Results 1 to 8 of 8

Thread: oily rags and safety

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Westphalia, Michigan
    Posts
    955

    oily rags and safety

    We probably have all heard of the issue of spontaneous combustion and oily rags. Aside from the best ways to deal with them, mainly burning them as soon as you can after creating them. I have a bit of a problem in that I have a business that generates large quantities of them daily. I use them to clean deep fryers all day long. I also have heat resistant cloth gloves and sleeves that are fairly oil soaked by the end of the week, and then washed and re-used.

    So my question is how to deal with the gloves and not burn down my shop or service vans. I think the rags require outside air, namely oxygen in order for the oil to oxidize and generate heat. So I'm thinking that I will keep the gloves in Zip Loc bags to keep the air away from the gloves. Do you folks think this would be a good solution? I don't know enough about the chemistry going on here to be completely at ease that simply denying air will keep stuff from going up in smoke.
    I'm a certifiable tree hugger. (it's a poor mans way of determining DBH before cutting the tree down)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    Wapakoneta, OH
    Posts
    610
    The combustion problem starts when the oils are of the drying variety, those that oxidize and cure over time (typically linseed oil is the culprit). The oxidation process generates a lot of heat, leading to the fire. Without knowing exactly what oil you are knee deep in, my guess is that it isn't a problem with cooking oils. But if you're still concerned about the gloves, you could always get one of the fire proof cans used for such things. Keep the gloves in there until you're ready to wash them.

  3. #3
    The one time I've had a burn was when the wife was rubbing some Danish oil on a teak table and putting the used rags in a plastic shopping bag. The confined contents heated up and began to smolder by the time we figured out what was causing the odor. I let my rags 'air out' until dry or throw them in a bucket of water until I can dispose of them.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    S E Washington State
    Posts
    3,777
    I hesitate to add anything because I know little and it can be serious. Here is a short article on the subject, there are lots of them on the internet:

    http://garages.about.com/od/garagema...Combustion.htm

    Basicly, I let mine hang on something to dry before I put them in the garbage. I never bunch them up or put them in anything until they are dry.
    Last edited by Paul Douglass; 06-16-2015 at 03:35 PM.
    "We the People ......"

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Westphalia, Michigan
    Posts
    955
    The oil is cooking oil and it will spontaneous combust. I know this from talking to other owners in my business. One had washed gloves burn up his car and garage. I think the issue in his case is that it is very difficult to get all the oil out of cloth and there was enough residual oil left to oxidize and start things going.

    My question is: does the cloth/oil combination require outside air to spontaneously combust or is there something going on in a chemical interaction way that might cause heat with little or almost no air. I was thinking about catalytic reactions like with some resins/accelerators that generate heat to set a glue. 2-part epoxy for one. It crossed my mind that if there was a chemical reaction with certain fibers used in clothe(s) and oils, that there might be enough heat to melt a plastic bag and accelerate with the addition of air.

    I will take steps to eliminate the issue regardless of what I learn. I do have one fire proof disposal can in one of my 2 service vans. It is just an brain fart on my part to not have one in each van and in the different facilities I use.

    I have looked around a bit on the net but most of the articles talk about the fact of spontaneous combustion and not the technical specifics of how it occurs. I guess I should go look for a doctoral dissertation on the subject.
    I'm a certifiable tree hugger. (it's a poor mans way of determining DBH before cutting the tree down)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    Wapakoneta, OH
    Posts
    610
    The reaction is causing the heat. It's the process of the oil molecules reacting with oxygen as they cure, if they have enough ventilation to disperse the heat, they just dry and turn stiff. If they are piled up the heat builds to a level where it ignites the fabric and oil. Those safety cans work because they are airtight. To reassure yourself, I wouldn't look for a dissertation but rather a local safety expert, like the county EMA or Hazmat administrator.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Independence, Kentucky
    Posts
    1,354
    Or your local fire department
    I'm supposed to respect my elders, but its getting harder and harder for me to find one now.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Independence MO
    Posts
    557
    I use a metal rag can AND a solar dryer (clothesline) for my storage. If your not allowed a clothesline, you might be able to hang some on a hanger, around a bird house, for instance.
    One other thing that I think should be pointed out (but is more sciencey then I have training it), you mentioned AIR, and someone else, more correctly mentioned OXYGEN. Some detergents break down and release oxygen, so detergent residue, could itself cause a fire.

Similar Threads

  1. Safety First
    By Vaughn McMillan in forum Safety Tips
    Replies: 15
    Last Post: 11-03-2013, 01:30 PM
  2. WARNING: Linseed oil and rags
    By Joe Kieve in forum General Woodworking Q&A
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: 06-12-2012, 09:00 PM
  3. Safety Reminder
    By Darren Wright in forum Off Topic Discussion
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 02-01-2012, 10:35 PM
  4. Safety. Always.
    By Vaughn McMillan in forum General Woodturning Q&A
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: 05-21-2011, 01:20 AM
  5. Splitter Safety
    By John Whittaker in forum General Woodworking Q&A
    Replies: 17
    Last Post: 02-23-2007, 04:50 PM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •