Fire-Resistant Sleepwear

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Fleece pajamas WITHOUT flame retardant?

Oct 2004

is it possible to find toddler size fleece pajamas WITHOUT flame retardant? (trying to avoid chemicals and my understanding is that these pjs will still melt onto the skin) i want to put my little one into one piece zippers, with or without feet. she will wear cotton underneath. but everything fleece i have found has flame retardant on it: gerber, nordstrom, carter's, gymboree, gap, child's place, etc.... i've checked macy's, mervyn's, target, walmart. does such a thing exist? ideas? thanks! Julia

Fleece garments that are not specifically sold as sleepwear are unlikely to have fire retardants on them. So you could just get some fleece top and bottom ''sweats''. if it says ''not to be used as sleepwear'' on the label, you can be certain it has no added retardants. (although I'm not sure I'd want my kids sleeping in synthetics all the time, either). anon

Just re-read your post, and you mention your concern about fabric melting onto the child. Yes - any synthetic will melt when heated. It's plastic You can get some cute cotton, warm, one-pice outfits (not sold as p.j.'s) from Hanna Andersson (possibly other mail-orders, too). It won't be ''fleecy'', but the heavy interlock is quite warm. That's what both my babies slept in (years ago). You could also try searching ''cotton fleece baby clothes'', or similar. anon

We couldn't find fleece pj's without flame retardant. We ended up buying Petit Bateau fuzzy sleepers for cold nights, but they're expensive--$50. They last a long time, though. For warmer weather we buy Hanna Anderssen which are organic cotton with no flame retardant. It will eventually be phased out in California, by the way. Pay what you can or what you have to but keep your kid away from that stuff! safe sleeper

Try Land's End - Or LL Bean - Pajama Mama

After reading the link about this topic, I wanted to throw out a caveat: my parents had a friend whose daugher stood up on a table in a non-fire resistant nightgown at the age of 5 or 6. There was a candle on the table and the gown caught fire. The entire gown went up in a matter of moments (poly/cotton fiber is like napalm). She suffered 3rd degree burns all over her body and years of surgeries to repair damaged tissue. It's NOT just kids ''lounging'' in front of the fireplace, people! Kids do stupid things sometimes, and though I wouldn't want to poison them with flame retardants, there is a reason they were used in the past. Just be careful about the fabrics you dress your kid(s) in. heather

As someone who works for a children's clothing manufacturer, I can tell you the short answer to your question is no, you cannot get footed/fleece pajamas that are not treated with flame retardant. To produce and sell such an item is against the law. You can check out the website for the Consumer Product Safety Commission for more details. Sleepwear without flame retardant is generally made of 100% cotton and is always labeled ''wear snug fitting'' to adhere to legal requirements. You might find some that are zippered as opposed to pull over, but I don't think I've ever seen them. If you can skip the footies, I would just get fleece ''sweat'' type clothes and have your kids sleep in them with long-johns and warm socks. We're getting cold too!

We bought very nice fleece sleepers and pj's without flame retardant online at --Land's End also has ones without flame retartant but they don't hold up quite as well and tend to pill. The L.L Bean fleece sleepers and pj's would easily hold up well for more than one child. Gayle

What makes sleepwear fire-resistant?

June 2004

Does anyone know what makes the sleepwear labelled as ''fire- resistant'' fire-resistant? My husband won't allow our children to sleep in anything else. But today I was shopping for fabric to make a blanket, and when I asked if it was fire-resistant, the shop keeper told me that no fabric was fire-resistant, and that I could buy a spray, but that the spray was toxic.

If that's true and fire-resistant fabrics are treated with a spray, wouldn't the spray just wash off after multiple launderings? And am I exposing my children to toxins to prevent the remote chance of their clothing catching on fire??? If you know anything about this, please educate me. Thanks. AL

It used to be the law that sleepwear had to be fire resistent. This is no longer the case. My understanding that fire resistent sleepwear was more of an issue if a parent smokes or there are other flame dangers such as a fireplace. It is true that flame retardant fabrics are treated with chemicals, and the pj's you buy that are fire resistent do become less so with repeated washings.

If no one in your house smokes and your kids aren't laying around the fire place in their pj's, why expose them to the chemicals...

The spray they were talking about in the fabric store is probably the same stuff that is used in theaters to make scenery fire-resistant per fire code requirements, and I've also seen it used by caterers to make fabric decorations flame resistant when there a lot of votives and other open flame such as sterno. It is definately toxic.

