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).
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.
Canada has similar flammability requirements for textiles sold in its domestic market. As of now, the EU, which is growing increasingly strict about regulations for all kinds of products, maintains only voluntary standards for flammability thresholds in clothing, but it could be only a matter of time before they also elevate these standards to mandatory requirements.
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.
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 guaranty on these fabrics.”
Those fabrics, both plain and raised, consist of fibers made entirely from one or a combination of the following fibers:
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 5 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.
On a quick read, the numerous specification numbers in testing standards can run together and not register properly. However, a potential $6,000 fine per product involved in a violation of these standards is not easy to miss, and the implications of putting consumers’ life and health at risk are truly disastrous.
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 and inspection service that can provide thorough, on-site checks of your merchandise to ensure that it complies with all applicable regulations and safety standards.
With global coverage, expertise, and strong corporate values, QIMA Lab Testing and Inspection Services can help you safeguard your products and your brand. Your reputation is our reputation. Let us put it to the test for you.
Our online platform and mobile application make it easy for you to schedule Textiles tests and inspections, and receive your results at any time. Book new tests, view pending orders, and access results from your mobile device. Our online platform provides valuable supply chain insights, including a summary of your QC activity, all of your supplier’s quality stats, industry benchmarking data, and more.
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