Pajama Safety - Flame Retardant Vs. Organic Cotton

Updated on November 13, 2007
J.S. asks from East Lansing, MI
13 answers

I've never really thought about what my children wear to bed before. I have a 2 year old and a four-month old baby. I was purchasing some light flannel at the fabric store in order to make them some cute pajamas for a Christmas photograph (and also to wear to bed). However, when I got home, I saw the bold print on the bottom of the fabric saying "Not intended for children's pajamas"! But when I went back and looked at the flame-retardant fabric, it also said "flammable" so I didn't know what to do. I immediately went home and started testing the fabric by touching a lighted match to a little sample of fabric - it went up in flames immediately! So I started in on their cotton onesies - the same thing happened!

Does anyone have any advice or personal experience on this issue? I don't want my kids exposed to harmful chemicals, but I don't want them to burn up either! What on earth does it mean to meet the government requirements for children's sleepwear? We don't have any lighted candles in our house or use the fireplace. Hopefully we won't have a housefire bad enough to where anyone in our family would catch on fire.

But now I'm all freaked out that if I make these outfits - my kids will be walking bonfires just waiting to happen. What do you think?

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So What Happened?

Thank you Moms! Because of all of your great advice I realized that I was staying up way too late at night reading government warnings and letting my imagination run away with me. I tend to worry more late at night about crazy things now that I am a mom.

Prevention is the best and that is what we do at our house. Oh, and I would like to also put in the disclaimer that I burned the test fabrics in the middle of an empty sink - away from anything that could also catch fire like curtains or towels.

I have already started on the jammies and should have them finished very soon. Thanks again for putting my mind at ease. Sometimes it just takes a few of you to set me straight.

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answers from Great Falls on

Unfortunately bad things like that happen. What I tell myself about all these new safty tips is, kids have been wearing the same fabrics for years and years and years. Cotton has been around forever as has wool. I'd be more afraid of the rayon or polyester than cotton and fleece or flannel. Every kind of cloth, unless you want to go really expensive is flammable. I'm so afraid of fire, too. But I can't let my fear keep me from buying what people have used for years. Try not to worry. Good luck!!!

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answers from Milwaukee on

This whole issue of flame retardance for children's sleepware arose about 20 years ago thanks to the well-meaning but misguided efforts of Ralph Nader and the Consumer Products Safety Commission. He kind of latched onto this as one of his crusades back then, believing that children are somehow very likely to burn in their beds while sleeping apparently, and they passed this law about children's sleepware needing to be flame retardant. I used to have a small business sewing children's cotton pajamas, especially for families who liked to use natural fibers, because you actually could not buy any children's pajamas then that weren't made of polyester or acrylic, since cotton can't be made flame retardant.

Since then, there have been some changes that will allow some kid's PJs to be sold in all cotton if they are knit and very tight fitting, like long underwear.

Nonetheless, the law requires makers of cotton flannel fabric to put that warning on their product - to comply with those consumer safety laws passed 2 decades ago.

However, if you put your kid in synthetic fibers that will supposedly not burn, guess what? The stuff might not "flame" but it MELTS!!! It becomes a mass of melted plastic. I don't think that's any better than the flaming of cotton.

Personally, I've been making cotton flannel PJs for my kids and grandkids and clients for years and they are wonderful. If there's fire, you have a problem no matter what they're wearing.

(And BTW, why are we only concerned about children's clothing burning? So does this mean it's OK for adults to burn up in their beds? Why not make EVERYTHING flame retardant? It's pretty ludicrous.)

Lastly, there are dangers to being around and inhaling the fumes from flame retardant chemicals. So I'll choose natural fibers without chemical finishes everytime.

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answers from Milwaukee on

I'd like to add a bit to the cotton vs. polyester comment - Although polyester is flame retardant, it is PLASTIC - it will melt when exposed to extreme heat. Cotton may burn, but it does not melt to your skin, and if (God forbid) you do have a fire, any burns are much easier to clean and treat if they are not also coated with melted polyester. I go on the belief that ANY fabric will burn - flame retardant fabrics have been treated to slow the time it takes before they catch fire, but they will catch if exposed long enough (it's retardant, not fire proof) I'd go with the cotton and make sure it's snug fitting, that no one in the home smokes, and no open flame. Then I would consider my child to be as safe as he can be.



answers from Green Bay on

Here in Europe, where I live now, we think the over-regulated market on children's pj's is a bit stupid. It's a result of your broken legal system. The pj manufacturers and retailers fear lawsuits. Both fabrics, as you saw yourself, will burst into flames. If you want REAL information about the results of burns on children in clothing, talk to your local burn center.

