What’s Best for AR / FR Clothing: Metal or Plastic Zippers?

As you get dressed for work, you look down and notice a zipper on your arc rated flame resistant (AR / FR) clothing. You wonder, is this safe? Should it be metal? Or, plastic? The answer is fairly simple. Metal and plastic zippers are safe to be on AR / FR clothing, as long as they comply with standard specifications, and neither one is necessarily better than the other.

Let’s hear from Scott Margolin, Tyndale’s Vice President of Technical, on the subject:

As Scott points out, there are pros and cons for each type:

Metal Zipper



Will continue to work / will not melt in a fire or an arc

Metal can superheat in a fire or an arc


Some wearers worry that metal zippers can cause or draw an arc but that would be very unlikely. In fact, to completely mitigate that risk, the standards require that fabric be behind the metal zipper – between the wearer and the zipper – and on the outside, over the zipper – between the zipper and the environment.

Plastic Zipper



Will not superheat in a fire or an arc

Potential to melt in a fire or an arc


Plastic zippers are also required by the standards to be covered by fabric on both sides, just like metal zippers, and are made from heat resistant materials.

So, at the end of the day, there are two different ways to achieve the same thing and they’re equally safe but different in their pros and cons. Neither is automatically better than the other and rest assured, any quality AR / FR garment in the United States today containing either a metal or plastic zipper will perform as needed as part of your PPE.

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