Synergistic flame-retardant effect of halloysite nanotubes (HNTs) on an intumescent flame retardant (IFR) in low-density polyethylene (LDPE) was investigated by limited oxygen index (LOI), vertical burning test (UL-94), thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), cone calorimeter (CC) test, and scanning electronic microscopy (SEM). The results of LOI and UL-94 tests indicated that the addition of HNTs could dramatically increase the LOI value of LDPE/IFR in the case that the mass ratio of HNTs to IFR was 2/28 at 30 wt % of total flame retardant. Moreover, in this case the prepared samples could pass the V-0 rating in UL-94 tests. CC tests results showed that, for LDPE/IFR, both the heat release rate and the total heat release significantly decreased because of the incorporation of 2 wt % of HNTs. SEM observations directly approved that HNTs could promote the formation of more continuous and compact intumescent char layer in LDPE/IFR. TGA results demonstrated that the residue of LDPE/IFR containing 2 wt % of HNTs was obviously more than that of LDPE/IFR at the same total flame retardant of 30 wt % at 700°C under an air atmosphere, and its maximum decomposing rate was also lower than that of LDPE/IFR, suggesting that HNTs facilitated the charring of LDPE/IFR and its thermal stability at high temperature in this case. Both TGA and SEM results interpreted the mechanism on the synergistic effect of HNTs on IFR in LDPE, which is that the migration of HNTs to the surface during the combustion process led to the formation of a more compact barrier, resulting in the promotion of flame retardancy of LDPE/IFR. In addition, the mechanical properties of LDPE/IFR/HNTs systems were studied, the results showed that the addition of 0.5–2 wt % of HNTs could increase the tensile strength and the elongation at break of LDPE/IFR simultaneously. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2014, 131, 40065.