But I found this smart-sounding article.

I'd say, make the pj's as long as they're snug fitting. If there is no open flames in the house, I'd worry less. Your children won't spontaneous combust because they're not in pj's dipped in Duponts vats of poison.

C. in Norway



answers from Madison on

Personally, I would rather have my children sleep in cotton than fabric that has a chemical coating. Polyester is naturally flame retardant, but I think cotton is far more comfortable. Snug-fitting sleepwear, even that made of chemical-free organic cotton, is government approved for fire safety. Tight sleepwear is less likely to contact flame, and there's less oxygen between garment and skin to feed a flame. PJs are considered snug fitting if they meet the following criteria: tapered at the waist, wrists, and ankles; without lengthy trim such as lace, close-fitting all the way through.



answers from Milwaukee on

I don't know what happened to government regulations but I am an 80 year old Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother and when my children were young and they found materials that were flammable they were banned from sales. This outrageous problem is probably due to our free trade deal with China and other Asian countries. We may have to go back to "The Old Spinning Wheel in the Parlor" in order to get pure material that will not burn. I am sorry I cannot help with your problem but I think it is all politics and time we take a stand and get those products off the market. Poisoning our kids with lead in the toys and dangerous drugs. How can this happen? It's all about money and politics. I pray for our young children, May God keep them safe. Amen



answers from Jackson on

Flame retardent doesn't mean fire proof it just means that it's treated to slow the burn time and get this after several washings it's not as flame retardant as it was new...if your kids matress is on fire (God Forbid!) no amount of flame retardant clothing is going to keep his jammies non crispy.

As long as the jammies are snug/not too big you can use whatever fabric you want to use.



answers from Los Angeles on

I used to work in a children's boutique and to be honest the chemicals in the flame-retardant pajamas washes out over time. So, if you feel more comfortable with a non-chemically treated pajama then go ahead. The real safety measure in a housefire is knowledge, have an escape plan and have "fire drills" with the children. My 3 1/2 yr old knows the "stop, drop and roll" and likes to show me how well he can do it.

I feel for ya, I have an intense fear of housefires. Maybe I died in one in a past life, I have no concrete reason to be so fearful of them.

Hope this helped you!!



answers from Benton Harbor on

Im sorry...what?? Past lives, too many chemicals...seriously, moms? Unfortunately, fires happen, but if fire is raging around your child, their clothing will have little to do with their survival. Some materials burn, some melt and either way it is a bad outcome. I think lighting you childs clothing on fire in your home is riskier than just making the pajamas out of the fabric you choose!

Sorry to be so abrupt...but think, guys! Making sure the environment is safe is so much more important than the fabric you make jammies out of.



answers from Omaha on

I think you should put your energy into making sure your children's environment is safe. If there are harmful chemicals in a flame retardant outfit, then by all means put regular cotton on them.



answers from Appleton on

I would never go with flame retardant, unless they are very used hand me downs and have been washed many times. Flame retardant don't burst into flames but they do MELT to the skin. Honestly if your child is that surrounded by fire it won't really matter what they are wearing. Prevention is the best pajamas I guess :) But seriously, nix the flame retardant-not worth the chemicals.



answers from Billings on

I always like to use a little common sense with those government regs. As you say - there is no lit fireplace or candles burning. What about space heaters? Smokers with lighters and matches around? Can you keep them out of the kitchen while stove and toasters are in operation? Generally if you see your environment is without obvious opportunity cause combustion comfortable warm clothing made with non treated fabric shouldn't be an issue.



answers from Grand Rapids on

Hi J.!
I agree with Rebecca. I often put my kids to bed in snug clothing that aren't specifically meant to be pajamas. The most important thing is that your fire alarms are in working order and have battery back-up if they're hooked into your electrical system.

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