Use fire-retardant fabric in the construction of children's pajamas or textiles that might be close to flame or fire hazards, such as stage drapery. Fire-retardant fabrics are either treated with a chemical solution or made from fibers that have shown a resistance to flame. The fabrics are not fire proof, but rather intended to inhibit or compress combustion, as most material will burn under the right conditions.
Fabrics that burn easily can be treated with a topical chemical compound that makes the fabric resistant to flame. Instead of burning quickly, the compound reacts with the natural gases and tars in the fabric, changing them to carbon char and slowing the rate of burn. Treated fabrics are often used in drapes, awnings and tents, as well as military, fire, racing and industrial fields. Fabric can be purchased already treated, or treated after purchase with a fire-retardant fabric spray.
Wool has the most complex fiber structure, which gives it a natural resistance to flame and combustion. The oils and tars in wool cause the fabric to char, but not flame. Wool is used for everything from clothing to home furnishings. Silk is about as flame-resistant as wool and may even self-extinguish. Cotton is one of the most flammable natural fibers, but new manufacturing techniques have produced cotton with altered fibers, making the fabric flame resistant without adding chemicals during production. Look for cotton that is labeled as suitable for children's sleepwear.
Fabrics such as fleece or polyester are naturally resistant to combustion owing to the plastic nature of the fibers. This, however, means they will melt under high heat and flame and can adhere to the skin, in the case of clothing. Fabrics meant for children's pajamas, such as flannel or fleece, used to be treated with chemicals to make them resistant to heat-melt. Now, the fibers are adjusted at the molecular level and will be marked as "suitable for children's pajamas," or with a similar phrase. Additional synthetic fabrics that are either treated or altered include satin, nylon and spandex.
Cleaning Treated Fabrics
Chemicals used in treated fabrics do wash out over time and must be reapplied. Drapes, table linens or other large-scale fabric items such as tents, as well as treated uniforms, should be taken to a cleaner who specializes in flame-resistant fabrics and can effectively reapply the chemical after washing.
Nadia Nygaard has been writing and editing since 2005. She is published in "Farm and Ranch Living" and has edited projects as diverse as grant proposals, medical dissertations and tenant law handbooks. She is a graduate of the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Arts in English and women's studies.