Reduce The Risk Of Fires Caused By Oil Soaked Rags

Fires Oil Rag

Recently a client of ours experienced a fire in a brand new oak framed building. The fire was a result of an oil soaked rag, and as you can see from the pictures this has caused severe and costly damage. Off the back of this incident, it has come to our attention that a vast number of the general public are unaware of the risk of fires posed by clothes or rags used to clean solvent and oil based paints. Promain would like to share our knowledge on the safe use and disposal of clothes used to clean and mop up solvent and oil based paints.

Oil or solvent soaked rags are one of the UK most common causes of garage fires.

The main products that pose a risk of combustion are typically oil-based paints, oil based stains, teak oils, linseed oils, varnishes, polyurethane paints and paint thinners etc.

When a rag or cloth is soaked in one of the aforementioned products and left, an exothermic chemical reaction occurs producing energy in the form of heat. Over a small space of time the temperature will continue to rise and if this heat has nowhere to escape, the rag will combust and bursts in to flames. As we all know fire can spread at an alarming rate, and we all tend to store these rags in sheds or garages typically constructed from wood. These combusting rags or clothes can cause a lot of costly damage in a short space of time.

Fire Oil Rag

How To Prevent Rag Fires

The best way to combat a fire is to prevent the fire from starting. Fires require three elements in order to ignite – fuel, oxygen and heat. If we eliminate one of these elements we negate the risk of a fire starting. As previously explained solvent soaked clothes and rags can combust due to an exothermic reaction. This reaction although spontaneous, is easily prevented with proper cleaning, storage and disposal of your used cloths and rags.

After use, oil and solvent soaked rags should never be disposed in bins or put back in the paint tin and sealed. Instead, the cloths or rags should be laid out flat and left to dry. Even better, you can use a bucket of warm soapy water completely clean off any residue and leave to dry before disposal.

Another important thing to remember is it not just clothes or rags used for cleaning that can potentially combust in this way. Clothing and overalls worn during the application of solvent and oil based paints can be contaminated in the same way. Any items of clothing that become soaked in an oil or solvent based paint, should not be put in to a laundry basket or washing machine. Clothes should be cleaned in the same way by soaking in bucket of warm soapy water and laid out flat to dry.

By following the above guidance you can reduce the risk of fire caused by rags or clothing soaked in oils or solvents. For further information on this subject, please refer to the environmental agency website via the following link:

Alternatively, please contact our technical team who can advise further or specify water based alternative coatings. Contact our team by calling 01462 421 333.

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