Furniture Fire Regulations in the UK

The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988 in the UK sets fire resistance levels for domestic upholstered furniture and specifies labeling requirements.

Home furnishing fire safety at a glance

There was a rising trend in home fire-related deaths from the 1960s through the 1980s. These alarming statistics prompted the UK government to take action. In 1988, they introduced the Furniture and Furnishing Fire Safety Regulations. They were later amended in 1989 and 1993.

Six elements are included in the regulations.

  • Specific ignition requirements must be met for filling materials
  • Upholstery composites should be cigarette-resistant
  • Covers should be resistant to match
  • Every piece of furniture must have a permanent label (except mattresses and bed-bases)
  • Every piece of furniture must have a display label at the point of sale
  • To prove compliance, the first UK supplier of domestic upholstered furniture must keep records for five years

Furniture covered by the regulation

Furniture fire regulations cover beds, headboards of bed, mattresses of all sizes, sofa beds and futons, as well as nursery furniture, garden furniture, cushions, pillows, and seat pads.

Other furniture and upholstery items are not covered by the regulation. These include sleeping bags, duvets, loose bedding covers, pillowcases, curtains and carpets made before 1950.

Safety provisions generally require that upholstery pass the cigarette test, fire retardant fillings, and match-tested covers. The requirement requires that all furniture must be labelled with both the permanent and display labels. It is the responsibility of the retailer to ensure that these labels are correct.

Regulation-compliant furniture

Beds, headboards, mattresses of any size, couch beds, futons, nursery furniture, garden furniture, cushions, pillows, and seat pads are all covered by the furniture fire code.

Sleeping bags, bedclothes such as duvets, loose covers for mattresses, pillowcases, curtains, carpets, and any furniture constructed before 1950 are among the goods not protected by the regulation.

Upholstery must pass the cigarette test, stuffing must be fire retardant, and covers must pass the match test, among other safety requirements. All products that meet the criterion must have both a display and a permanent label, and the retailer must guarantee that the furniture has these labels.

Potentially impacted suppliers

Anyone in the corporate supply chain is affected, from the supply of raw materials for furniture to the supply of the finished product, including re-upholstery and re-covering. Manufacturers, retailers, importers, re-upholstery and re-covering services, second-hand furniture suppliers, landlords, estate agents, and letting agents are all included.

Those importing furniture must ensure that the materials used can be traced back to their source. Unless there is a confirmed system of traceability in place, it is not advisable to rely simply on testing conducted by overseas suppliers or manufacturers. Any test certificates provided by vendors should ideally be from a laboratory accredited to BS EN ISO/IEC 17025 by UKAS or a similar national accreditation agency.

All producers, importers, and sellers of upholstered furniture are expected to retain records to ensure traceability and compliance. This includes supplier declarations as well as the results of any tests performed on the furniture and its components.

Unless they are acting as the primary importer, retailers are not expected to be responsible for testing upholstered products. Retailers, on the other hand, are required by law to guarantee that all products offered are safe and meet fire resistance standards.

Requirements for furniture fillings

Manufacturers and retailers need to ensure that the furniture they make or sell does not contain polyurethane foam and latex rubber. Furniture with multiple filling materials must meet all standards for each filling separately, or the entire composite must be tested.

Any upholstery composites that fail the cigarette test, as well as any permanent, loose, or stretch covers that fail the match test, should not be used in furniture.

Requirements for furniture labeling

Except for mattresses, bed bases, pillows, scatter cushions, seat pads, loose covers (sold separately from the furniture), and stretch covers, display labelling is required to indicate the ignition resistance of each item of furniture and must be attached to all new furniture at the point of sale. The manufacturer or importer is solely responsible for the display label’s design.

Each item in a group of furniture, such as three-piece suites or a set of dining chairs, must have the appropriate display label. In all situations, the display label must be mounted to the furniture in a prominent location so that it is easily visible to a possible buyer of the furniture and the writing on both sides can be read.

Permanent fire safety labels are also legally needed on upholstered objects and furnishings to inform consumers that the item complies with British Fire Safety Regulations, and they stay on the furniture indefinitely, as the name suggests. Because many upholstered goods contain foams, fillings, and other materials that may be combustible, they must meet certain fire resistance standards determined by a series of flammability tests.

This label can be used in two different ways. One, known as the ‘full label,’ has all of the supplier’s information, while the other, known as the ‘short label,’ does not. The permanent label is an information label with some standardised terminology that also requires product-specific information. The permanent label’s principal purpose is to provide ‘traceability’ throughout the supply chain.

