Many of us have heard stories of oil-soaked rags spontaneously combusting and starting a fire. You may have only heard about it in the news, but it’s a very real thing and can cause a devastating fire. While factories and other large-scale businesses will handle the potential problem in a different way, we wanted to make sure the DUNN DIY community had easy access to this information, because a lot of our projects involve oil-based paints and stains! Your local municipality may have its own recommendations and/or programs too.

How does spontaneous combustion happen?

Rags with oil, solvents, oil-based products, and the like need time for the chemicals to dissipate. Unlike latex paint which dries with evaporation, oils dry through oxidation, which generates heat (and possibly fire). A rag will begin to warm as the oils oxidize. If the heat builds to the point of combustion, you'll have a fire.

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How does one minimize the chance for heat build-up and combustion?

By allowing a safe way for the material/rags to cure without accumulating heat. Our recommendation follows an article found online by FineWoodWorking magazine.

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Allow rags to lay out flat.

The key is for rags to be spread out, which allows for lots of ventilation. In a safe, outdoor area—hang or spread rags flat in a single layer. The rags need to be situated individually; avoid piles and folding.

Let the rags sit outdoors until they are stiff and dry. Only then are rags safe to dispose of, without the threat of spontaneous combustion.

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