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Spontaneous combustion of soiled rags

For immediate release: September 24, 2018 - 1:00pm

In the recent months, there has been a noticeable increase in structure fires resulting from the spontaneous combustion of soiled rags that had not been sufficiently cleaned or properly stored.

Rags, towels, and other applicators that have been soiled with combustible products, such as oil-based paints, stains, and finishing products, are a serious concern. These products release heat while drying; if that heat is trapped and has access to an oxygen supply, it will build up and create an ideal environment for a fire to start.

The Saskatoon Fire Department offers the following quick tips on safely using, cleaning, and storing or disposing of soiled applicators:

  • Allow adequate drying time by hanging soiled rags in an open-air environment and away from combustible materials,
  • Never bundle soiled rags together or leave them in a pile; this can create a chemical reaction allowing them to self-heat and spontaneously combust,
  • Once dry, place the soiled rags in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid to limit the amount of oxygen,
  • Keep the metal container in a cool place and out of direct sunlight,
  • Never store soiled rags or the containers that they are in near a heat source, and
  • Watch for hazardous waste drop-off days throughout the year, as specified in your City of Saskatoon Collection Calendar, to safely dispose of these hazardous waste items.

In an emergency, call 911 immediately.