Are Fairy Lights Safe on Fabric?


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Fairy lights have quickly become one of the easiest ways to decorate a room. Even though these lights seem harmless, it’s normal to have concerns about any electrical device close to fabrics like beddings or curtains. 

Fairy lights are safe on fabric because they operate at a relatively low temperature. They are typically made of battery operated LED lights that don’t even feel warm to the touch. Since most fires are caused by bulbs overheating, there is little to no risk in fairy lights touching the fabric. 

The rest of this article will explain how these lights’ design keeps them safe for use in the home and offer helpful tips for what to look for when choosing your fairy lights and operating them safely throughout your space. 

Why Fairy Lights Are Safe on Fabric

Although fairy lights are safe to use on and around fabric, it’s understandable why this may confuse. According to the National Fire Protection Association, electrical malfunctions are the second leading cause of home fires in the United States. Lighting equipment is a leading cause of these fires, coming third to only cooking equipment and heating sources.

Luckily for fairy light fans, however, these decorative lights are extremely unlikely to add to these numbers. As I previously mentioned, most fires caused by lighting equipment start because the light bulbs overheat and are near flammable objects. It’s nearly impossible for this to happen with fairy lights for many reasons, even if they’re placed near a flammable fabric.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the factors that make fairy lights a safe option for your home.

The Use of LED Bulbs

Fairy lights’ safety is due almost entirely to the use of LED light bulbs. Short for light-emitting diodes, LED lights work completely differently from the traditional light bulbs most of us are used to replacing in lamps. The science behind this is pretty complex, but the US Department of Energy explains that while traditional incandescent light bulbs work a lot like a glowing ember in a flame, LED lights operate via sophisticated particle physics. 

Without going too deep into all of the scientific details, the way that LED lights operate means that they have numerous advantages over incandescent or halogen bulbs. They are:

  • Safer
  • Cheaper
  • Longer lasting
  • Lighter
  • More energy efficient
  • Lower maintenance
  • Smaller

Most importantly, however, is that LED lights are significantly cooler than traditional light bulbs. You’ll find that fairy lights often don’t even feel warm to the touch. Let’s look at this essential benefit of LED lights in a little more detail. 

Low Operating Temperature

Anyone that’s ever changed a light bulb knows how hot they can get. An experiment proved that the inside of a light bulb could reach 216°C (420°F) after only 3 minutes of operation, with the outer glass reaching 134°C (273 °F). If bulbs at such high temperatures are close to anything flammable, it can be a serious risk. On the other hand, LED lights only reached 32°C (89°F) after 3 minutes of use. 

However, if LED lights are still light bulbs, how come the same risk doesn’t exist for them? Why isn’t there a risk of fairy lights overheating fabric? This goes back to the particle physics that I mentioned earlier – LED lights to function differently, so they are made up of parts that work differently. In terms of safety, the most important element is the filament.

Different Filament Design

If you’ve ever seen a clear Edison bulb in a trendy restaurant, then you’re familiar with what the “inside” of a light bulb looks like. This inner part is a filament, which is the part of a traditional light bulb that can reach such dangerous temperatures. These filaments create light by creating heat, but if they get too hot, they can burst.

While LED lights also have filaments, these filaments produce only light. If they fail for any reason, they are not hot enough to cause the glass to burst. This is because of how efficiently they’re built. Traditional light bulbs lose a lot of energy through escaping the heat, but LED bulbs like those in fairy lights stay cool by drawing all the heat to one place at the bottom of the bulb. 

Fairy Lights Safety Tips

Even though fairy lights are a safe option to use around fabrics, it’s still important to take some necessary safety measures to guarantee everything runs smoothly.

Select High-Quality Lights

Battery operated fairy lights are likely the best option for decorating with fabric. This ensures that even if something were to go wrong with your home’s wiring, your fairy lights would be unaffected. These are fairly easy to find, but Electrical Safety Foundation International stresses the importance of only purchasing lights from a reputable retailer.

Amazon.com has tons of great affordable options like these LED Fairy String Lights with Remote Control. The bendable wire makes it easy to string along with curtains or a bed canopy, while the remote control allows you to easily change how the lights flash and fade. 

This video shows more easy ways you can use these lights to decorate your space:

Ensure Proper Usage

While larger fairy lights that are not battery powered are still incredibly safe, you should keep in mind a few basic safety tips any time you plug something into a wall socket.

  • Take care not to overload the socket you’re plugging the lights into. A good rule of thumb is not to have more than one strip of lights per outlet.
  • Make sure the outlet is not covered by anything, especially flammable materials.
  • Ensure that cords do not run through doorways or under the carpet. If you need to get the cords out of the way, use electrical tape to secure them to the wall.
  • If you ever have to replace a bulb, make sure to use the right number of watts for the replacement. Most replacement bulbs will have this number located on the box.
  • The National Fire Protection Associations suggests unplugging your lights and contacting a qualified electrician if you notice:
  • Sparks coming from the outlet
  • A discolored or warm wall outlet
  • A tingling feeling when you touch the lights
  • Rubbery or burning smells coming from the lights.

Regardless of what fairy lights you choose, you should also avoid keeping them on all the time. This will extend the life of your lights, save you money, and offer peace of mind.

Final Thoughts

Fairy lights are a great lighting and decorating option for all around the home. Due to LED bulbs’ unique design, these lights operate at a low temperature to prevent any serious fire risk, even if they’re in contact with the fabric. While traditional light bulbs have the potential to burst, fairy lights will never get hot enough to do so. 

Take time to select fairy lights from a reputable retailer and adhere to basic electrical safety when mounting lights and plugging them into the wall. With just a little work, these lights can create both a safe and welcoming space.

Nicole Sutton

Nicole is a writer from Missouri who enjoys horseback riding, writing in her journal, and watching reruns of Friends.

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