Is Wool Not a Flame Retardant?

When you think about wool beddings, the first thing that often comes to mind is how this material gives you comfy and healthy sleep. But, do you know that wool is one of the safest natural fire retardants? In an era when manufacturers prefer to use cheap fire retardants such as glass fibers, the existence of wool is proof that natural options will always be better and safer in any industry application.

Wool has been around for centuries. And thanks to technological advancements, today, it is used not only in clothing but also in beddings and insulation. Other than being soft and luxurious, wool is a flame-resistant fabric. Even though it is a flammable material, wool can only ignite when it reaches 1,058 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s not all. This material is rich in Nitrogen and water, and therefore once it is removed from a source of heat, wool is capable of extinguishing flames by itself.

Because of these properties, wool is a popular flame retardant used in quality mattresses whose manufacturers care both about fire safety and the effects of using organic materials in beds. Have you always been fascinated by wool’s flame-resistant capabilities? Or have you just found out that wool is a flame retardant? Below, we will discuss this particular property of wool and how it can be beneficial to you.

Is Wool a Flammable Material?

Before we can even answer this question, it is essential that we look at the sources of wool. This fabric is obtained mainly from sheep. It can also be sheared off camels. Once it has been sheared, wool is cleaned, and the excess oils are stripped off. Depending on what the wool is intended to be used for, it can be dyed right away or flattened and threaded into yarn.

Moving on to wool’s flammability, as you may already know, it is flammable. However, because of its cell composition, the presence of Nitrogen and water extinguishes fire immediately after the fire source is eliminated. Its hydrophilic property is what’s responsible for wool’s ability to extinguish fire. Plus, this is the feature that makes it very easy to dye.

The other property of wool worth noting is that it needs a massive supply of oxygen to keep on burning. The scientific term for this is that wool has got a high limiting oxygen index. Therefore, if there isn’t enough oxygen, the material won’t sustain a flame.

Because of these properties, wool is one of the safest fabrics that can protect you and your belongings against fire. This is why reputable mattress manufacturers prefer to use wool as it is a very effective fire retardant, and it is 100% natural. Therefore, their clients won’t experience any side effects when their bodies come into contact with this material, unlike the case with glass fibers.

Can Wool Be Described as Fire Resistant?

Flame-resistant materials are those that can resist burning not unless the temperatures are incredibly high. Most fire-resistant fabrics are made of both natural and synthetic materials. Another definition of fire-resistant is; materials that can extinguish fire once the source of heat is eliminated.

From the above two descriptions, wool has got both properties. Because of its high water and nitrogen content, wool can withstand heat not unless it exceeds 1,058 degrees Fahrenheit. Plus, the fibers of wool are capable of self-extinguishing fire when the heat source is removed.

IWTO describes wool as a fire-resistant material. And unlike other materials made using synthetic compounds, wool is 100% natural, and therefore it is also amongst the safest fire-resistant fabrics available.

Do These Properties Make Wool a Fire Retardant?

A lot of people cannot distinguish between fire-resistant materials and those that are fire retardants. Some even think that they are the same thing. However, the most accurate definition of a fire retardant is fabrics treated to be more resistant to fire. In this case, to make wool a fire retardant, mattress manufacturers may take it through chemical processes to make it more resistant to igniting.

Different manufacturers use various fire-retardant treatments on wool. Therefore it can be challenging to gauge which treatment is more effective not unless the wool is exposed to fire. But this shouldn’t be a big concern for you as strict laws have been enforced to ensure bed companies use the recommended materials as fire retardants. If you are shopping for a new bed, you can always ask different brands which material they use as a fire retardant. And if they are using wool, you can go the extra step and ask if it has been treated to be more resistant to fires.

Be as it may, wool is a natural flame retardant. It can withstand high temperatures before it can ignite. And once the source of heat is removed, the fibers of wool will self-extinguish the fire.

What are the Conditions Needed for Wool to Burn?

As a fire retardant, a couple of conditions need to be present for wool to burn. They include;

  • High amounts of oxygen – Remember when we talked about wool’s high limiting oxygen index? Well, this is a condition that has to be met for wool to burn. Without enough supply of oxygen, wool will not burn. This is quite beneficial because as long as the fire is in an enclosed area with an inadequate oxygen supply, wool will stop the spread and intensity of a fire.
  • A fire source – Unlike other flammable materials that once ignited, they catch fire and keep spreading it. Wool self-extinguishes fire. As a result, if there is no heat source, the wool fibers will not burn, and the flames will go off. This is an essential characteristic that makes wool an excellent fire retardant.
  • High temperatures of up to 1,058 degrees Fahrenheit are required – Wool will not burn unless the abovementioned temperatures are reached. A temperature of 1,058 degrees Fahrenheit is very high. And on infrequent occasions, will fire outbreaks be able to be that hot.

We can conclude that wool is a difficult material to burn. And because of that, it is the ideal material to use as a fire retardant. We aren’t just talking about mattresses, but wool is perfect for use on protective gear for firefighters, police officers, those in the military, more so members of the bomb squad. That aside, wool is an insulating material. When used in clothing, it keeps your body warm because it doesn’t allow heat to escape.

At What Temperature Does Wool Burn?

If you have been very keen when reading our article, you can see that we mentioned several times, wool burns at about 1,058 degrees Fahrenheit. In some instances, wool may ignite at 1,112 degrees Fahrenheit. That is a very high temperature, and very few fabrics can withstand such. And to make matters better, it will self-extinguish the flame when the heat source is removed.

For wool to ignite at 570 degrees Celsius, a lot of oxygen will be needed. Considering how thick this material can be, it is not easy for oxygen to penetrate inside, and this helps the wool self-extinguish the flames to stop the spread of fire. It is also worth mentioning that wool swells when exposed to heat. This makes it harder for oxygen to get into the thick layers.

It is also vital that we mention what happens to wool when it burns. Before turning into ash, wool swells when it is heated. It then releases Nitrogen and water to snuff out the surrounding flames. In case the fire is excessive, the wool will shrink and turn into ash.

Like Other Fire Retardants, Does Wool Melt?

Wool does not melt. Instead, it turns into ash. Let us take you back to middle school science. Melting occurs when molecules are exposed to excess heat that converts them into liquid. Depending on the element in question, the amount of heat needed for a material to melt varies significantly. It would take an abnormal amount of heat for wool to melt.

  • Being a natural fabric, wool turns into ash when heated. Most synthetic fire retardants melt when exposed to high heat. Examples include polyester or nylon. And these synthetic fire retardants don’t just melt. They emit toxic gasses that can suffocate you when you are in an enclosed room. Wool does no such thing. It only turns into ash, and even before that, it helps extinguish the fire.
  • While we are still on wool and whether it melts, you may be wondering if it produces smoke as well. As a natural fire retardant, wool emits less smoke than synthetic options. The gas produced isn’t as toxic.

Final Thoughts

Wool is an excellent fire retardant. It has a higher burning point than most fabrics, both synthetic and natural. Its high resistance to heat makes it a much better material to use in enhancing fire safety. Despite these many benefits, wool can be a bit expensive. Therefore, mattresses that use this fire retardant tend to cost more. Secondly, some people have wool allergies. This is also another drawback.

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