Fire department urges proper disposal of rags

Published: Monday, Dec. 16, 2013 5:30 a.m.CDT

SYCAMORE – The Sycamore Fire Department urges the proper disposal of oil- or stain-soaked rags, which can spontaneously combust, causing fires in the home.

Spontaneous combustion occurs when oil- or stain-soaked rags or towels are heated to their ignition temperature by a chemical reaction that creates and releases heat. If this heat can’t dissipate, it will build up in the material until ignition occurs. This process only occurs with animal and vegetable oils found in oil-based paints, certain stains, polishes and finishing oils.

Manufacturers are aware of this hazard, and products contain consumer warning labels and instructions for proper disposal. Many manufacturers advocate soaking the rags in water and letting them dry outside, not in a clothes dryer.

For information on proper disposal, contact assistant fire chief Art Zern at 815-895-4514.

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