Science
How-To: Fireproof Paper

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.

24 thoughts on “How-To: Fireproof Paper

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

    1. 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).

  2. 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.

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

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

  4. 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.

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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.

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