11 Flammable Things To Start a Fire In Your Home


WRITTEN BY: Mark Romero

UPDATED: APRIL 27, 2023 | 3 MIN READ

You may think of candles, space heaters, and other typical causes for house fires, but there are other flammable things to start a fire in your home. Let’s break down what other highly flammable objects are in your home, the dangers if they ignite, and how to reduce fire risks so you don’t find yourself filing a home insurance claim in the future.

What highly flammable things could start a fire in your home?

It’s possible you unknowingly have a variety of flammable objects in your home. Common house fire starters are in areas such as:

  • Kitchens
  • Bathrooms
  • Bedrooms
  • Laundry rooms
  • Garages
  • Sheds and other exterior buildings

Most flammable things to start a fire in your home are everyday items you may use regularly.

Nail polish and nail polish remover

Both nail polish and nail polish remover often contain acetone, a solvent used to break down substances. Acetone is flammable, and if it emits vapors, it may ignite if near fire or heat, even if you don’t touch the bottle to the flame. 

If you use nail polish or remover in an enclosed space, it may take only a few minutes to ignite a flash fire, warn firefighters. Never use it near a candle or fireplace.

Rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol, or isopropyl alcohol, is a staple for many households. Its versatility as a disinfectant and cleaner is excellent, but the alcohol content also makes it flammable. 

When they mix with air and oxygen, the rubbing alcohol vapors can travel near heat and ignite. 

Anything in aerosol cans

Aerosol cans are pressurized containers with a propellant pushing out the can’s contents. The propellant and pressurized environment is volatile and may be flammable. Avoid putting aerosol cans near heat or flames, regardless of contents. 

Non-dairy creamer

Another surprising thing that may start a fire in your home may sit in your cabinets now. Non-dairy creamer is popular with coffee and tea lovers because the powder is a shelf-stable way to supplement your drink with flavor. However, the powder presents a fire risk and can ignite if tossed in the air. 

Cooking oil

Various cooking oils have individual flashpoints, the temperature which creates flammable vapors for an explosion or fire. Cooking oils are flammable, including:

  • Grapeseed oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Corn oil
  • Canola oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Vegetable oil

If you use cooking oil, pay attention to the stove’s heat and wipe up any excess quickly to avoid fire. Once you finish cooking, dispose of the oil in a container. Most cities feature guidelines on properly disposing of cooking oil, so check your local trash and disposal website.

Linseed oil

Often present in woodworking and furniture restoration, linseed oil (flaxseed oil) is highly flammable. The oil was even the cause of a 1991 12-alarm Philadelphia high-rise fire after workers left linseed oil-soaked rags in a vacant room. 

Once in the air, linseed oil may combine with oxygen molecules, creating a volatile environment for spontaneous combustion. Linseed oil may catch on fire if on a rag or other cloth materials, even at 120 degrees.

Alcoholic beverages

Like cooking oils, alcoholic beverages feature low flashpoints and require less heat for ignition. Alcohol emits vapors that may collide with an open source and combust. Drinking alcohol is ethanol and isn’t the same as isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). 

Beer and wine have low alcohol concentrations, but spirits like whiskey and vodka have higher alcohol content. These beverages feature a high flammable risk. Firefighters caution any alcohol of “80 proof or higher” is flammable. 

Dryer lint

The National Fire Protection Agency (NPFA)’s research finds that of estimated 15,970 home fires for 2010-2014, 92% of the fires involved a clothes dryer. The culprit behind clothes dryer fires is often lint. 

Dryer lint accounts for nearly 3,000 housefires every year, according to the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA).  

Each time you run laundry in the dryer, the spin action dislodges the lint for the clothes or linens, collecting it in a filter. Dryer lint accumulates in the lint trap and exhaust system, and if not removed, it can make its way into the dryer’s heating element. Some new model dryers feature a “clean filter” light feature, but if you have an older dryer, use a note to remind you to clean the lint after every load. 

