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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/407

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PERMANENT FIREPROOFING OF COTTON GOODS

once the great difference in the feel between the comparatively hard flat surface of the calico and the raised surface of the flannelette.

Flannelette is indeed little, if at all, inferior to flannel as a nonconducting material and as it is very cheap and does not shrink in the wash, it has become very popular and is manufactured in enormous quantities and almost universally used for the clothing of children, especially in the homes of the poorer classes.

But it was not long before its increasing use showed unmistakably that it has one terrible drawback—the nap, which is its peculiar feature, makes it highly inflammable and much more so than the calico from which it was manufactured.

Flannelette is in fact, as I have already said, very much like calico on the surface of which a thin layer of cotton wool has been spread and this layer is, of course, highly inflammable.

I can easily demonstrate the difference in the inflammability of calico and flannelette by applying a light to strips of each, when it will be seen that while calico burns in the ordinary way, in the case of flannelette, the flame flashes over the whole surface of the fluffy cotton layer and travels with extraordinary rapidity.

It is, of course, this property which makes flannelette one of the most dangerous of materials for clothing purposes. The alarming frequency of deaths by burning due to the wearing of flannelette became common knowledge, the coroners all over Great Britain repeatedly called attention to the matter and by degrees the agitation against its use for clothing became so persistent that the Coroners' Committee of the Home Office was directed to inquire into the matter.

The committee recognized that whilst, to quote the words of their report, "We think the common opinion attributing to it (flannelette) a large share of the blame (of burning accidents) is not far wrong" that it was impossible to prohibit its use without causing great hardship, especially to the poor. Several years before this inquiry was held, one of the largest firms of flannelette manufacturers in Manchester, Messrs. Whipp Bros, and Tod, becoming alarmed at the frequent occurrence of fatal burning accidents and fearing lest these might lead to the prohibition of the sale of the material, came to me and asked whether I would undertake a series of experiments with the object of endeavoring to find a remedy for this state of things, and, after looking carefully into the matter, I consented to do what I could. That the problem was a difficult one from many points of view will be readily understood if I briefly state the conditions which had to be kept constantly in mind while the experiments were being carried on. A process to be successful must in the first place not damage the feel or durability of the cloth or cause it to go damp as so many chemicals do, and it must not make it dusty. It must not affect the colors or