Salt, at least the stuff we have with our meals, dramatically improves the flavor profile of nearly every food. It’s also, in the right quantities, essential for your health. But are is it dangerous? Is salt flammable or even explosive?
Table salt (sodium chloride) is not flammable and will not easily catch fire. Salt won’t even melt until it reaches 1470 degrees Fahrenheit (800 Celsius).
Of course, there are many kinds of salt that we use in modern households, let’s take a look at them and the risks of using all salt products when it comes to fire.
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Also read: What Makes Something Flammable?
What Is Salt?
If we were chemists, we would acknowledge that “salt” simply applies to any chemical compound that consists of both positively and negatively charged ions.
This produces an electrochemically neutral compound that has no net charge on the surface.
But we are not chemists and thus, when we refer to “salt” what we mean is table salt or sodium chloride.
Sodium Chloride is a chemical compound of Sodium and Chlorine which is written as NaCl.
In fact, Sodium is positively charged in this compound and the Chlorine negatively charged and the overall compound is electrochemically neutral.
Thus, table salt is a salt in the chemical sense too.
Does It Catch Fire?
Salt (Sodium Chloride) does not catch fire in most circumstances because it requires extremely high temperatures to ignite.
Any substance can catch fire if you make it hot enough.
However, under any normal circumstances – salt does not catch fire.
That’s because Sodium and Chlorine are highly chemically reactive.
When they form a bond, it releases a very large amount of energy.
To break that bond – you must supply a very large amount of energy (lots of heat).
More energy than you would find in a typical household or office fire.
This is good news for us because if a fire were to reduce table salt to its constituent elements, it would burn very easily, indeed.
That would create a new fire risk.
But they don’t.
Also read: Is Rice Flammable? Can It Start a Fire?
No, table salt (sodium chloride) is not flammable. Salt won’t melt until it reaches 800 degrees Celsius, which is 1,472 Fahrenheit!
Salt boils at 1413 Celsius or 2575 Fahrenheit!
And in order for it to catch fire, it would need to get hotter still and break down into the individual chemical constituents.
You are unlikely to ever encounter such temperatures in ordinary life.
And if you did encounter them, you would have bigger problems than burning salt.
Also read: Is Baby Powder Flammable? It Depends…
What Happens When You Throw It Into A Fire?
If you throw salt into the fire it will change the color of the flame.
This isn’t because the salt is burning.
It’s because the heat of the flame changes the energy of the electrons in the salt and this change releases photons of light.
So, you will see a yellow flame when “burning” salt.
However, if you were to carefully investigate the residue of your fire once it was extinguished, the salt would not have been burned at all.
Instead, it would be laying on the bottom, in the ashes of the burned materials.
In fact, you can use salt to extinguish a fire, because it doesn’t burn.
You’d need a lot of salt but if you threw enough of it on burning materials, you would smother the flame and remove any source of oxygen.
Also read: Is Sodium Flammable?
Can Sea Water Ever Catch Fire?
Seawater/ saltwater is not flammable and will not catch fire.
It could even be used to put out fires, the same as freshwater. The only reason it is not commonly used for firefighting is that the saltwater can rust and damage mechanical firefighting equipment.
But water is water and it’s not flammable.
Though technically, if you can make water hot enough to split into its two individual elements hydrogen and oxygen – they are flammable.
Again, you will never see temperatures this hot in ordinary life and if you do, you won’t be worried about flammable water.
Does Salt Make Blue Flames?
No, the flame color when salt is exposed to heat tends to be yellow, not blue.
That’s due to the Sodium in the salt which burns with a yellow flame too.
Take a look here:
What About Pink Salt?
Pink salt or Himalayan Rock Salt is, chemically, nearly identical to table salt and it is not flammable.
It contains a few additional minerals in trace quantities which give the salt the pink hue.
However, there are no minerals present in sufficient amounts to significantly change the chemical properties of salt.
And thus, pink salt is not flammable.
Is Heating Salt Dangerous?
No. In normal circumstances heating salt is not at all dangerous.
This is why we can use it freely while cooking – you can add salt to water and boil it, for example, with no problems at all.
But if you do intend to heat salt, please take all reasonable safety precautions, as heat sources can be dangerous.
Is It Ever Explosive?
No. Salt is not explosive.
Though if you could get it hot enough to break down into Sodium and Chlorine they might explode when they caught fire.
No, Iodized salt is not flammable.
Iodized salt contains trace amounts of Iodine Chloride, which is also not easy to break down into its two constituent elements.
No, rock salt is not flammable, either. In fact, the safety sheet for rock salt is clear that no special fire fighting procedures are needed for rock salt use.