Read on to find out more about this all-too-common occurrence, how it happens, and how you can protect your business better.
What is spontaneous combustion?
Spontaneous combustion is a phenomenon that occurs when a combustible material rises in temperature and reaches ignition point through rapid oxidation.
Like every type of fire, spontaneous combustion needs these three elements to take place:
When fuel (a combustible substance like oil or grease in a flammable material like towels) comes into contact with oxygen in the air (oxidation), heat is generated. When this rise in temperature is not halted, the combustible material i.e. the towel eventually reaches its ignition point and bursts into flames.
From a distance, this scenario seems to require special conditions to take place; in fact, it really does not take more than a pile of used, greasy towels, rags, wipers, etc., to randomly burst into flames and endanger lives and property.
What are the causes of spontaneous combustion of towels?
Towels and rags, when clean and uncontaminated, do not necessarily pose any risk of spontaneous combustion. The exposure to oily substances, e.g. grease from auto repair shops, massage oils, cooking oils, etc., turn these everyday items into massive fire hazards. Here’s how:
Improper storage and/or disposal. Spontaneous combustion occurs as the result of a chemical reaction of flammable substances with oxygen, which exists abundantly in the air, making the conditions for combustion rather easy to achieve. A stockpile of oily towels in a room with poor ventilation increases the likelihood of fuel reaching its burning point and bursting into flames.
Improper washing. Oil is notoriously difficult to wash off any fabric. Any residue of oil on used towels after washing become fire hazards, and placing them in a heated dryer only makes the conditions for spontaneous combustion worse, running the risk of the towels and rags bursting into flames inside the dryer itself or in storage.
How to Prevent Spontaneous Combustion of Towels and Other Linens
The good news is, spontaneous combustion of towels and other linens is totally preventable. Here are some ways you can protect your place of business from this phenomenon:
Store used, oil-exposed towels and fabrics in a cool, dry place. Avoid storing the towels in hot rooms with poor ventilation.
Dispose of greasy towels in airtight containers. Prevent oxidation by storing towels in vacuum containers. It could also help to soak used towels and linens in water before storing in containers to help slow down the rapid temperature increase.
Get professional laundry service for oily towels and fabrics. Have your towels serviced by professionals who have the know-how on the proper handling and washing of towels. The right commercial laundry service provider should not only provide you with the right storage implements to safely store these risky materials; they also have it in their capacity to thoroughly and properly wash off any residue of flammable substances from your fabrics and make sure that you are not running the risk of storing oily towels that can spontaneously combust and cause damage to your business.
For your safety and peace of mind, leave your laundry needs in the hands of Sparkle Uniform and Linen Service!
We have all the necessary technology to ensure that your business is safe and protected against the dangers of spontaneous combustion in towels. Contact us today at 661-634-1130 to learn more about how we can help you and your business.