It’s worth noting that the first furniture provider in the UK is responsible for ensuring that the finished product has a permanent label, which must be robust and securely attached to loose and stretch covers, as well as each piece of furniture offered as a collection.

Record keeping

When it comes to appropriate upholstery and furnishings, it is critical for all makers, exporters, and merchants to be able to offer proof of compliance with fire safety laws. Supplier declarations, the results of any relevant tests performed on the furniture and its components, and the correlation of records to specific pieces of furniture are all included in this data.

There are a few items retailers should double-check with the maker or importer, including the first supplier’s name and postal address in the UK, the date the item was created or imported, the description of the filling materials, and the description of the covering materials.

Manufacturers and importers must keep the information for five years, beginning with the day the furniture is delivered to the shop. The maker, supplier, or importer must then provide a Certificate of Compliance to the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988 to retailers.

How can you tell if your furniture is compliant

“Carelessness causes fire” must be permanently labelled on all new upholstered furniture. This label is usually found behind a loose cover at the back of the furniture or under a seat cushion and should include all pertinent information, including a batch code that allows it to be traced back to the manufacturer if any issues with the safety of its manufacture are discovered.

Although the law does not require that this permanent label be stitched in, it is the best way to confirm that it is the original label that was provided when the furniture was manufactured. This also keeps it from sliding off or becoming damaged over time. If the label comes off for whatever reason, keep it secure, especially if you want to donate or sell the furniture in the future.

If you buy new furniture and can’t find a permanent label, it might not meet safety rules and could be harmful to keep in your house.

Other considerations for safety

In addition to the flammability regulations, furniture must be safe in all other ways, such as being devoid of sharp edges and splinters. The General Product Safety Regulations 2005 impose a general safety requirement, which means that if you manufacture, import, distribute, or sell consumer products in the UK, you are responsible for ensuring that they are safe for consumers to use, as well as adhering to all legal labeling requirements.

Additional responsibilities are imposed on furniture ‘producers,’ which includes makers and importers. This implies businesses must take steps to be aware of the hazards posed by the products they supply, such as tasting the product on the market, investigating complaints, and advising distributors of the risks. They must also take appropriate action when necessary, such as investigating complaints, withdrawing the product, adequately and effectively warning consumers, recalling products, and notifying an enforcement authority in writing when they know a product poses a risk to the consumer, as well as the action is taken to prevent the risk to the consumer.


Upholstered furniture is held to high standards and must pass flammability testing to be considered safe. Failure to comply with trading standards legislation can result in enforcement action as well as punishments such as fines and/or imprisonment.

Testing certificates from certified laboratories that prove traceability and are relevant to the product made or imported and placed on the market will be sought by trading standards officials. Because trading standards officers have the authority to inspect items and related paperwork, quality assurance and traceability documentation should be readily available upon request.

Landlords can benefit from these suggestions

The furniture fire regulations apply to landlords and rental agents, who must verify that all furniture and upholstery provided on the premises meets the fire safety level. These laws are especially important if your property is rented furnished, as they cover items such as sofas, sofa beds, mattresses, and even bean bags.

Always double-check furniture labels and make sure there is a permanent label. New furniture should be compliant with the regulations, therefore you should be covered if you buy new furniture. When buying secondhand furniture, though, it’s critical to do your homework.

A Landlord must verify that all of their furniture is “fire-resistant” to comply with the legislation; otherwise, they will be committing a criminal offense. Local Trading Standards are in charge of enforcing this regulation. Officers and landlords can face fines of up to £5,000 and a six-month jail sentence.

Other FAQs

Schedule 3 Barrier Cloth

A Schedule 3 inter-liner is a fire-resistant material that sits between the outer cover and the filler. Schedule 3 inter-liners can only be used if the outer cover is made up of at least 75% cotton, viscose, modal, flax, silk, or wool by weight (individually or in combination). The cover does not need to pass the match test when using a Schedule 3 fire barrier inter-liner.

When did fire regulations for furniture start

The number of UK fire-related deaths in the house increased steadily from the 1960s to the late 1980s. In response to these alarming numbers, the UK government acted, enacting the Furniture and Furnishing (Fire Safety) Regulations in 1988, which were later revised in 1989 and 1993.

