DIY Dictionary: Spontaneous Combustion

Spontaneous combustion is a chemical reaction that occurs in certain materials causing them to burst into flame spontaneously. Spontaneous combustion…

dirty paint rags

What is Spontaneous Combustion?

Spontaneous combustion is a chemical reaction that occurs in certain materials which causes them to burst into flame spontaneously. Spontaneous combustion can occur when hay, sawdust, coal, compost, oil-based products and other everyday materials are stored improperly and—in simple terms—the internal heat that is generated isn’t allowed to escape.

The scenario DIYers need to be very cognizant of is the one dealing with oily rags. A pile of oil-laden rags not given enough elbow room for the oils to dissipate can be a disaster waiting to happen. One painter tells the story of having left a few dozen rags out on a client’s sidewalk to dry. The homeowner came home and did him a “favor” by cleaning up and packing all of the rags in a trash can in the garage. The rags burst into flame, taking the garage with it.

Popular Videos

To prevent spontaneous combustion, let rags dry out in the open air after use and store them in a sealed metal container

Check out more tips for preventing home fires.