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House Fire Prevention: How To Store And Dispose Of Oily Rags

Posted by Scott Stueber, CPCU, CISR, AAI on May 10, 2016 11:00:00 AM

house-on-fire.jpgIf you’re building a new home, remodeling your existing home, or recently built a new deck, you may be staining the new woodwork yourself. While it saves money, it can be a bit scary and dangerous.

Stain is permanent! It will stain your clothes, fingers, and anything else it meets. So, if you’re trying a DIY staining project, wear protective eyewear, rubber gloves, and old clothing. Oil-based stains also have fumes, so working in a properly ventilated area is essential.

The staining project turns dangerous if you don’t properly store or dispose of the used rags.

Oil-based stains are prevalent in woodworking projects. Linseed based stains can be found on every hardware store’s shelf. They’re used for staining furniture, floors, decks, and woodwork in your home. However, if they’re not stored or disposed of properly, they can auto-ignite and start a fire in your home. Unfortunately, people have lost their homes and possessions because of this dangerous situation.

So, how can a pile of rags on your garage floor start a fire? As oily rags begin to dry, heat is produced. If they’re thrown into a pile, oxygen is trapped underneath. The combination of heat, oxygen, and cloth can lead to spontaneous combustion, which results in a fire that could destroy your home.

Here are some tips for storing and disposing of oily rags.

1. Never store rags in a pile.

Used rags should be spread out in a safe flat area to dry. If you lay them out on your garage floor or driveway, weigh them down so the wind doesn’t blow them away. Once they’re dry, check with your city or municipality for disposal instructions.

2. Store the rags in an airtight, non-combustible metal container.

This step is critical if you plan to use your rags later. The metal container should be filled with a solution of water and an oil-breaking detergent. 

3. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Since manufacturers use different oils in their products, it’s important to follow their warnings and disposal instructions. They may differ from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Check out the video below to watch how long it takes for a linseed soaked staining rag to combust.


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Topics: Home Safety, Fire Safety

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