Gasoline, turpentine, paint thinner

Gasoline is another vapor-emitting substance that can ignite quickly. It doesn’t require high temperatures either and can start a fire at 40 degrees.  

Turpentine and paint thinner have higher flashpoints than gasoline. Both materials can spontaneously combust, especially if in an enclosed environment. 

Mattresses

Mattress fires were more common in the 1970s than today, thanks to changes in Mattress Flammability Standards. However, mattresses still contain material that can ignite, and they are flammable. 

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)  mandates mattresses meet 16 CFR Part 1632 (Standard for the Flammability (Smoldering) of Mattresses and Mattress Pads) and 16 CFR Part 1633 (Open Flame Standard for Mattress Sets).

All mattresses must be resistant to an “open flame,” such as a cigarette or candle, for at least 30 minutes. Your mattress may or may not feature a flame-retardant material, so read the manufacturer tag and never have a flame near it. 

Hand sanitizer

Many hand sanitizers are alcohol-based to disinfect your hands safely. Unfortunately, sanitizers’ high alcohol content also makes hand sanitizers highly flammable. Vapors from the sanitizer can ignite between 62 to 80°F. If you use a hand sanitizer that contains alcohol, be sure you fully let it dry before you go near any heat source or flame.

How to store flammable items safely

As a homeowner, you can avoid house fire risk by safely storing things to start a fire in your home. First, never store flammable items in a small, enclosed space, such as a garage, attic, or shed. You can also follow the tips below:

  • Keep flammable liquids (oils, gasoline, etc.) in their original containers
  • Buy a flammable liquid storage cabinet for safety 
  • Remove all flammable items from heat sources, including candles, furnaces, fireplaces, and even the sun
  • Don’t store oil-soaked rags and other flammable objects in buckets, tins, or cans

Storing items inside

Take special consideration when you store indoor flammable items, such as rubbing alcohol and nail polish. First, you should always read the manufacturer’s directions for storage. Next, keep your flammable items in a cool, dry, ventilated area.

Storing items outside

Paint thinner, gasoline, and other flammable liquids need proper storage. Ensure your containers are closed and well-labeled, then put them in a ventilated area away from children and animals. Never store your paint thinner and similar flammable items outside in the sun.

If you have a pile of oil-soaked clothes or rags, never leave them out randomly. You should always store them in an approved fireproof container with a self-closing lid for best practices.

How to make flammable mattresses safer

You can make your mattress safer by keeping flammable items, candles, and space heaters away from your bed. A flame-retardant cover for your mattress will also improve its safety. Above all, never smoke in bed, for as NFPA reports, “10% of fires that began with mattresses or bedding caused 29% of the deaths.”

FAQs

What are some examples of flammable items?

Daily flammable household items include mattresses, aerosol cans, and rubbing alcohol. Items with acetone, such as nail polish and polish remover, are also flammable. Beauty stores and other retailers carry nail polish and remover without acetone, however, so you should check the label of your products carefully. 

What in my kitchen is flammable?

Depending on the contents of your kitchen, you could have several flammable items. Popular flammable kitchen items include sugar, cooking oils, flour, and non-dairy creamer.

Kitchen fires are common. So, in addition to knowing what’s flammable, you should learn how to put out specific types of kitchen fires and file a home insurance claim if you have a fire.

Is sugar flammable or not?

Sugar’s flammability depends on the form. Table sugar isn’t flammable, but powdered sugar can catch fire. The fine properties of the powdered sugar mean that when tossed in the air, there’s more oxygen in the air; this increases igniting potential. 

Is bleach flammable?

No. Bleach independently isn’t flammable. However, bleach does contain oxidizers which can strengthen fires once they ignite.

Are marshmallows flammable?

Yes. In marshmallows, high sugar or sucrose levels make these tasty treats flammable. No wonder they crisp up quickly over an open fire when you make s’mores.

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