Is Leather Flammable?

Leather is often considered a luxurious and stylish material, but is it flammable? In this ultimate guide, we will answer all of your burning questions about leather and fire safety. We’ll discuss the flammability of different types of leather, how to treat leather if it is exposed to flames, and more. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to make informed decisions about whether leather is right for your next project!

Leather Fire Protection Standards

Leather is used in many industries and products, from clothing to furniture. Because of this, it’s important to know the fire protection standards for leather so that you can make the best choices for your home or business.

Leather may not be specifically mentioned in such standards, however, there are several references to “upholstered furniture” and “combustible coverings”.

Leather Fire Protection Standards

Upholstered furniture includes any piece of furniture that is padded or has a soft surface, such as a couch, chair, or ottoman.Combustible coverings are defined as any material that can catch fire and burn easily. Depending on type, leather can meet either of these definitions.

The restrictions are especially strict in the aviation industry. Since aircraft are often carrying large numbers of people and valuable cargo, the materials used in their construction must meet very high fire safety standards.

Using natural leather in the aviation industry is limited, so you’ll mostly come across tanned synthetic leather. As you can see, a lot of faith is put into the fire retardant treatment of these materials.

In order to be used in public buildings and certain industries, leather upholstery must be treated with a flame retardant chemical. This treatment will usually make the leather less flammable, but it is still possible for it to catch fire and burn. [1]

Flammable Properties of Natural Leather

Now that we know how it is important for leather to be treated in order to meet fire safety standards, let’s take a look at the flammable properties of leather itself.

You’ve got yourself a new leather couch and you’re feeling pretty good about it. But then someone asks if leather is flammable and you start to worry. Is your new couch going to burst into flames? Well, the answer is both yes and no. It all depends on the type of leather. Let’s take a look at natural leather first.

Natural leather comes from animal skin that has been treated with chemicals and oils. This makes it more resistant to fire than other materials. However, it is still possible for natural leather to catch fire if it is exposed to high temperatures or direct flames. So, while natural leather is not as flammable as other materials, it’s still important to be careful around open flames.

Why is Natural Leather Fire Resistant?

But why is natural leather more fire resistant than other materials? The answer has to do with both the natural properties of the leather, and the tanning process.

Why is Natural Leather Fire Resistant

Natural properties of leather

Leather is made up of animal skin and animals’ skin is not much different from our own human skin. Without getting too much into the scientific details, animal skin is composed of fibers, proteins, and a small amount of fat. The structure of the skin fiber is what makes leather so tough and durable. But it also happens to be the reason why leather is fire resistant.

Yes, in addition to being strong, the collagen fibers in animal skin are also relatively heat resistant. They won’t catch fire easily and will only start to burn at very high temperatures (around 400 degrees Celsius).

Natural fats in the skin also play a role in fire resistance. When exposed to heat, these fats act as a protective barrier and make it harder for the fire to spread through the leather.

By far the biggest reason why leather resists heat so well however, is its porous nature. Leather is full of tiny pores, which absorb and retain moisture. When exposed to heat, the water inside the pores will resist the heat, and help to keep the leather from burning.

However, keep in mind that leather can lose its flame-resistant properties if you don’t take care of it properly. If leather gets too dry, those pores will close up and won’t be able to absorb water anymore. When that happens, the leather will become much more flammable. For this reason, you should condition your leather regularly to keep it hydrated.

Still, all those factors are a huge reason as to why natural leather is more fire resistant than synthetic materials. The natural properties of the leather make it more resistant to heat. But there is another reason why leather is more fire resistant… [2], [3]

Tanning process

Flame-resistance can be further influenced by the tanning. Tanning is a process that preserves the skin and makes it more durable. The most common types of tanning is vegetable and chrome-tanning.

Vegetable tanning

Vegetable tanning is a traditional and eco-friendly method of tanning leather. It uses tannins, which are naturally occurring compounds found in tree bark and other plants. The process can take weeks or even months, and the end result is a beautiful, durable piece of leather.

Because of the natural process, vegetable-tanned leather is more breathable and has a better ability to absorb moisture. And this makes them more flame resistant.

Chrome tanning

Chrome-tanning is a process that uses chromium sulfate and other chromium salts to tan hides and skins. This method is considered much more efficient and produces a quality product. However chrome-tanned leather is often treated using hexavalent chrome which is a chemical that can actually make leather more flammable.