How can I tell if my sofa is fire-resistant

If your sofa is fire-resistant, it should come with a fire label indicating that it complies with fire safety regulations. The label shall include the warning, the batch number/identification number, a statement of the measures taken to ensure compliance if the item has a fire-resistant inter-liner, and finally a summary of the actions taken to ensure compliance. They’re usually sewed under cushions or around the edges of anything. Finding the fire label on your sofa shouldn’t be too difficult. Begin by raising the cushions and inspecting the space beneath them as well as the area around them.

What is the purpose of a fire label on furniture

All upholstered furnishings and other pieces of furniture sold in the UK, including sofas, armchairs, and other items, must bear a fire safety label. The fire safety label’s objective is to ensure that the item in question conforms with British Fire Safety laws. Every fire label must be permanent and attached to each new item of furniture sold.

Is it legal to donate or sell a sofa without a fire label

To donate an upholstered item to a charity, such as a sofa, the permanent fire safety label must be attached; otherwise, they will not be able to accept it.

Do leather sofas need fire labels

Yes, all sofas, including leather-upholstered sofas, require a fire label to guarantee that they comply with fire safety regulations.

Does upholstery fabric need to be fire retardant

The fabric used to produce the following products does not need to comply with any fire regulations or have a fire rating:

  • Blinds and curtains
  • Duvets and pillow cases
  • Cushions (for domestic use)

Where to find a fire label on a sofa

A fire label can usually be found on any external surface of the sofa, as well as underneath any removable seating and within cushion covers. They should be firmly connected wherever they are, and one should be attached to each component of a set to guarantee that the appropriate standards are met. If you have an armchair that goes with your sofa, for example, it should be labelled as well.

All fire labels are sewed or stapled into the cushion or affixed to the sofa’s underside. It will normally contain a batch or ID number on the label, which may be tracked back to the manufacturer if there are any issues with the furnishing’s fire safety compliance.

Definitions of flame retardancy terms

“FR” – Fire Retardant (also known as Flame Retardant) Fabric that has been certified as FR has been topically treated with a chemical fire retardant after weaving. All cottons and other natural fabrics that have been certified as flame retardant have been treated topically. Some synthetic fabrics are also treated on the surface. Because the treatment is only applied topically, it will wear off over time, and frequent cleanings will cause the flame retardancy to dissipate faster. The majority of flameproofing compounds are water soluble and will disappear when dry cleaned. Draperies manufactured of FR materials should be re-tested for flame retardancy on a regular basis, since re-treatment may be necessary.

“IFR” – Inherently Fire Retardant (aka Inherently Flame Retardant)

“NFR” – Not Fire Retardant

Crib 5 test explained

The smouldering cigarette test is the first of three tests

Even though the number of smokers in the UK has decreased in recent years, smoking remains one of the leading causes of fatal home fires. Smoking-related fires accounted for more than a quarter of all fire-related deaths between 2014 and 2018.

The first of the London Fire Brigade’s top three recommendations are to avoid smoking in bed or on sofas and armchairs. Despite the warnings, many people ignore the advice, which is why contract furniture is required to pass a smouldering cigarette test (BS EN 5971).

The match test is the second test

The second test is administered in the same manner as the first. For 20 seconds, a lit match will be held near a crevice of a test rig that uses the materials in issue. The test will be successful if no flames or smouldering appear, and the result will be reported as “no ignition”.

Crib 5 is the third test

This flame retardant test is performed on upholstery and furniture covers and is required for all contract-based furniture.

The test involves putting a crib-like wooden structure at the test subject’s feet. Each crib is composed of wood, bonded together, and will have five tiers (hence the name Crib 5).

Lint and a non-flammable liquid will be deposited at the bottom of the grid. The cribs will then be lit and watched for 10 minutes or until they go out on their own.

Different textiles burn at different rates, so the end outcome may differ, but the 10-minute interval is crucial.

This is the minimal fire resistance standard for contract furniture in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland.

Other Crib 5 FAQs

What does BS 5852 mean

Standard Brief: BS 5852 Fire Test of Upholstered Seating When a smouldering cigarette and a match flame equivalent are employed as ignition sources, the standard is used to determine the ignitability of material combinations, such as coverings and fillings used in upholstered seating.

Where are Crib 5 seating coverings required

The following establishments are legally required to use contract bed frames and mattresses as standard (not exhaustive):

  • Hotels
  • B&Bs
  • Guest Houses
  • Pubs
  • Boarding Schools
  • Halls of Residence
  • Residential Homes
  • Holiday Camps