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Flame resistant
Fabric and Garment Finishing


Many terms are used when discussing the ability of a fabric to

resist ignition, burn more slowly than normal or self extinguish
once the source of ignition has been removed from the fabric.

The following are from the American Society for testing and
materials (ASTM) :
- Fire Retardance : The resistance to combustion of a material
when tested under specified conditions
- Fire Resistance : The property of a material whereby flaming
combustion is prevented, terminated or inhibited following
application of a flaming or non flaming source of ignition, with
or without subsequent removal of the ignition source.

Flammability : The characteristics of a material that relate

to its ease of ignition and its ability to sustain ignition.

The Burning Process

The mechanism of burning is a relatively simple process. Ignition

source is the requirement for the combustion to start. This
produces decomposition of the textile material which results into
release of flammable gases. In the presence of oxygen in the
atmosphere, these ignite and form a flame.

In this combustion process large amounts of heat generated in the

process causes further decomposition of the textile and spreads
the combustion.

Two processes are involved in the combustion process : Flamming

and After glow.

+ Flamming is the persistence of flame in the material even after

extinction of the flame.

After Glow refers to the material emanating a glow after

extinction of the flame

For a flame resistant fabric, It is not necessary that their will be

glow resistance. When there is resistance to both, it is known
as Fire resistant.

A flame retardant fabric does not propagate the flame

although it may burn or char when subjected to any form of

A fabric may be flame retardant and yet glow after removal of

source of heat. This effect is known as After Glow or Flame
less combustion and is harmful as it gives out heat and also
pollutes the atmosphere.


Application via conventional padding techniques

Multiple dips and nips

30 to 60 seconds of dwell time for good results

Optimal pH 5.0

Amount of flame retardant needed depends primarily

on the fabric type, application conditions and test
criteria to be met.


Flame resistants can act physically or chemically and

sometimes both by physically and chemically interfering at
particular stages of burning. The different mechanisms are:
Endothermic Degradation : Certain compounds break down
endothermically when they are subjected to high temperatures.
Magnesium and aluminium hydroxides are such examples.
Various hydrates also act similarly. The reaction takes off heat
from the surroundings, thus cooling the material.

+ Dilution of Fuel: Substances, which evolve inert

gases on decomposition, dilute the fuel in the solid and
gaseous phases.
Inert fillers, eg. talc or calcium carbonate, act as
diluents, lowering the combustible portion of the
material, thus lowering the amount of heat per volume
of material that it can produce while burning. Thus the
concentrations of combustible gases fall under the
ignition limit.

Thermal Shielding : A thermal insulation barrier is

created between the burning and the yet-to-burn parts.
Intumescent additives are sometimes applied that turn
the polymer into a carbonized foam, resultantly
separating the flame from the material and slowing
down the heat transfer to the unburned fuel.

Dilution of Gas Phase : Mostly carbon dioxide and water, act as

diluent of the combustible gases, lowering their partial pressures and
the partial pressure of oxygen, thus slowing the reaction rate. These
gases are produced by thermal degradation of some materials.

Gas Phase Radical Quenching : Chlorinated and brominated

materials undergo thermal degradation and release hydrogen
chloride and hydrogen bromide.
These react with the highly reactive -H and -OH radicals in the flame,
resulting in an inactive molecule and a Cl or Br radical. The halogen
radical has much lower energy than -H or -OH. and thus has much
lower potential to propagate the radical oxidation reactions of
Antimony compounds tend to act in synergy with halogenated flame
retardants. The HCl and HBr released during burning are highly
corrosive, which has reliability implications for objects subjected to
the released smoke.

Categories of Flame Resistors
There are many categories in which flame resistors can be divided.
The major categories among them include:

Tetrakis (hydroxymethyl) phosphonium salts that are made by

passing phosphine gas through a solution of formaldehyde and a
mineral acid like hydrochloric acid. This category is mostly used
as flame retardants for textiles.

Minerals like asbestos, compounds such as aluminum hydroxide,

magnesium hydroxide, antimony trioxide different hydrates, red
phosphorus, and boron compounds, mostly borates etc.

Synthetic materials, usually halocarbons which include

organochlorines such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs),
chlorendic acid derivates and chlorinated paraffins;
organobromines such as polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDEs),
organophosphates in the form of halogenated phosphorus
compounds and others.

+Types of flame retardants


Chlorinated flame retardants

Phosphorous-containing flame retardants (Phosphate

ester such as Tri phenyl phosphate)

Nitrogen-containing flame retardants (i.e. Melamines)

Inorganic flame retardants.