Luckily, the ingredients used in chrome-tanning can be altered a little to make the process more environmentally friendly and the leather less flammable. If you are looking for a flame-resistant chrome-tanned leather, make sure to look for one with flame retardants added to the chromium sulfate solution.

To further increase its flame-resistance, you can treat the surface with a special coating or apply a fire retardant chemical treatment. These methods will make the leather more resistant to heat and flames, but they won’t make it completely fireproof. [2], [3]

Flammable Properties of Fake Leather

Now, what about fake leather? Fake leather, also called synthetic leather, is made from plastic or other man-made materials. It’s often used in furniture, clothing, and accessories.

Because it lacks the natural oils found in real leather, fake leather is much more flammable. Let’s take polyurethane for example.

Flammable Properties of Fake Leather

Polyurethane is a type of synthetic leather that’s made from plastic. It’s often used in furniture and clothing because it’s cheaper than natural leather. However, polyurethane is much more flammable than natural leather. In fact, it’s one of the most flammable materials out there. The manufacturing process of fake leather also uses toxic chemicals that can emit harmful fumes when burned.

When exposed to fire, fake leather will melt and stick to your skin. This can cause serious burns that may require medical attention.
Fake leather is not a safe material to use in any situation where there is a risk of fire. If you must use it, be sure to keep it away from any open flames or heat sources. [2]

What Happens When Leather is Exposed to Flames?

Leather is not a highly flammable material, and won’t necessarily catch fire when exposed to open flame but it may burn. The rate at which leather burns depends on the type of leather – natural or synthetic – and how it’s been treated.

When natural leather catches fire, it will often char before burning through. This means that the surface of the leather will turn black, shrink and harden. The further the heat travels into the leather, the more damage it will do. If you expose your leather to enough heat, it will eventually catch fire and burn. This is because the fibers in the hide are tightly packed together, which makes it more difficult for oxygen to reach the center of the material and ignite it.

As you may know by now, synthetic leathers, on the other hand, are made from plastic polymers that are much more flammable than natural fibers. As a result, they will usually ignite immediately when exposed to flames and burn more quickly than natural leathers. [2], [3]

At What Temperature Leather Does Ignite

Leather ignites at temperatures higher than 390 degrees Fahrenheit. The exact temperature depends on the type of leather, as well as how it’s been treated.

For example, untreated natural leathers will ignite at lower temperatures than treated natural leathers. Similarly, synthetic leathers will usually ignite at lower temperatures than natural leathers.

At What Temperature Leather Does Ignite

Quality of the leather itself matters as well. Cheaper leathers are more likely to have loose fibers and a lower ignition point. More expensive, higher quality leathers will have a tighter weave and a higher ignition point. [2], [3]


How can you tell if leather is fire-retardant?

The best way to tell if leather is fire-retardant is to look for a label or tag that says the product is “fire-retardant.” If you can’t find a label, you can contact the manufacturer to ask if the leather is fire-retardant.

Another way to test if leather is flammable is to do the “flame test.” Cut a small piece of the leather off and hold it with metal tweezers over an open flame. If the leather ignites and burns, it’s not fire-retardant.

What happens if you burn leather?

Leather is made of protein fibers, so when it’s burned, it will smell like burning hair. The fire will cause the leather to shrink and harden, and the surface will become brittle. If you want to preserve the leather, you’ll need to extinguish the fire quickly and cool the leather down slowly.

Unfortunately, once leather has been burned, there’s no way to repair it. You’ll just have to hope that the damage isn’t too bad and that you can still use the piece of leather.

What leather is fire resistant?

Natural leather wins when it comes to fire resistance mainly because it has a high moisture content. The moisture inside the leather fibers makes it more difficult to set on fire.

Still, there are several types of leather that are more resistant to fire than others. For example, vegetable-tanned leather is less likely to catch fire and burn than chrome-tanned leather. Some manufacturers also treat their products with chemicals that make them more fire resistant. However, it’s important to remember that no type of leather is completely fireproof.

Final words

As you can see leather is not as flammable as some other materials, but it can still be set on fire if it is exposed to enough heat. Tanning process plays a huge role in leather’s flammability. If you’re concerned about your leather upholstery catching on fire, choose one that was treated either with natural materials or with flame-resistant chemicals. And remember, leather will lose all its flame-resistant qualities if you won’t care for it properly. Thanks for reading and we hope this article was helpful! If you have any questions or would like to share your experiences with leather and fire, please leave a comment below!

Stay safe!