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Spontaneous Combustion of Oily Rags

Posted on August 20, 2019

Spontaneous Combustion of Oily Rags

Yesterday, the San Rafael Fire Department responded to an accidental fire caused by “spontaneous combustion.” The department has responded to over a dozen fires over the past several years that were caused by improper disposal of materials used to stain or paint decks or furniture. The property damage in yesterday’s fire could have easily been prevented.

To prevent these types of fires from starting, FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS BELOW when working with oil based paints or stains, polyurethane, or paint thinners.

  1. Always assume that materials used to apply oil-based paints, stains, varnishes, polyurethane, paint thinners, etc. will spontaneously combust if not disposed of properly.
  2. The paint, stain, or varnish containers may not give a WARNING about spontaneous combustion hazards.
  3. Always follow the manufacturer disposal guidelines listed on the container.
  4. Place all used materials (rags, brushes) into a metal container with a tight-fitting lid or into a bucket of water and allow them to soak up the water.
  5. Lay the water-soaked rags the ground or separated on a clothes line to dry. Once the rags are dry, you can reuse them or dispose of them at the Marin Household Hazardous Waste Facility.
  6. For further assistance please contact your local fire department, the San Rafael Fire Prevention Bureau at 415-485-3308, or the Marin Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Facility at 415-485-6806.
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