Beyond Blowing Out Candles: Fire Safety Tips for Mattresses and Bedding
Learn how your mattress may—or may not—be minimizing the chances of a fire breaking out in your bedroom.
No one wants to think about the possibility of a house fire starting in their bedroom. However, if you simply ignore this potential threat and hope that you’ll remain safe, you could end up overlooking some actionable steps that could make a big difference in protecting everyone in your home. Given the fact that on average, you spend about 26 years of your life sleeping, learning how your mattress and bedding could increase the risk of a fire starting or spreading is important.
Fire Prevention Week each October commemorates the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 to remind Americans about fire prevention. The good news is that materials used in and around our homes have come a long way since then. The information below can help you protect your home from fire.
1. Some mattress types are more flammable.
As you likely know, you can find mattresses made from a variety of materials. Some mattresses have metal coils, while others are made from solid memory or latex foam. Everyone may have their own opinions about comfort, but when it comes to flammability, not all mattresses are equal. For example, in looking at memory foam vs. latex, memory foam is highly flammable, while natural latex is not. However, the memory foam mattress you purchase online or from a store should be treated with flame retardants to make it less apt to catch fire.
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2. CPSC-certified mattresses comply with federal regulations.
The United States Consumer Product Safety Commissions (CPSC) requires that all mattresses sold in the country comply with federal fire-resistance regulations. In 2007, more stringent regulations about open-flame resistance were put into place by the CPSC. It is estimated that since these new standards were released, nearly 300 deaths and more than 1,300 injuries have been prevented each year by giving people more time to get out of their bedroom after a fire starts. You can verify that your mattress meets the CPSC (federal flammability open flame) standards by looking at its label.
3. Flame retardants help mattresses meet federal standards.
One way that many mattress manufacturers comply with the federal regulations from the CPSC is by using chemical flame retardants. There are different types of flame retardants that function in unique ways. Some work by slowing down the pace the fire can spread at, while others use chemicals that stop a fire from being able to ignite.
However, as effective as flame retardants can be in giving people more time to escape during a bedroom fire, the chemicals used to make them have been tied to some serious health concerns. Although research on their effects continue, a few of these adverse conditions from flame retardant chemicals include reproductive toxicity, disruption of thyroid and endocrine systems, cancer, and hindered development and brain function.
4. Some mattresses include naturally fire-resistant materials.
If you want to make sure that your mattress will do the best possible job protecting you, but you would like to stay away from chemical flame retardants, there is a third option. Look for a natural or organic mattress made with materials that naturally resist fire, such as rayon, wool, or latex. For example, the Birch Natural Mattress, a top pick in our guide to the best mattresses, is made from natural latex with a wool cover.
5. Electric blankets also are a source of bedroom fires.
An electric blanket can deliver some extra warmth on a cold winter’s night. However, electric blankets and heating pads also cause about 500 fires every year. If you want to sleep with an electric blanket, be extra cautious to minimize fire hazards.
First, since electric blankets that are 10 years old and up cause most of those house fires, invest in a newer model if you’ve had the same blanket for several years. We like the Sunbeam Velvet Plush Heated Throw at Amazon, a favorite in our guide to tested electric blankets. You should also avoid sitting on or placing anything on top of the blanket, since doing so could damage the coils and make it more likely for a fire to break out. Similarly, keep pets away from the blanket to make sure they don’t rip the blanket and expose the cords. Always unplug an electric blanket and store it properly when you’re not using it.
6. Other actions can lessen the risk of a bedroom fire.
In addition to the pointers above about mattresses and bedding, there is plenty you can do to prevent a fire from starting in the bedroom, including:
- Installing smoke detectors in every bedroom
- Placing a fire extinguisher in each sleeping space
- Never falling asleep while candles are burning
- Never leaving candles burning when you’re not in the room
- Never smoking in the bed
- Turning off space heaters when sleeping or leaving the bedroom
- Covering electrical outlets or choosing tamper-resistant models if you have children in the home
- Never leaving charging electronics on the carpet or bed (put them on a nightstand or dresser instead)