Author Topic: A reminder when staining  (Read 1352 times)

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Offline keithmclean

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A reminder when staining
« on: December 02, 2007, 09:32:00 PM »
Just wanted to remind and warn folks out there who might be staining about the dangers of leaving stain rags or oily rags out. They can catch on fire without any outside source of ignition. I've known this for years and have been careful not to leave rags out after using them. I've never had a rag issue until last week. I was using a pro grade stain on some cabinets and I left a rag on the top of a cabinet. The sun came out from the clouds and in just 15 minutes of that rag sitting there it began smoking. I've never seen anything like it. I didn't think it could happen so fast but with the stain I was using, a Lenmar nitrocellulose, it just took off. If I had gone to lunch and left it like I have many times in the past it could have been a very bad day. I usually lay the rags out flat to dry and in 25 years have never had a problem disposing them that way.
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The klop, klop of water under the bows of a small boat will cure most troubles in this world. -Arthur Ransome

Offline Paul Riccelli PE,NA

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A reminder when staining
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2007, 09:47:34 AM »
It doesn't happen often, considering the number of rags soaked with various oil based products, lying about in shops around the world, but it does happen. I had a near catastrophe with a similar set of conditions many years ago. Mine actually did catch fire, fortunately it was laying on the extension wind of the table saw and only scorched the paint. I'm reminded of this event each time I place something on the table saw, which is often used as a catch all for tools, rags and assorted items around the shop.

Spontaneous ignition needs air to work. There's only two ways to prevent it from happening. Spread out the rags (even common cooking oil or furniture polish can catch fire) so they can dry and displace any heat build up or keep air from getting to them.

The best way is to store them in a metal container with a metal lid. They have specific "rag containers" designed just for this, or you can use what I do, which is an old style metal diaper bin. My metal diaper bin has a foot peddle operated lid and used to have pretty flowers printed on the outside. I got it at a yard sale for 2 bucks many years ago. I painted it blood red several years ago after getting teased by a buddy about the cute flowers, with "Oily Rags Only" hand lettered on the lid.

If the rags build up heat, the oxygen inside the container is consumed in the process (a chemical reaction between the rag fibers, the oil and the air) so combustion can't take place. Even if it did catch on fire, the metal container would keep the fire well confined, where a quick blast from a fire extinguisher, will remedy the problem in seconds.

It only makes sense not to store the rag container near the pile of saw dust under the table saw or other tool that produces lots of dust.

I'm glad you got lucky Keith. Even dried out rags, if left in a bundle, can still develop this chemical reaction. It needs air to catch. Remove the air or prevent the heat build up by laying each out flat, on something that will not burn.