Essential oils are used by many people for aromatherapy and other therapeutic purposes. It’s important to note that we’re not doctors and we’re not going to offer any opinion on the supposed health benefits of these oils. What we are concerned with is a possible risk caused by essential oils and that’s whether or not they represent a fire risk in your home or workplace?
Essential oils can very easily catch fire. They can have flashpoints ranging from 100 to 215 degrees Fahrenheit (37 to 102 Celsius), which means that most are classified as flammable. Because of this, they need to be stored and used with fire safety in mind.
Essential oils are quite popular and are used for a variety of different reasons. Let’s take a look at which are most flammable and why you need to be careful with essential oils and fire.
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Also read: What Makes Something Flammable?
What Is An Essential Oil?
An essential oil is a set of compounds that have been extracted, usually via distillation but sometimes using mechanical methods, from plants. “Essential” refers to the idea that these oils capture the “essence” of the plant’s aroma and its properties.
All essential oils have strong aromas, due to being highly concentrated forms of the plant extract.
The extract is combined with a carrier oil (that is a plant oil that is meant to dilute the harsh concentrated extract, and which can be used safely to nourish your skin – this is important for aromatherapy).
Commonly used carrier oils can include:
- Coconut oil
- Jojoba oil
- Apricot kernel oil
- Sweet almond oil
- Olive oil
- Rosehip oil
- Argan oil
- Grape seed oil
- Avocado oil
- Black seed oil
- Sunflower oil
Sometimes, when you purchase an essential oil, the carrier oil has already been added, sometimes, you will purchase just the extracted “essence” and dilute it in your own carrier oil.
It is important to note that though the oils themselves may be edible – you shouldn’t eat an essential oil as they aren’t designed to be eaten and are NOT safe to do so. There is little regulation over the production of plant extracts, and you don’t want to take any risks with your health.
Which Types Are Flammable?
Nearly all essential oils are flammable. There are a few such as wintergreen, sandalwood, and clove bud that have flashpoints above the required 199.4 degrees Fahrenheit specified by OSHA to be classified as flammable. However, they can all catch fire fairly easily.
Flashpoint is the temperature at which a liquid gives off enough vapors that it can ignite in the presence of a spark or flame.
The most flammable essential oils are:
- Fir needle
- Clary sage
- Pine needle
- Juniper berry
However, all essential oils should be kept away from naked flames and sources of sparks.
When not in use, you should keep essential oils in tightly sealed containers in a cool, dark place to prevent the risks of auto-ignition through sunlight being lensed through the glass of the bottle they are kept in.
You should also be aware that you need to show extra care when cleaning up spills of essential oils. You can’t just mop them up and then throw the rag/tissue into the bin, as the oil starts to dry on these – there is a real potential for ignition and even auto-ignition.
Take a look at this video comparing flammability between gasoline and peppermint essential oil:
Also read: Is Peppermint Flammable? Sometimes…
Should You Burn Or Diffuse?
Burning an essential oil can, in theory, damage the chemical ingredients in the oil – if you’re using the ingredients for their medicinal properties, it seems unlikely that you would get the full benefit from burning them.
It’s also worth noting that using essential oils in a burner is generally considered to be a fire hazard, if the oil comes into contact with the flame, it will easily ignite and your relaxing evening enjoying a pleasant scent is likely to turn into a rather more exciting one.
So, it’s probably best to use a diffuser which ensures that there is no fire risk and that you don’t change the chemical properties of the oil.
Also read: Is Mineral Oil Flammable? Yes and No…
Can They Cause A Fire In a Dryer?
Yes, though we’ve not got any specific cases to refer to, in theory something as flammable as essential oils can catch fire in the dryer.
We know that you’re not likely to put them in the dryer directly, but it means you need to be careful about washing anything that you’ve cleaned up essential oils with and then putting those into the dryer, this is a potential fire hazard.
Also read: Is Hair Gel Flammable? Sometimes…
Can You Put These Oils In a Fire?
Under no circumstances should you pour essential oils onto a lit fire. In the same way that you wouldn’t pour liquid gasoline onto a fire. It would be incredibly dangerous and is highly likely to result in injury or worse.
However, if a fire has been extinguished completely and you wish to remove the scent of the burned wood, you can, in theory, pour a little essential oil in there as a deodorizer of sorts, but make sure it has been completely extinguished.
Can They Spontaneously Combust?
In theory, yes, the auto-ignition point of essential oils is relatively low and while we don’t think that in ordinary operation they are likely to burst into flame, you should store them safely and keep them away from any possible sources of heat, flame or sparks.
Also read: Is Lemon Juice Flammable? [Lime, Orange]
What Is The Flashpoint?
The flashpoint for essential oils can range from 100 to 215 degrees Fahrenheit (37 to 102 Celsius). The average flashpoint is around 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which classifies as a Class 3 flammable liquid by OSHA.
Are Fragrance Oils Flammable?
Fragrance oils usually have a higher flashpoint than essential oils (around 170 degrees Fahrenheit) however, they still are considered flammable liquids and can catch fire relatively easily.
So, approach them with caution and store them carefully.