10 Things You Should Never Burn in Your Backyard Fire Pit

Updated: May 23, 2024

Keep yourself and your guests stay safe by never burning these 10 items in your backyard fire pit.

Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.
Learn more.

1 / 10

Anything Plastic

Burned plastic releases toxic chemicals fumes like dioxins, furans and styrene gas into the air that are bad for you and the environment. Instead of burning, recycle plastic using these great recycling tips.

2 / 10


The whole idea of a backyard fire pit is to create a place for friends and family to gather, relax and enjoy each other. It’s best to take a calm approach to lighting the fire as well. If the backyard fire isn’t roaring, you may be tempted to chemically help it along. Accelerants like gas or other flammable liquids are too unpredictable and can cause explosions. Don’t risk it. If your fire is slow to start, add more small, dry kindling. Here’s how to create a safe fire pit in your backyard in one weekend.

3 / 10
Billion Photos/Shutterstock


Magazines, junk mail and colored gift-wrapping paper may seem like harmless items to burn in a backyard fire pit. But the ink printed on the paper releases toxic fumes when burned. Recycle magazines and junk mail instead. If you need a better system to organize magazines, check out this easy project.

4 / 10

Wooden Pallets

This may come as a surprise, but wooden pallets are NOT a good option to fuel a fire pit. Some wood pallets are treated with a chemical called methyl bromide (labeled with the initials MB), which can be released into the air when the wood burns. Unless you know for sure that the pallet wasn’t treated with chemicals, it’s best to use something else in your fire pit. Learn about other things you shouldn’t do with wood pallets.

5 / 10


Inexpensive furniture is often made of particleboard. Burning particleboard may sound like a good idea if you have some busted furniture sitting around, but the particleboard is held together by high-strength adhesives that are often not safe to burn because they emit toxic gasses. P.S. Check out the Pit Command Ranger to safely manage your backyard fire pit.

6 / 10

Painted Wood

When wood is painted, it’s best not to burn it because it may give off toxic fumes. And if the wood is very old, you could be burning lead-based paint, which would be very toxic. If you have lead paint in your home, here are some helpful tips on how to safely remove lead paint.

7 / 10


Cardboard seems like an innocuous material, but that’s not always the case. Cardboard can cause a surge of fire that could injure anyone sitting or standing too close. According to the USDA Forest Service, cardboard also releases chemicals into the air from the ink printed on the boxes. Here are 20 hacks that utilize everyday items and will make your life easier.

8 / 10
poison ivy foliage
Tim Mainiero/Shutterstock

Poison Ivy, Oak or Sumac

You might be tempted to dispose of yard weeds in your backyard fire pit. Don’t! Burning the irritant oil in the plants, called urushiol, releases fumes into the air. This can cause lung irritation and severe allergic respiratory problems. Use this guide to help identify invasive plants that can take over your yard.

9 / 10

Green or Soft Wood

Burning green or softwoods (pine, fire, cypress) can cause a lot of smoke that will make it unpleasant to sit around the fire. Here are our expert tips on choosing the best firewood.

10 / 10
Scott Biales/Shutterstock


Don’t even think about it. Trash is one of the worst materials to burn in your backyard fire pit. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, burning trash releases toxins and a ton of smoke. Not to mention, it’s illegal in many locations.