Spontanious Combustion? Really?

2023 is my year of getting green and healthy in the studio, and what is less green and healthy than a fire hazard?

An artist just asked an important question in a workshop, and I thought it was important enough to share with you. 

“Can painting rags spontaneously catch fire?”

Unfortunately, yes, if the rags are not handled properly. 

This seems like such an important issue that I wanted to raise awareness so other artists can start looking for advice for experts! (I am not giving advice here, I’m trying to point you towards the experts who can.)

I spent a couple years in art school and have taken a dozen painting workshops and it’s honestly never come up… So I’m learning right now with you.

So please don’t take anything I say here as advice. Instead, I’m trying to raise awareness, and point you towards the experts on this topic. 

Here’s some information from a couple paint companies

“As the oil is drying on the rag it produces heat, and air gets trapped in the folds. The rag is usually made of a combustible cloth that can become a source of fuel. Heat, oxygen and fuel are all that is needed to create a fire, which is why oily rags, when not disposed of properly, can spontaneously burst into flames. Oily rags should be kept in an airtight metal container, and then transferred into an airtight sealed plastic bag for disposal.”  – Winsor Newton

“Please note that oil-soaked rags should be – at a minimum – properly stored in an Oily Rag Safety Can (such as those offered by JustRite) until they can be thrown out. Even better, soak rags in water, and place them in an old jar or similar container and dispose of them outside in your household trashcan or apartment building dumpster.” – Gamblin

Here’s a conversation about this topic on WetCanvas.com

And here’s some woodworkers talking about the same thing. 

Here are a couple other resources I found. If you find a good resource for information about this topic, please comment below and share the knowledge!

Please be safe! 

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