete control over your line is through the assistance of a dedicated testing service which can ensure your products comply with the standards of your destination market.

Contact us today to find out how QIMA can help.


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