All that glitters is not glitter, but human beings really like glitter, all the same. These tiny little pieces of plastic or metal give a pleasing sparkle to the eye and they’re very popular in home decorations, festivities, and even makeup and other handicrafts. The question is, does making things glittery also make them dangerous? Is glitter a major fire risk in your home?
Some types of glitter are flammable, mostly due to the small particle size, which results in increased surface area. On average, glitter can ignite around 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius). The flammability will depend on the material the glitter is composed of.
Let’s take a look at what glitter is made of and which types could be flammable.
Also read: What Makes Something Flammable?
Table of Contents
What Is Glitter Made Of?
Glitter is not officially defined. There’s no recipe to make glitter and the only thing that gives us any real definition is if it glitters, then it’s glitter.
However, most commercially available glitters are made out of small (seriously small from 0.002” to 0.25”) particles of plastic or aluminum.
The plastic is, typically, Polyethylene terephthalate which is more commonly known as PET. It’s worth noting at this point that many people have concerns over the general health impacts of PET and more and more consumers are choosing to avoid it entirely.
The most common source of PET in most people’s lives is in plastic bottles used for drinks, yes, the ones that are filling up the world’s oceans.
However, there are glitters out there that use glass or other metals and in theory, any reflective material in small pieces can make a glittery reflection.
This may mean that it’s very important to pay attention to the exact ingredients in your glitter before you decide to put it to use for any specific purpose.
Cosmetic glitter is mainly made out plastic and aluminum too.
The biggest difference between cosmetic glitter and most other kinds of glitter is that the pieces are cut to have rounded edges so that they don’t hurt or cut the skin when the cosmetics are appliled.
Does Glitter Catch On Fire?
Glitter can catch fire in some situations, depending on the material used.
Neither aluminum nor PET plastic are particularly flammable in ordinary circumstances, but with glitter, these are not ordinary circumstances.
The issue is that very small particles offer far more surface area to the air (and a higher ratio of fuel to oxygen) than large sheets of aluminum or plastic.
That means that while the ignition temperatures of the components of glitter are high – glitter can still catch on fire when exposed to a naked flame.
In fact, some estimate that the ignition point of some glitters may be as low as 212 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s 100 degrees Celsius or the temperature of boiling water).
That’s hot, but it’s not a temperature that’s so hot that it’s unusual to come into contact with it in the home or workplace.
So, you want to be careful when working with glitter and ensure that you don’t use it around naked flames (particularly important if there are smokers nearby).
Also read: Is Glue Flammable? Sometimes…
Does Glitter Burn?
Glitter can burn, mostly because of the tiny size of the glitter particles. This means a large volume to surface area ratio, which can cause the glitter to burn or even become explosive.
Thus, it’s important to be careful when working with glitter and to stay away from naked flames, in particular.
Also read: Is Deodorant Flammable? Will it Catch Fire?
Is It Safe To Put Glitter In Candles?
Sometimes, it’s safe to put glitter in candles.
As we’ve already seen, most glitter burns. It may be a bad idea to make candles out of flammable glitter, obviously.
Most craft glitter, on the other hand, is not flammable.
These types of glitters are specifically designed for use in candles, and unsurprisingly, are unlikely to turn your favorite candle into an explosive device.
Alternatively, there are candle-making recipes that claim to neutralize the risks of using ordinary glitter.
Please note: We didn’t make these candles ourselves and would advise some caution when making them, though we have no reason to doubt that the recipe works.
Also read: Is Wax Flammable? You May Be Surprised…
Is It Safe To Put Glitter In Makeup?
As we noted earlier, glitter for use in makeup needs to be cut effectively to be used on the body.
Many glitters have tiny sharp edges, which isn’t normally a problem when the glitter is on your fingers as it’s not enough to cut deeply into skin.
However, if it were to get into your eyes – that would be another matter entirely.
It’s best to buy glitter makeup products premade from trustworthy brands or to make your own and use only cosmetic grade glitter when you do.
Finally, we have to address the elephant in the room, which in the case of glitter is not the fire risk it presents.
Instead, it’s to note that not only is glitter usually plastic, it’s a microplastic and that means it is incredibly polluting.
PETs don’t decompose easily, and they end up in rivers, lakes, streams, oceans and then in animals and plants and eventually in humans when microparticles are disposed of.
In fact, the damage done by these microparticles is so huge that many scientists would support a global ban on glitter – sometimes, it’s better to be kind to the planet than to be sparkly.