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April 13, 2024


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Fabric University | Fabric Seminar | Flammability
Fabric Seminar


Periodically, incidents are reported in the media concerning problems with the flammability of garments being sold in the United States. How can you be sure a garment is safe? What other safety regulations apply to the manufacturing and sale of clothing and fabric?

The following summaries provide information regarding the regulation of the safety of clothing and fabric sold in the United States. Additional information, including copies of the complete regulations can be obtained by contacting:

U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Washington, D.C., 20207-0400 Telephone: 301-504-0400



The Flammable Fabrics Act (FFA), enacted by the U. S. Department of Commerce and enforced by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, contains the standards under which clothing textiles are tested and regulated for flammability.

The FFA was initially passed in 1953 in response to public concern over a number of serious burn accidents involving brushed rayon high pile sweaters (referred to as "torch sweaters") and children's cowboy chaps which could catch fire easily and flash burn.

Controlling Regulations - The flammability standards which regulate clothing and textiles intended for clothing are contained in Volume 16 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Subchapter D - Flammable Fabrics Act Regulation, in the following references:

  • Part 1610 Standard for the Flammability Testing of Clothing Textiles
  • Part 1611 Standard for the Flammability of Vinyl Plastic Film
  • Part 1615 Standards for the Flammability of Children's Sleepwear: Sizes 0 through 6X
  • Part 1616 Standards for the Flammability of Children's Sleepwear: Sizes 7 through 14

What The Flammable Fabrics Act Does

General Clothing - The majority of flammability problems have involved lightweight rayons or cotton garments with exposed fuzzy fleece, and, to a lesser extent, garments made of very lightweight silk. It is important to understand that the Flammable Fabrics Act is a minimal standard, intended to remove from sale and use the small number of articles of wearing apparel and fabrics which are "so highly flammable as to be dangerous when worn by individuals."

Effectively, the FFA removes only so called "torch fabrics," which could become engulfed in flames in a matter of seconds. The consumer should be aware that a fabric which passes the FFA standard may still burn. In fact, surprisingly even a newspaper will pass the flammability test.

Children's Sleepwear - Children's sleepwear is subject to a much stricter flammability standard. The testing specified for children's sleepwear requires that all garments and fabrics used in children's sleepwear must self-extinguish when exposed to a small, open flame. Children's sleepwear is primarily made from specially manufactured polyester fiber.

Retailers' and Manufacturers' Responsibility - To verify if the fabrics being used in clothing meet the requirements of the Flammable Fabrics Act, a retailer can request a guaranty from the garment manufacturer and the garment manufacturer can request a guaranty from the fabric supplier. The guaranty, a formal certification, must indicate that reasonable and representative tests have been made in accordance with applicable standards and procedures currently in effect under the Flammable Fabrics Act, and that the fabric tested meets the minimum requirements.

Penalty - The manufacture for sale, the sale, or the offering for sale of any product, fabric, or related material which fails to comply with an applicable standard or regulation issued under the FFA is prohibited. The FFA is enforced by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The FFA provides for civil penalties of up to $6,000 per product involved with any violation, and a maximum penalty of up to $1.5 million for any related series of violations.

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Any non-functional button or other decorative accessory on an article of children's clothing that contains a defect which creates a substantial risk of injury to children is subject to appropriate actions under Chapter 15 of the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.

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Reference: Volume 16 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Sections 1500.48 and 1500.49

Clothing intended for children under 8 years of age is subject to regulation under the sharp point and sharp edge technical requirements. These requirements describe test methods for determining whether points and edges on articles are hazardously sharp. The use and abuse test procedures are also used with these requirements to determine whether children's products are likely to develop sharp points or sharp edges during use and reasonably foreseeable abuse.

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Reference: Volume 16 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Sections 1500.50 through 1500.53
The objective of the Use and Abuse Test Procedures is to standardize specific test methods for simulating normal use of toys and other articles intended for use by children, as well as the reasonably foreseeable damage and abuse to which the articles may be subjected. The test methods are for use in exposing potential hazards that would result from the normal use or the reasonably foreseeable damage or abuse of such articles intended for children.

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Reference: Volume 16 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1501

This regulation concerns the identification of toys, balloons, books, writing materials, children's clothing, and other articles intended for children, containing small parts which present choking, aspiration or ingestion hazards.

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Reference: Volume 16 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1303

The lead-in-paint regulation bans toys or children's articles (including clothing) with paint or similar surface coating materials on the clothing, buttons, findings, or other decorative items having in excess of 0.06% by weight of lead.

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