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Consumer Product Safety

Industry Guide to Flammability of Textile Products in Canada

Table of Contents

Introduction

This document provides information about the safety requirements that apply under the Textile Flammability Regulations to textile products manufactured, imported, advertised or sold in Canada.

The intent of this document is to:

  • provide information about the legislation in Canada that applies to textile products which may, or may likely, pose a flammability hazard
  • explain how the legislation applies to textile products and bedding
  • describe the testing methods for textile products and bedding
  • discuss the influences of fibre content, fabric construction and design on the flammability characteristics of the finished textile products

This document is an unofficial summary of the requirements for textile products and bedding. It is not intended to substitute for, supersede or limit the requirements under the applicable legislation. In case of any discrepancy between this summary and the legislation, the legislation will prevail. For further information, contact a Health Canada Consumer Product Safety Office via email (cps-spc@hc-sc.gc.ca) or telephone at 1-866-662-0666 (toll-free within Canada and the United States).

To obtain information on the legislative requirements for textile products and bedding not covered in this document, refer to the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act and its Regulations listed under Appendix A - Information Resources.

This document may be updated from time to time. For the most recent version, consult Health Canada's website .

Legislation

Textile products manufactured, imported, advertised or sold in Canada are subject to the CCPSA and must meet the flammability requirements set out in the Textile Flammability Regulations.

In addition to the product-specific requirements noted in this document, it is prohibited to manufacture, import, advertise or sell any consumer product that is a "danger to human health or safety" as defined in the CCPSA (see paragraphs 7(a) and 8(a)).

The onus is on industry to comply with the legislation.

The Consumer Product Safety Program administers and enforces the CCPSA and the regulations made under it. Enforcement actions taken by Product Safety Officers on noncompliant products depend on the degree of hazard associated with noncompliance, and include commitment to product correction by industry, negotiation with industry for the voluntary removal of these products from the market, seizure and/or prosecution under the CCPSA. Any person that manufactures, imports, advertises, or sells noncompliant products that result in property damage, injury or death may also be subject to legal liability.

Flammability Requirements for Textile Products

Under the Textile Flammability Regulations, textile products refer to all consumer products made in whole or in part of textile fibres, other than children's sleepwear, dolls, plush toys, soft toys, cribs, cradles and bassinets, playpens for children, carpets, carpeting, carpet tiles, mats, matting, rugs, tents, mattresses, as well as expansion gates and expandable closures for children, which must comply with different legislative requirements. Textile products include such items as fabric, drapery, outerwear and daywear.

Flammability requirements for textile products have been in effect since 1971. These products, when tested in accordance with the Canadian General Standards Board standard CAN/CGSB 4.2 No. 27.5, entitled Textile Test Methods - Flame Resistance - 45° Angle Test - One Second Flame Impingement, as amended from time to time, must have a flame spread time of one of the following:

  • greater than 3.5 seconds, if the product does not have a raised fibre surface; or
  • greater than 4 seconds, if the product has a raised fibre surface and exhibits ignition or fusion of its base fibres.

Flammability Requirements for Bedding

Bedding refers to articles that make up a bed and that are made in whole or in part of textile fibres, including sheets, pillowcases, pillows, blankets, comforters, mattress pads, bed skirts, sleeping bags and similar products used on a bed, but excluding mattresses.

Under the Textile Flammability Regulations, bedding, when tested in accordance with the Canadian General Standards Board standard CAN/CGSB 4.2 No. 27.5, entitled Textile Test Methods - Flame Resistance - 45° Angle Test - One Second Flame Impingement, as amended from time to time, must have a flame spread time of greater than 7 seconds, and either:

  • does not have a raised fibre surface; or
  • has a raised fibre surface and exhibits ignition or fusion of its base fibres.

Testing Methods

In accordance with the Canadian General Standards Board standard CAN/CGSB 4.2 No. 27.5, entitled Textile Test Methods - Flame Resistance - 45° Angle Test - One Second Flame Impingement, as amended from time to time, a dried piece of fabric measuring 50 mm x 165 mm (2" x 6") is mounted in a specimen holder at a 45 degree angle to the horizontal, and a standardized flame is applied for one second to the surface near the lower end of the fabric. The flame spread time is the time taken for any flaming to proceed a distance of 127 mm (5") up the fabric, and is automatically recorded by the burning of a stop cord.

Before a product sample is tested for flammability, preliminary trials are conducted on fabric specimens cut from the sample in different directions to determine the direction in which to cut the test specimens and the surface to test whereby the fabric burns most rapidly. Once this has been established, the flammability of the product sample is determined by measuring the flame spread time for five test specimens from the same sample and averaging the results.

If the flame spread time for any one specimen is equal to or less than:

  • 3.5 seconds for textile products with a flat fibre surface; or
  • 4 seconds for textile products with a raised fibre surface; or
  • 7 seconds for bedding; or
  • if some specimens do not burn (i.e., do not ignite or ignite but extinguish),

five additional specimens from the sample are tested. The flame spread time of the product sample is then the average flame spread time for the ten specimens or for the number of specimens that burned.

