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Avoiding spontaneous combustion fire

A spontaneous combustion fire can be caused by an accumulation of flammable fumes. These fumes can be ignited when exposed to flame, a spark or heat. In some instances, the heat generated by the fumes themselves can cause ignition, resulting in fire. Solvent-based painting materials and supplies such as oil-based primer, oil-based primer/sealer, oil-based paint, White-Pigmented Shellac, paint thinner, turpentine, mineral spirits and denatured alcohol emit flammable fumes.

To help prevent a spontaneous combustion fire, read and follow the safety precautions listed on the container of each solvent-based material and supply that you use during interior surface preparation and house painting. Pay close attention to safety precautions concerning proper ventilation and the prevention of flammable fume ignition.

DO NOT ball up, pile, stack or fold any wiping cloth, rag, towel, drop cloth or piece of work clothing that becomes moistened or wet due to contact with a solvent-based primer, primer/sealer, White-Pigmented Shellac, paint, painting material or painting supply. The flammable fumes concentrated in any of the above balled up, piled, stacked or folded items can generate enough heat to cause a spontaneous combustion fire.

Before folding, storing or disposing of a drop cloth or other protective covering, allow any material on the drop cloth or protective covering to fully air dry.

Solvent-moistened or wet wiping cloths, rags, towels, drop cloths, protective coverings and work clothes should be immersed in water and allowed to fully air dry outdoors in an opened position that allows for good airflow.

To prepare solvent-moistened or wet wiping cloths for disposal, place them in a metal, water-filled can and seal with a lid. Your local paint store or home center sell empty metal one-gallon cans. For safe disposal information, contact your local Solid Waste Authority.

For information regarding the safe disposal of anything related to surface preparation and house painting, contact your local Solid Waste Authority.


This information can be found on page 24 of the book: The Homeowner's Guide to Surface Preparation for Interior House Painting.

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