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OK, it’s probably more accurate to say “flame resistant” or “flame retardant” paper, because the flame does actually damage the paper, but it just blackens and won’t catch fire or burn on its own.  The treatment couldn’t be simpler: soak the paper in a saturated solution of borax (sodium tetraborate decahydrate) in water, then let it dry.  Alum (potassium aluminum sulfate hydrate) is also commonly used for this purpose, but not quite as easy to find.  Borax is available at most grocery stores.

Thanks to Ron Tozier for sharing this video.

Sean Michael Ragan

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.


  • D

    Will try this out with my old copy of Fahrenheit 451

    • Mr Commentor

      Great comment! If only everyone in there had done this beforehand as well

  • caitlinsdad

    I believe this is the same flame-retardant process in making the recycled paper blown-in cellulose insulation for homes.

    • Blake

      As I have blown in thousands of bags of that material I can confirm that they use Borax in cellulose insulation.
      It also helps keep animals out of it (it irritates the skin).

  • Dan

    So what was all the fuss about using wood in the frames of DIY laser cutters then? Clearly it could be made safe the same way.

  • P Guncheon

    “…won’t catch fire or burn on its own.”

    If you think about it, this is already true about almost everything already.

    • Sean Ragan

      A useful point to make. Thanks.

  • andar_b

    It won’t support a self-sustaining flame. Most fire-retardant fabrics are the same way. If you hit them with a blowtorch they’ll burn, but remove the source of ignition and the flames die out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mrericsully Eric Sully

    This reminded me of an old Muppet’s sketch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnblmZdTbYs .

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  • kat

    I want to do this to a screen print – will it affect the image? Thank you

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