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The following documents are published by the CPSC. For more information, visit their website at

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Upholstered Furniture Safety Alert

CPSC Document #5103

Considering the purchase of upholstered furniture? Color, style, and fabric type are undoubtedly part of your considerations. Add one more factor safety. This can be taken into account without sacrificing other important requirements.

In 1983, an estimated 860 people lost their lives, approximately 2,900 people were injured, and ill million dollars in property loss resulted from fires started by a cigarette igniting upholstered furniture. Cigarette-ignited upholstered furniture fires kill more people every year than any other kind of fire. In a typical scenario, a burning cigarette is accidentally dropped on a furniture item - the family retires for the night - the burning cigarette ignites the fabric and the filling material underneath causing a fire that may not be discovered until too late.

Much of the furniture manufactured today has significantly greater resistance to ignition by cigarettes than upholstered furniture manufactured 10 to 15 years ago. This is particularly true of furniture manufactured to comply with the requirements of the Upholstered Furniture Action Council's (UFAC) Voluntary Action Program. Such upholstered furniture may be identified by the gold colored tag on the furniture item. The legend on the front of the tag in red letters states - "Important Consumer Safety Information from UFAC."

While today's furniture generally is more resistant to cigarette ignition, there are differences in ignition resistance. You can further improve your safety by careful selection of your new furniture:

  • Fabrics made from vinyl, wool or thermoplastic fibers (nylon, polyester, olefin, acrylic) resist ignition by burning cigarettes better than fabrics made from other fiber types (cotton, rayon). In general, the higher the thermoplastic content, the greater the resistance to cigarette ignition. Studies indicate that as little as 35 percent thermoplastic fiber in a fabric can provide improved resistance to cigarette ignition.
  • The resistance of fabrics made from cotton, rayon or linen to smouldering cigarettes depends on the weight of the fabric. The heavier the weight of the fabric, the more likely the fabric will burn.
  • Upholstered furniture seat cushions are frequently made with box welts (raised edging around the upper and lower edges of the cushion). A special cord used in the box welt required by the UFAC Voluntary Action Program further improves cigarette ignition resistance. Furniture seat cushions made without UFAC box welts are less resistant to cigarette ignition.

Therefore, furniture made from thermoplastic fibers with seat cushions having UFAC special welt cord in the box welt provides increased protection against cigarette ignition.

In addition to upholstered furniture, your home contains many other items which will ignite and burn. As a back-up to the use of fire resistant materials, install smoke detectors on each level of your home and ensure that they are maintained in operating condition. These will provide an early warning if a fire does occur.

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