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Is Cotton Fire Resistant?

Updated July 19, 2017

Made up of cellulose fibres, cotton is the most flammable of all natural and synthetic fibres. It ignites easily and burns with a hot flame, which is why it can be dangerous in situations in which the wearer comes into contact with a flame or heat source. Because cotton is soft, washable and comfortable, it is widely used for many types of clothing, including uniforms, work clothes and babies' and young children's clothes.

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Flammability factors

Lightweight woven cotton is more likely to burst into flames than heavier cotton fabric that has a denser weave. And loosefitting clothing catches fire more than fitted garments. Plus, when cotton is blended with synthetic fibres, it can actually be more dangerous than pure cotton because of the way it burns and adheres to the skin.

Making fabric fire-resistant

Nowadays cotton fabric is coated with a chemical retardant. Uniforms and other work clothes and loosefitting children's clothing and sleepwear have fire-resistant finishes. Fire-resistant fabric is hard to ignite and will burn more slowly than untreated fabric. But it will still burn.

A new variety of cotton

According to the National Cotton Council of America, kids' snug-fitting sleepwear is now manufactured with fabric made from molecularly altered cotton fibres. This new variety of cotton is fire-resistant without adding chemicals.


Regulations require that clothing with fire-retardant properties be clearly labelled so consumers know what they're purchasing.

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About the Author

Linda Weber's credits since 1994 include "Natural Health," "Parenting," "Caribbean Travel & Life" and the "San Francisco Chronicle Magazine." Her career includes time as a senior editor, managing editor and freelance writer, and she worked for "Good Housekeeping," "TV Guide," "Mother Jones" and the HarperCollins Access Travel Guides. She has a Bachelor of Arts in French and English from the University of Victoria.

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