View Full Version : Public Service Announcement: Linseed Oil

Steve Clarkson
11-30-2012, 7:36 AM
Linseed oil can spontaneously combust and start a fire even without an external heat source.

I just saw a news story about a guy who died when his house caught on fire as a result of a pile of rags that were soaked in linseed oil....he had used linseed oil when refinishing some wood in his house earlier that day and put the linseed oil soaked rags in his garage until trash day.

I had no idea that linseed oil could spontaneously combust. A quick Google search turned up quite a few news stories about this danger. ABC News did an experiment showing the spontaneous combustion in as little as 3 hours. The problem is that when the linseed oil dries, its temperature skyrockets.

Since almost all of us work with wood and are often looking to experiment and try new things, I thought that this is something that we should all be aware of. And apparently, there are some other products (ie. Teak Oil) that may contain linseed oil.....so READ the warnings listed on the containers.

Jim Rimmer
11-30-2012, 11:45 AM
This has been discussed often in the woodworking forums. Yes, BLO can spontaneously ignite. Spread the rags out flat and let them dry thoroughly before disposal.

Joe Hillmann
11-30-2012, 1:11 PM
It isn't just boiled linseed oil, any drying oil can do it if the conditions are just right but boiled linseed oil must be more likely ignite since that is the one you usually hear about.

Even vegetable oil can do it if the conditions are right. Most washing machines have warnings on them about not washing items that were used to wipe up cooking oils. The reason is once they are washed only about half the oil gets removed. Then once they are put in a dryer and the dryer is done, the left over heat of all the clothes piled up together can be enough to start the chemical reaction in the oil and start a fire many hours after the dryer is done running.

David Rust
11-30-2012, 7:16 PM
yup... you are right! I was refinishing the case of an antique radio and treating it with linseed oil. later that evening I could smell something "hot" and a strong oil smell. I had placed the used rags in a plastic bag and set them near the trash can to take out in the morning... I was lucky and found it before it burst into flames... I brought it outside and dumped them on the ground, I couldn't believe how hot the rags were!

Have to be careful!

AL Ursich
11-30-2012, 9:41 PM
A few years ago I was finishing a bunch of Wine Racks and Quilt Racks using a rag to wipe on POLY. Got a phone call and took a break and came back 20 min later to my shop deck table. Grabbed the bunched up Poly Soaked Rag and burnt my hand... OUCH... Could have been BAD....


Erich Bittmann
12-13-2012, 12:14 PM
A lumber yard I used for years burned to the ground after yard employees filled a trash can with stain-soaked rags...

Chuck Stone
12-14-2012, 4:09 PM
I keep a pail of water and detergent in the shop. Oil rags go in there, Oily paper towels too.
You can soak them and then wring them out and let them air dry before disposing of them.
Laying them out in the driveway is a good way to dry them.. and even if something happened,
you're just going to have something smoldering on the concrete.