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Fire Retardant vs Fire Resistant

Fire retardant vs fire resistant

Posted on 05, October, 2015

Last Modified on 27, January, 2022

When exhibiting at trade shows and conventions, you are responsible for making sure nothing in your display can be a threat to the public. The flammability of the fabrics used in your exhibit is one of the most common safety concerns trade show organizers and exhibitors have. Actually, many trade show venues will require their vendors to use fabric that follows certain fire-safety standards. However, this is where it can get a little confusing for the exhibitor. For example, say your venue-supplied vendor guidelines state that all tablecloths and banners must be made of “flame retardant” fabric, but you’re pretty sure yours are “flame resistant.” Same thing, right? Actually, flame resistant and flame retardant are two different things. In this article, we’ll outline the difference between the two so you can be sure to follow guidelines and stay safe at your next trade show!

Flame Resistant vs. Flame Retardant

Fire Resistant Spray
  • Flame resistant fabrics are made from materials that are inherently nonflammable - the materials have flame resistance built into their chemical structures. Fabrics made with these types of materials are designed to prevent the spread of fire and will not melt or drip when in close proximity to a flame. Because flame resistant fabrics are not usually made from 100% flame resistant materials, they will burn, but will do so very, very slowly and are often self-extinguishing.
  • Flame retardant fabrics are chemically treated to be slow burning or self-extinguishing when exposed to an open flame. These fabrics can be made from any material, but they must be treated with special chemicals to qualify as flame retardant.

The biggest difference between flame resistant and flame retardant fabrics lies in how each is made. Without a special chemical application, a fabric will not qualify as flame retardant. Similarly, without being made of certain nonflammable fibers, a fabric will not quality as fire resistant.

When shopping for fire-safe fabrics, more often than not you will come across flame retardant textiles. These are cheaper and easier to produce than flame resistant fabrics and are often made of treated polyester or cotton.

National Fire Safety Standards

The National Fire Protection Agency developed a set of standards for determining the fire safety of a textile or fabric, known as NFPA 701: Standard Methods of Fire Tests for Flame Propagation of Textiles and Films. Although NFPA 701 itself is not a law, many local and state governments do require that textiles used in public spaces comply with it.

Fire Safety Standards
What does NFPA 701 address?

Two distinct test methods differentiate fabrics of different densities. The test methods apply to textile materials used in interior furnishing for public occupancy buildings including curtains, window shades, draperies, table linens, textile wall hangings, as well as to fabrics used in the assembly of awnings, tents, tarps and other similar architectural fabric structures and banners. - NFPA

Please read the NFPA standards if you have any questions about the fire safety of your linens or drapery.

Flame Retardant Table Covers and Graphics

If you're looking for a flame retardant tablecloth or graphic display for your next trade show or event, check out some of our best selling products. When a Displays2go product is fire resistant or flame retardant, you can often find the necessary documents and certificates listed under "Resources" on the product page, so you know that the display you're using is going to be safe for your event. If you don't see a certificate, ask us and we'll be happy to check for you.


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