Other method of classifying Flame Retardants is to divide

them as Inorganic, Organo Phosphorous, Halogenated
organic and Nitrogen based compounds. Halogenated
organic flame retardants are further classified as having
either Chlorine or Bromine which is popularly known as
Brominated Flame Retardants (BFR)


Stiffening and loss of fabric drapability

Significant strength loss in fabric

Loss of finish in laundering (non-durable) and ineffectiveness when

laundered in household bleach, with soaps, or with water softeners.

The best of the flame-retardant finishes available for cotton are THPCR
types, which are used extensively for childrens sleepwear.

The finish is durable to 50 or more launderings, does not affect fabric hand,
and does not contribute to fabric strength loss.

The problem, however, is that these finishes cannot be used with chlorinebearing house-hold bleaches or laundry soaps.

They must be used with high phosphate detergents.

Factors to be considered while
selecting proper flame
Fiber content

end use

method of cleaning

desired hand


Standards and Test methods



Calendaring is a process where fabric is compressed

by passing it between two or more rolls under
controlled conditions of time, temperature and

It is a type of mechanical finish

Produces different types of surface appearance


Simple calendering


Glazed calendering


Cie calendering


Embossed calendering


Moir calendering


Schreiner calendering

Objects of Calendering

improve the fabric handle and to impart a smooth

silky touch to the fabric


compress the fabric and reduce its thickness


reduce the air permeability by closing the threads


increase the luster


reduce the yarn slippage


increase the opacity of the fabric


patterning by embossing


It is a high speed, high pressure pressing of fabric (100

yds / min)

The high pressure flattens the yarn

Smoothen the fabric

Increases fabric lustre (fabric cover increases and

more light is reflected)

Used for woven plain or twill weaves

Over-calendering however is to be avoided

Yarns weakened out due to very high pressure

It is a temporary finish

Yarns return to its natural cross section after first



It is a calendering finish to produce highly glazed /

shined polished cotton

The calender machine used is a friction calender

One cylinder of highly polished steel cylinder rotating

at speed much higher than the fabric passing through

Fabrics are first treated with starches or resins before


The spaces between the yarns are thus filled up and

glazed appearance is obtained

Glazed calendering using starch are semi-durable

Glazed calendering using resins are durable

3. Cie calendering

It is a type of glazed calendering Here, the friction roller

rotates at speed much greater than ordinary friction

The resulatant fabric become highly lustrous and takes on a

wet lookCotton, rayon, polyester, nylon and blends can be
given cire finish

Fabrics are however, treated with waxes and resins before

friction calendering
Highly polished effect is produced

When thermoplastic fabrics are cie finished, they becomes

moderately water-repellent
Due to flattening
Due to partially fusing of fibres

4. Embossed calendering

It is a calendering in which a three-dimensional design is

created on a fabric

This is done on a special embossing calender in which the

roller cylinder is engraved with the embossing design

The pattern is then pushed or shaped into the cloth when the
fabric passes between the rollers

Some embossed fabrics are made to imitate more costly

woven jacquard or dobby designs

Embossed patterns of fabrics treated with resins and cured

after embossing are durable

Embossing of fabrics of thermoplastic fibres are permanent

because the heated metal roll heat-sets the design

5. Moir calendering

The moir finish produces a wood-grain design on the

face size of the fabric

Moir finish can be temporary, durable or permanent

Cotton or rayon moir finish is temporary without

pretreatment with resin

Durable moir finish requires initial resin treatment

followed by calendering

Moir finish on thermoplastic fiber fabrics are

permanent if a heated roller is used for calendering

Methods of producing moie

Using engraved cylinder

Using smooth calender roller

Using engraved cylinder

In this case engraved roller is used on the calender roller

Calender roller flattens one part of the fabric more than

other, causing different light reflectance

The different light reflectance cause moire effect

Definite repeat pattern moie is produced

Using smooth calender rollers

Two fabrics, each face to face, are fed through the


Ribbed fabrics are mainly required for this

The high pressure on the calender rolls causes the rib to

squeeze into each other in certain areas

Creates light reflectance pattern which produces moie


The effect is completely random and has no specific


6. Schreiner calendering

Schreiner calendering produces a low, soft-key lustre on the

fabric surface

Distinct from the high glaze of the glazing calender or the lustre
shine of the simple calender

To produce this effect, one of the steel cylinders of the calender

is embossed with fine diagonal lines. These embossing are
barely visible in naked eye

Widely used on cotton & cotton/polyester sateen

Schreiner calendering may be permanent, durable or temporary


Is permanent if the fibre is thermoplastic

Is durable if the fabric is resin treated but not cured

Is temporary if the fibre is non-thermoplastic and not treated

with resin