How to Store and Use Flammable Liquids
By Liz Froment
You never know when an accident is going to happen. And while it's hard to completely prevent every potential mishap, there are actions you can take to help reduce your risk. A big part of this is understanding where potential dangers lie, which is especially true when it comes to flammable liquids.
Chances are, you might have some flammable liquids stored in your home, workspace or garage. Here's what you need to know to ensure you are storing these liquids properly.
What Are Flammable Liquids?
There are different classifications of flammable liquids per the National Fire Protection Association. However, generally, any liquid with a flash point of 100°F or less is considered flammable. Liquids that have flash points greater than 100°F are classified as combustible.
The flash point indicates how easy a liquid will ignite. It's defined as the lowest temperature a liquid will generate enough vapor to flash, but not continue to burn.
Plenty of different types of flammable liquids are found in homes, including:
- Rubbing alcohol
- Paint thinner
- Cooking oils
- Lighter fluid
- Aerosol cans
All these items are relatively harmless in most cases. However, if you aren't careful and store these items improperly, they could ignite and cause a fire or other damage to your home and property.
How to Store Flammable Liquids
Flammable liquids (and, to a lesser extent, combustible liquids) ignite easier and burn faster and hotter than typical combustible materials. So, you want to separate these materials from potential ignition sources, including heating units, hot surfaces, motors, open flames and even very warm weather, both in and outside your home.
Here's what you need to think about:
Fire is often a big concern, so you want to do everything you can to avoid it. Look where you are storing your flammable liquids and make sure you aren't keeping them near any sort of ignition sources.
If you have a work area where you are using tools that give off sparks, you'll want to remove any containers that have flammable liquids. Otherwise, a spark could land near a container and potentially start a fire.
Something else to consider for flammable liquids is ventilation. Remember, what sets flammable liquids apart is they have the potential to ignite in normal temperatures. If you are storing containers of flammable liquids in a room with no ventilation, it's possible the temperature could rise. That, combined with a lack of airflow, could make the liquids susceptible to ignition or combustion due to the increased air temp.
You'll want to make sure you store these liquids, especially if you have them in large quantities, in place with a lot of ventilation. Outside is okay.
Where You Can Store Flammable Liquids
If you're concerned about storing flammable liquids at home, there are some precautions you can take to dramatically reduce the risk.
Here are some best practices:
- Keep items outside: If you can, it's not a bad idea to have small storage shed to store these items. The key, though, is to make sure it has good ventilation.
- Store items in dark and cool spaces: For items in your home, such as nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol, keep these in cupboards or cabinets at room temperature.
- Pay attention when cooking: It's very easy to take your eye off your stovetop for a minute and find your cooking oil is on fire. When cooking with oil, keep the bottle away from any open flames or heat sources, and then start at a low temperature to avoid fire potential.
- Use the right containers: For liquids such as gasoline or kerosene, it's really important you store these liquids in proper containers. Look for canisters labeled “FM Approved" or “UL Listed (or Certified)" so you know they are safe.
Having flammable liquids in your home is very common. So what you want to do is make sure you are storing them as safely as possible to help avoid any accidents or potential fires that could damage your home or property.