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Tips for Preventing House Fires: Properly Dispose of Oily Rags After Use

A big, and yet often preventable, cause of fires in the home is oil-soaked rags.  Summer is a great time for home improvement projects, particularly those that need to be done outdoors.  One project that is sometimes taken on by the homeowner is staining a deck, porch or outdoor railing.  The oil-based stain soaks through the rags.  When not properly disposed of or stored, exposure to the heat outdoors and trapped oxygen can cause these oily rags to ignite.

Oil-Soaked Rags Exposed to Heat and Trapped Oxygen Can Ignite

When soaked with oil-based stain from home improvements projects, rags can actually ignite resulting in a significant fire.  As the material on the rag dries, it produces heat.  If the rags are in a pile with air trapped at the bottom of the pile, the heat and oxygen combined with the oil can quickly start a fire.  When these oily rags are placed to a home or other building and ignite, the damage caused can be extensive.

What to Do with Oil-Soaked Rags After Use

Many stains that you would use for home improvement projects will offer recommendations, direct from the manufacturer, for the best way to dispose of used rags.  Following these instructions can also ensure that the material is properly disposed of, reducing the chance of a fire. Follow the manufacturers instructions above all.

Common advice includes some of the following: Used rags should never be stored in a pile or in the sun.  This can trap oxygen, causing them to ignite as they heat up.  Instead these used rags should be spread flat in a safe place to dry, such as a garage floor or driveway, which are non-combustible surfaces. Make sure they are not in the sun.  You can then dispose of them as your city regulations require.  As an alternative, the oil rags can be stored in an air-tight metal container that is non-combustible.  Fill the container with a mixture of an oil breakdown detergent and water before placing the rags in it.  This is a good storage solution if you plan to reuse them again for the project. 

Taking care when using this type of material and properly disposing of your materials can go a long way to reducing your home’s risk of a fire

If a fire or other disaster does happen, the restoration professionals at Soil-Away have you covered.  Contact the Soil-Away team 603-641-6555.

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