The classic trope of a careless cigarette or heater causing a sofa to burst into flames may concern you to think about your own sofa. If you can’t always be home to monitor what is happening, can you make a sofa fire retardant?
There are home treatments that can make a sofa fire retardant, and there are also professionals who specialize in doing that. Generally sofas come with at least a minimum standard of fire resistance.
We’ll look at sofas and their amounts of fire resistance as well as how you can check whether your sofa is up to standard. We’ll also look at how you can take some simple steps to improve the fire safety of your couch.
Do Couches Have Fire Retardants?
For some time there have been fire risk standards that apply to all furniture that is upholstered or contains foam. To prove this, the furniture must have the appropriate label stating whether the product contains flame retardants or similar.
In order to meet these standards, couches and furniture have had to go through various tests exposing them to fire. If the furniture performs well enough, then it is certified as being relatively safe from catching fire.
These labels are a requirement for fire safety on furniture sold via commercial ventures. This means they have to be attached to all upholstered furniture. Antique furniture is exempt from having a fire label, particularly if it is more than 50 years old.
These fire safety standards are intentionally conservative in order to prevent furniture from being a fire hazard as much as possible. This means that virtually all furniture is going to be covered by these rules.
Due to previous flammability issues with fabrics in the home catching fire from common objects like heaters and accidental ignition from a careless cigarette, the need for higher fire safety measures became clear.
This saw flame-retardant chemicals being added particularly to the foam in chairs, sofas and any other applicable furniture to retard the spread of fire. Foam was shown to be particularly flammable and so was the target for increased fire protection.
However research showed that the chemicals’ molecules migrate out of furniture foam and make their way into our bodies, staying inside and causing damage for many years.
The stigma around this has gotten so bad that many consumers are not interested in purchasing any products claiming chemical fire retardants are involved in their production.
So while there has been a move away from such chemicals, there have been improvements in fire safety for other materials.
The modern approach is to construct sofas and other pieces of furniture out of materials that are not as flammable, for example plastic instead of wood. Improvements in foam manufacture has resulted in a similar texture but with reduced flammability.
Can You Make A Sofa Fire Retardant?
You can replace the old foam filling with new foam that does not contain flame retardants. This is relatively easily done for the cushions but might be difficult if the sofa itself has foam.
Removing the upholstery is sometimes not an option, so you may have to take the couch in to get professionally recovered.
First, you should check for any tags or information on the sofa to see what the manufacturer states about the level of fire safety the product offers. You can also try searching for the model or brand name with keywords like two seater to find information about it.
If there is no mention of fire safety but an ingredient list exists, look up the various foam or fabric materials to check how flammable they are.
Testing services exist to see how flammable your sofa foam is. For example you can send a sample of foam into Duke University’s Foam Project and they will look for seven common flame retardant chemicals and advise you on what to do.
If the sofa manufacturer is still in business,contact customer service to see if they offer replacements. The health issues of such chemicals are so well known that many sofa companies will do a free replacement or swap program for new internal foam.
If you’re in a more DIY-type mood, just recover and reupholster your existing vintage frame. Amazon has a bunch of different types of upholstery foam you can order that is chemical free and meets current fire safety standards.
How Do You Make Flame Retardant Fabric?
There are some treatment methods you can do to boost the protection of your furniture from fire. These won’t be 100% protection from all sources of fire, but will be useful against sources of ignition like cigarette lights, or heat.
Upholstered furniture still has to meet fire safety standards, just without added flame retardant chemicals.
You can combine borax and water to create a flame retardant covering for furniture. Use gloves for any sort of chemical process such as this.
Get something like a 65 ounce box of borax and mix about 13 ounces with about a gallon of very hot water, and stir until fully dissolved.
Test the solution on some non conspicuous area in case there is any fabric staining or damage. If it comes out OK, get a spray bottle and spray the solution onto the fabric and let dry for some time. Keep in mind that you can wash the fabric to remove it.
Another higher strength option is to add boric acid as well. 9 ounces of borax and 4 ounces of boric acid mixed with hot water will add a higher level of fire resistance to your furniture.
Other options like using alum or sodium silicate are an option, but due to the caustic nature of these chemicals they are best avoided.