Halfway through staining treasure chests for our upcoming pirate and mermaids party, I remembered the seemingly ominous warning label on the lid, which started with, “TO AVOID SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION…” (Their ALL CAPS, not mine.)
Mid-wipe, I looked at the stain soaked rag in my hand and asked Hubs what he thought of the warning. I bet you aren’t surprised that he initially blew off my concerns.
Before wadding up my rags and gloves, I decided to search the Internet to see if I should be concerned or if I was being my normal worry wart self.
I wasn’t overreacting.
Rags from oil-based stains can spontaneously combust. As the stain dries inside a wadded up rag, it can naturally heat the fibers, causing the rags to ignite. A search of spontaneous combustion of rags on the web revealed many sources of tips and information on the subject, including those at Fine Woodworking and CBS Chicago.
I learned, both from the lid on the stain can and online, that the best way to store stain-soaked rags was to put them into a water-filled metal container with a lid.
Do a lot of people have empty metal lidded cans laying around their houses?
Unfortunately my only metal containers with lids were filled with paint, so even I realized that probably was a bad idea.
So I did the best I could with what I had. I grabbed a foil food container, filled it with water, added the rags and gloves, and wrapped the entire container in several layers of aluminum foil (which I am sure is not what they meant by “metal lid” but it was the best I could do.) I then walked the package to the back of the property, figuring with nearly an acre between the rags and the house, I should have fair warning to get out of the house should it catch fire.
I imagined some neighbors probably thought I was baking bread for the wildlife or just plain going crazy when they saw me putting my makeshift package up on the hill.
Another tip was to lay out the stain soaked rags flat so that they would not heat up. So, I draped the drop cloth I used across some recycling bins in the yard, thinking that since there were only a few tiny splashes of stain, it would be okay to reuse. At least, I had planned to reuse it until a neighborhood dog ran over to our yard and peed on it. So, that drop cloth went out in the trash after it cured, too.
I imagine I will stick to water-based stains from now on…a lot less stress about disposal, though of course safety and environmental precautions are still needed.
Am I alone in the world of DIY for not knowing the dangers of oil-based stain prior to this project? How have you disposed of stain-soaked rags effectively (or incorrectly) in the past?