Pyrovatex is a flame retardant treatment for use with cellulosic (plant based) fibre fabrics or fabric blends where the synthetic component does not exceed 25%. The focus here is on keeping fabrics soft and breathable while maintaining high levels of protection after multiple wash cycles. Huntsman, the company that manufactures Pyrovatex claims that, since its introduction in the 1960s, it has been used to treat over 100 million square meters of fabric. Pyrovatex features on our Firemaster range of protective coveralls.
What is it?
Pyrovatex is a chemical finishing agent containing a fibre-reactive Organic Phosphorus compound. The flame retardant treatment is absorbed into cotton or other cellulose fibres and bonds to them on a molecular level. This means that (provided that washing instructions are followed,) its flame retardancy remain after repeated washing at the boil and dry cleaning. Like other flame retardant fabrics it works by creating a char effect when exposed to flame, forming a ‘carbon scaffold’ of dehydrated cellulose which stops fire spreading and penetrating the fabric. This means there is no risk of melting and, once the ignition source is removed, there is minimal smouldering or afterglow.
How does it work?
Its relative ease of application (specialist textile machines are not required to impregnate fabrics with Pyrovatex) keeps costs down making it one of the cheaper fire retardant solutions on the market. Where it really shines is day-to-day usability. Because the compound bonds on a molecular level to the fabric it means that woven and knitted cellulose fabrics retain their comfortable characteristics as well as their colour; the idea being that comfortable safety work wear that looks good is more likely to be used day-in day-out by workers.
Pyrovatex is suitable for use in the Oil and Welding industry and once combined with other chemicals to offer added protection, it can also be used in Chemical handling or Electrical Engineering fields. The flexible fabric is also in use in police, military and firefighting roles.
Use With Care
The care instructions are relatively straightforward; no soap-based washing powders, acid rinses or open steam ironing/pressing and low-temperature tumble-drying. As long as you stick to those simple guidelines Huntsman claim that the flame retardant effect will last the lifetime of the fabric. So unlike Proban, for example, Pyrovaetx won’t EVER wash out of fabrics.
This, combined with its relatively low costs makes it an attractive option but consider also that your choice of safety clothing should always dictated by work environment. Pyrovatex lacks some of the added protection of the other materials we’ve focused on in this series; the resistance to corrosive and solvent chemicals offered by Nomex for example, or the Arc Blast protection of Cantex. However Pyrovatex is flexible and can be combined with other finishing agents to provide greater protection in both these areas.
Firefighter: By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James E. Foehl [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Mangle: By User:Itub (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons