Is Mineral Spirits Flammable? – Safety Considerations

Flammability is a massive concern for most DIYers using petroleum-based products. It is scarier when you realize that most of these solvents are in every garden or garage shed. What’s more? These everyday solvents are responsible for over 43,620 home fires in four years!

Mineral spirits are flammable and can cause home fires when mishandled. Like most hydrocarbon-based solvents, this chemical can ignite when exposed to a heat source.

If you’re wondering how you can safely use mineral spirits in your home repairs, this article will answer all your questions on the risks and safe use of these solvents.

What Temperatures Do Mineral Spirits Burn At?

So we’ve established that these solvents are flammable. But how hot does it have to be before they burn?

As hydrocarbon-based solvents, mineral spirits will burn when exposed to sparks or open flames. They will also burn under temperatures at 105 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

So, there’s a chance you are sitting on a potential fire outbreak if you store your excess solvent in enclosed spaces. Enclosed spaces like cabinets and utility boxes can have internal temperatures as high as 100 Fahrenheit. 

Hold on! Let’s not forget the heat waves and dry humidity in summer.

Are Mineral Spirits Flammable When Dry?

Thanks to a good ol’ dusty rag soaked in mineral spirit, the paint spill or crayon marks are gone. Do you throw the rag in the bin or leave it around till you need it again?

Mineral spirits are volatile compounds and are flammable when dry. To avoid a fire outbreak, set your soaked rag outside to dry for 15 to 20 minutes.

Is Mineral Spirit an Inert Solvent?

The question of whether mineral spirit is an invert solvent is a significant concern for most DIYers. 

Mineral spirits are inert solvents and can spontaneously combust under the right conditions. 

For instance, there are reports of solvents causing house fires without exposure to a spark or heat source. 

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Do Mineral Spirit Rags Combust?

Turns out, dropping your rags in trash cans is not enough to prevent disaster.

Rags containing mineral spirits residues can spontaneously combust and cause a fire outbreak due to excess heat and lack of airflow.

Heat accumulates when you dump soaked rags in a pile or container without proper ventilation. If there is no air ventilation in the container or bundle, the spirits-soaked rags become combustible as oxidation slowly heats them. The extreme heat will ignite the rag and quickly spread to other materials in your house. 

How to Safely Dispose of Mineral Spirit Rags 

Follow these steps to dispose of mineral spirit-soaked rags safely:

Step 1: Get the necessary materials for disposing of the rag.

Get all the necessary material before you start using the rag. It will help you to work without interruption. You will need these materials:

  • A metal container with a lid, preferably a paint can;
  • A bucket of water for filling the container.

Step 2: Call the nearest hazardous waste facility

Contact your local hazardous waste facility to know if they accept mineral spirit waste. You can also ask for any specific disposal guidelines. Follow the guidelines to avoid paying penalties for improper disposal. Note that you may spend time in court if the punishment is severe.

Next, schedule a pick-up appointment with the facility and prepare your rag for disposal. You can also drop off the rag if there are no pick-up options.

Step 3: Prepare the mineral spirit rags for drop-off or pick-up

Before you start this process:

  1. Ensure that soaked rags do not touch your work clothes.
  2. Use a tong to place the rags in the metal container and fill them with water.
  3. Fully submerge the rags in water. 

Now, place a small stone on the rag to keep it submerged. As a final note of precaution, check the metal container for any spills or leaks.

Step 4: Give the metal container to your local hazardous waste facility

Hand over the metal container containing the soaked rags at the pick-up time. If the waste facility does not provide pick-up services, you can easily transport and drop off the container at their location. 

Alternative Way to Discard of Mineral Spirit Rags

Disposing of rags by sending them to a waste facility can be time-consuming and stressful. Luckily, there’s another way to do it.

Sun-drying is a fast alternative way to dispose of your mineral spirit rags. Just make sure to pick an open, well-ventilated, and secluded spot to dry the rags. It should take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes, but may take longer.

Spread and smoothen all folds of the rag on a block of concrete or bare soil surface. Depending on the weather, it’s sometimes best to leave it outside for more than 24 hours. Just be sure to avoid direct sunlight.

Can You Pour Mineral Spirits Down the Drain?

How do you dispose of your mineral spirit when there’s no waste disposal facility nearby? Perhaps, you are thinking of pouring it down the drain. Well, think again. 

Never pour mineral spirits or water containing them into a drain. These solvents are toxic and will pollute the environment when poured down the drain.

Are spirits flammable when poured down the drain? Yes, these can ignite when exposed to heat sources. So, take care to perform proper disposal of mineral spirits rags according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s guidelines.

How to Properly Store Spirits at Home

You need a stockpile of solvents for most DIY home repairs. However, most of these types of solvents are either oil-based or carbon-based and are flammable when exposed to heat. 

To avoid fire outbreaks, store spirits in the original container or a glass jar after use. Tightly close the jar to prevent accidental spills or leaks. Furthermore, store the closed container in a well-ventilated space and keep it out of children’s reach.

On a serious note, do not store paint thinners in HPDE, ABD, and EPDM plastics. Classes of paint thinners such as these can erode plastic containers. 

Conclusion

Mineral spirits are exceptionally useful solvents in everyday DIY home projects. Just be mindful to keep them away from heat, store them properly, and dispose of them according to EPA guidelines.