Yes, it's true what the shop assistant told you. And yes, fire retardant does wash out. If you think about it, the purpose of fire-retardant pajamas is a bit odd. If flames get that close to a sleeping child, wouldn't the smoke get there first? And really, all it can do is possibly slow it down - not protect, and then again, only the areas covered by the fabric. And during warm weather, I find most children (and adults) prefer sleeping with less coverage (if at all). It's a nice idea, but one wonders how much is merely marketing and feeding off a parent's fears. Going for comfort

Fire-resistant sleepwear fits closely to the body so that when you are running through a house that is on fire,you are not as likely to catch on fire as you would if you are wearing a long, flowing nightgown or a long flappy t-shirt. Those types of sleepwear actually fan the flames and attract fire to your body. anon

I'm sure others will correct me if I'm wrong, but in addition to what others have written about ''fire-resistant'' sleepwear being close-fitting so as not to easily catch fire if one has to run past flames, I think it is also true that cotton is less flameable than certain synthetics. So that would be why only synthetics are treated with flame-resistant chemicals. If this is true, then your kids are better off in close fitting pjs or night shirts made of cotton than in ''flame-resistant'' synthetic fabrics. (I can't help adding on this topic that it kills me to see some cuddly comfortable onesy for a baby that says on the tag ''This garment is not to be used as sleepwear.'' I know they only write that because of some twisted logic about legal liability, but what do they expect you to do if the baby falls asleep while wearing it? Wake her up?) Frances

I've recently become aware that there is significant controversy about flame retardants in general, and in infant clothing in particular, that I wanted to pass along. Flame retardants, made with bromine which is a persistent, bioaccumulative toxin, have been in question health-wise at least since 1999 when a Swedish study found a 60-fold increase in these chemicals in breast milk from 1972-1997. In the San Francisco Bay area breast milk is tested at an average of 6-10 times higher than the national average in these toxins. They are related to PCBs and laboratory studies are showing that they interfere with brain development, can alter hormone function, and are linked to cancer. Our children are testing positive for these as well--both from the treated sleepware and from the flame retardants in co! mputers, TVs, building materials, etc. that are in the environment. They are also showing up in the food chain--fish in particular.

The NYTimes (7/6) had an article on how the EU starting to outlaw flame retardants, especially in children's sleepware The Cancer Action group in SF is launching a study to test women's breast milk to see if there is a link between this and the SF area's highest breast cancer rate in the country. (One reason for testing breast milk is that these toxins accumulate in the fatty tissues of the body.)

I thought I'd pass along because I've tossed out EVERYTHING with flame retardant--crib mattresses, sleepware, etc. as a result of what I've been uncovering. Great sources of info:, a google on ''breast milk testing san francisco'' was also helpful.

I'm focusing on up to date smoke detectors, escape ladders, fire safety, etc. It seems that by the time a kid's nightware would catch fire you have a much bigger problem -- I want to prevent fires further upstream (especially as my 7 month old doesn't smoke in bed...) and eliminate the 100% certain toxic exposure. nancy

Getting flame retardant chemicals out of clothing

July 2003

Someone recently told me you could get out flame retardant chemicals from clothing and bedding by washing them in Ivory Snow. With all the negative research coming out about these chemicals, I would love to be able to remove them. Has anyone else heard anything? stevie

This is my understanding of the issue (though I am not a scientist!) Polyester flame-retardant sleepwear is not treated with additional chemicals for flame retardancy. The flame- retardant nature of polyester fabric is diminished if washed in SOAP, rather than DETERGENT, which is why they recommend washing it only in detergent. Ivory Snow brand laundry soap USED TO actually be SOAP, BUT the Ivory Snow sold now is actually a mild DETERGENT! (Which is why it might not work in old laundry soap craft projects). In any case, I don't believe the soap actually removes a flame retardant chemical (although it might), but rather de-activates the flame-retardant nature of the polyester. R.K.

In my past life I was a buyer for children's sleepwear and this is what I understand about the Flame Retardant issue. Almost all of the items that are labelled ''sleepwear'' in childrens' clothes have a very high polyester content. This is because when lit on fire, polyester melts and extinguishes. The exception is for expensive 100% cotton items which are treated with chemicals - supposedly not as toxic as they used to be.

The other thing on the market are 100% cotton pj sets that are meant to be worn skin tight. They are not flame retardant, the idea is that if they are very tight, there is not enough air between the fabric and the child's skin to allow fire to spread. The statistics show that most children that are brought to the hospital with burns are burned while wearing their pj's, so the CPSC put regulations in place for children's sleepwear. In terms of washing the retardant off, unless you have an item that is 100% cotton and labelled flame retardant, it is most likely polyester and not covered with chemicals.

The Environment Working Group has done a comprehensive study of flame retardants and their toxicity including cancer, info of on-going litigation, and pending restricted use policy by US EPA. See their website for full details: Calpirg, or now called Environment California also has good info at: In summary, US EPA announced that it will be studying a chemical ubiquitous in consumer products, perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA to assess the toxicity in people (now found in surprising levels of over 90% of population in the U.S and found to have contaminated wildlife at almost every site tested even thousands of miles from industry due to drift) and develop restrictions.

It is a class of chemicals that are used to treat flame- retardant pajamas, fabric, leather, foam, plastic including food packaging, upholstry on furniture, carpeting, mattresses, in the process of making but not in Teflon coating, Gore-Tex, electronics, construction, and many chemical processing, among many more uses. Many stain and water repellents in the family of perflourochemicals (PFO's), besides having a long list of toxic properties, also break down into PFOA's. These include Dupont ''Teflon Coating'' stain resistant formulas in carpet shampoos, and water repellent sprays such as ''Scotchguard'', as well as hundreds of other products. Susan