When it comes to synthetic clothing, polyester is one of the most common fabrics that is used due to it’s hard wearing nature.
One of the biggest reasons that it’s used by clothing manufacturers is because of it’s cheap costs, and the fact that it’s so easy to work with. But is this material a fire hazard?
What is Polyester?
Polyester is a fabric which is made from polyester yarn and or polyester fibers. The material is made by mixing terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol (or antifreeze as it’s more commonly known).
It is a 100% synthetic material which is known as a form of polymer, or plastic.
It was first invented by British chemists back in 1941, but didn’t become a popular clothing material till the 1970s. Nowadays, polyester makes up more than 65% of fibers used in the clothing and textile industry.
Not only that, polyester is also used for furnishings as it’s very durable and is an easily dyed material, so it’s only natural to wonder if the material is flammable.
Will Polyester Catch Fire?
Like most things, if given enough time and heat polyester will catch fire. It does, however, generally require a lot more heat to burn than most fabrics like cotton or linen. When polyester does catch fire it usually melts.
Molten polyester can cause more severe burns as the fabric melts onto your skin, rather than burning away.
Is 100% Polyester Flammable?
If you get it hot enough, 100% polyester will burn, but it’s not considered flammable as it doesn’t burn easily.
With mixed fabrics, it’s impossible to tell how the fabric will react when exposed to fire unless you know what it’s mixed with.
For example, a cotton-polyester blend will be less flammable than regular cotton, as cotton burns easily. However, it will be more flammable than 100% polyester.
It’s also worth mentioning that when polyester does burn, it releases highly toxic fumes so you should immediately exit the area.
A study was done in which a rat was placed in a 100 meter cubic room, with burning polymers. It took very little polymer being burnt to kill the rat.
As we are far bigger than rats, we can withstand more exposure, but it is still important to get as far away from the fumes as possible.
Is Polyester Fire-Resistant?
According to most in the textile industry, polyester is considered fire-resistant This is because it doesn’t catch fire easily when exposed to a naked flame.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that polyester cannot catch fire, it just means that it will take a lot more effort for it to ignite compared to other materials.
Because of this, polyester has been rated as a safe material to use for bedding, bed clothes and children’s bed clothes too.
Despite this, many people have reservations about using phthalates (used in plastics) for bedding and clothing.
There is no evidence which yet suggests that these compounds are in fact harmful, but many raise their concerns because they may cause cancer or lead to interference with hormone production.
What Temperature Does Polyester Melt At?
Like mentioned earlier, it requires a lot more heat for polyester to react. On average, polyester requires around 428 degrees Fahrenheit – or 220 degrees Celsius – to melt. This is more than twice the heat needed to boil water.
Despite this, you should always take care when near open flames and fires. It is, after all, fire resistant, not fireproof.
What Temperature Does Polyester Burn At?
Polyester requires a temperature of around 809 to 910 degrees Fahrenheit – or 432 to 488 degrees Celsius – to ignite.
It’s because of this that polyester is considered flame resistant, and you’re very unlikely to encounter these temperatures in everyday life.
It is worth noting, however, that the average temperature of a wood-burning house fire is around 600 degrees Celsius.
Bonfires also reach an average temperature of up to 1000 to 1100 degrees Celsius. If you are near an open flame, it’s important that you keep vigilant and try not to get too close.
What To Do If Your Clothes Are Melting On Your Skin
If you’re wearing polyester which has started melting, it’s possible for the fabric to fuse with your burned skin. But don’t let the term mislead you, only under extreme heat will flesh “cook” – it doesn’t melt.
When fabric melts to your skin, it has a pretty similar effect to melted wax, except it doesn’t come off so easily.
Do not try and rip the polyester off of you, as you can end up pulling off some healthy skin tissue which can become vulnerable to nerve damage or infection.
Instead, run your burn under cold water, to prevent it from getting any worse and head to the emergency room as soon as possible. There, doctors will be able to remove any burned skin stuck to your clothing without causing any further damage.
If you are nervous about wearing polyester, cotton may be a good alternative. Although it catches fire far more easily, unlike polyester, it quickly turns to ash and crumbles away from your body.
What Iron Temperature Should You Use For Polyester?
Irons can be pretty dangerous for polyester fabrics, as the high heats can cause the material to melt. So, if you want to iron a polyester garment or textile there are some safety precautions.
Firstly, check the setting on your iron, as most come with different settings for different materials. If there’s a setting named “polyester” use that. If not, set your iron to the lowest possible heat, or the “warm” setting.
Read the manufacturer label on the item you want to iron. Most labels will give you appropriate care instructions, including whether or not the item is safe to iron.
Use a press cloth – or an available thin, heat-resistant fabric – that you can place between the polyester fabric and your iron.
Can Polyester Melt in the Dryer?
Although it’s possible to melt polyester in a dryer, it’s highly unlikely. Polyester is much more likely to warp or twist out of shape if the dryer is too hot. If you are worried, you can always leave your polyester fabrics to air-dry.