Borderline or extremely variable flammability test results are followed up by testing at least one, and preferably two or more, additional product samples to ascertain reasonable consistency of the test results.

For detailed information on this test, refer to the Canadian General Standards Board standard CAN/CGSB 4.2 No. 27.5, entitled Textile Test Methods - Flame Resistance - 45° Angle Test - One Second Flame Impingement, as amended from time to time.

To obtain a copy of the Test method for the Flammability of Textiles (F-01) email Health Canada at cps-spc@hc-sc.gc.ca.

Testing is the most reliable way to confirm compliance to the applicable requirements.

Factors Affecting Textile Flammability

Fibre content, fabric construction, fabric weight and fabric finishes can all affect the flammability or rate of burn of textiles. All textiles will burn to varying degrees if exposed long enough to a flame or an intense heat source. When discussing any one factor below, it is assumed that all other pertinent factors remain constant.

A) Fibre Content

With regards to flammability, fabrics may be classified generally according to fibre content:

  • readily flammable:
    In general, these fibres ignite readily and burn rapidly, leaving a light ash residue (e.g., cotton, acetate, triacetate, rayon, ramie and marabou).
  • moderately flammable:
    These fibres are more difficult to ignite. The synthetics tend to melt and drip, sometimes self-extinguishing upon removal of the ignition source (e.g., acrylic, nylon, polyester, olefin, and silk).
  • relatively nonflammable:
    In general, these fibres will not support combustion after removal of the ignition source (e.g., wool, modacrylic, vinyon, and Saran).

Blends

Fabrics made of two or more fibres (blends) display flammability characteristics that are different from those of the individual fibres, and testing is the only way to ascertain the flammability of the blend. For example, although polyester is less flammable than cotton, some cotton/polyester blends have been shown to burn rapidly and generate more heat than 100% cotton fabrics. This is due to a "scaffolding" effect, where the charred cotton in the blend acts as a support or scaffold for the polyester fibres. The melting polyester in the blend does not drip away as it may do in 100% polyester fabrics, and continues to burn.

Blended fleece fabrics such as 80% cotton/20% polyester may burn quickly like 100% cotton fleece because the brushed surface can be 100% cotton, while the base may be a blend of 50% cotton/50% polyester or 60% cotton/40% polyester. A flame can quickly pass over the raised surface of the fleece, igniting the readily flammable cotton. Once the base of the fabric is ignited, the moderately flammable polyester slows down the rate of burn to one somewhat slower than that of a pure cotton fabric of equal weight and construction.

B) Fabric Construction

For textiles, the critical factor in determining flammability ratings for varying construction techniques is the availability of oxygen. Combustion is accelerated if air can permeate a fabric easily. The more loosely woven a fabric, the more combustible it is, and the faster the flame will travel over the surface of the fabric. For example, a lightweight tightly woven polyester fabric may be difficult to ignite, whereas a lightweight loosely woven (mesh) polyester fabric may fail flammability testing.

Fabrics with a raised fibre surface require special consideration. Fleece-style fabrics, flannelettes and terry towelling are some examples of construction which allow individual fibres or yarns to be exposed readily to accidental contact with ignition sources. This, combined with the fact that air readily penetrates and circulates around these loose fibres and yarns, increases the hazard level of raised fibre surface fabrics.

The flammability hazard with raised fibre surface fabrics involves the phenomenon called "surface flash" whereby a flame can travel rapidly over the fabric surface, singeing the fibre ends. This flash, in itself, may not be dangerous unless the intensity of the flame is sufficient to ignite the base fabric. In testing, this is known as timed surface flash with base burn.

C) Fabric Weight

A lightweight fabric tends to be more flammable than a heavier weight fabric of the same fibre content and fabric construction. For example, rayon chiffon usually fails to meet the flammability requirements while rayon georgette generally passes. The georgette yarns are more tightly twisted and the weave is more tightly compacted than chiffon. Consequently, the georgette fabric is more difficult to ignite, and when it does ignite, the rate of burn is slower because of the restricted availability of oxygen.

D) Fabric Finishes

A chemical or mechanical finish alters the surface of a fabric and in doing so affects the flammability of that fabric. Finishes not designed specifically to retard flammability must be considered as unknown variables that influence the total flammability of the textile product. Only through testing can the effect of the system be ascertained. For example, enzyme washes designed to reduce the pile on 100% cotton fleece tend to reduce the surface flash by shortening and compacting the loose cotton fibres.

Appendix A - Information Resources

NOTICE: For further information visit the resources below or contact a Health Canada Consumer Product Safety Office via email (cps-spc@hc-sc.gc.ca) or telephone at 1-866-662-0666 (toll-free within Canada and the United States).

To obtain a copy of the Test method for the Flammability of Textiles - Method (F-01) email Health Canada at cps-spc@hc-sc.gc.ca.