teresting to you all, is the problem of the permanent fireproofing of wearing materials and especially of cotton and cotton goods and by permanent fireproofing I mean protection which is not removed when the materials are subjected to the ordinary domestic wash.
Many disastrous accidents are on record which have been brought about by clothing catching fire: sometimes it is the case of a child whose garments have come in contact with a spark or lighted match and sometimes disasters of much greater magnitude have resulted from the ignition of costumes made of tow or other inflammable material on the occasion of charity entertainments or fancy dress balls.
It has long been recognized that impregnation with certain salts very much reduces and indeed may entirely destroy the liability of cotton goods to inflame and, of these fireproofing agents, I may perhaps be allowed to refer to a few only of the better known and more efficient. If a garment, after washing in the ordinary way, is rinsed in a solution containing alum or is starched with a starch containing a proportion of alum, the material, after drying, shows a marked reluctance to ignite, but this treatment has many draw-backs. In the first place it makes the material very dusty, and secondly, the fireproofing is only of a temporary nature since it is at once removed by contact with water and the process must therefore be repeated every time the goods are washed. I can easily demonstrate this and, in these and all my other experiments, I purposely take only very narrow strips in order that any smoke produced may not cause inconvenience in this hall. Another solution which has been strongly recommended for the same purpose is made up with 3 parts of ammonium phosphate, 2 parts of ammonium chloride and 1 part of ammonium sulphate in about 40 parts of water. If the material after washing, is impregnated with this solution and dried, or if it is starched with starch made with the solution instead of with water, the dry material only ignites with difficulty, and, as it does not dust and is not prejudicially affected in any other way, this process has been used with advantage not only in connection with wearing material but also for the fireproofing of lace curtains and other inflammable decorations. But in this case also, the fireproofing agents employed are all soluble in water and one washing is sufficient to remove them entirely, leaving the goods at least as inflammable as before. The process must therefore be repeated every time the goods are washed and this means expense which, in the long run, becomes considerable.
But a much more serious drawback to processes of this kind is the trouble they entail since, in order to fireproof the garment the washerwoman must have alongside the ordinary wash tub, a second tub containing the fireproofing solution and this complication, added to the expense of the salts, has been shown to be so serious that processes of this kind are quite impracticable, especially in the homes of the poor.