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Expert Advice – Is Paint Flammable


Safety during home projects is of the highest importance. Therefore, it’s worth asking, “Is paint flammable?” when undertaking a painting project. If the paint you’re using is flammable, then you’ll need to be extra cautious so that both you and your property will come through unscathed. The more you know about the flammability of different paints, the better prepared you’ll be.

Is Paint Flammable or Combustible?

As you study up on the flammability of paint, the first thing to know is that “flammable” and “combustible” don’t mean the same thing. Even still, both terms are used to describe liquids with the ability to burn.

The difference has to do with the flashpoint of the material. That term refers to the temperature at which the liquid catches on fire easily. Flammable products burn at temperatures under 100 degrees Fahrenheit — the sort of temperatures in which you’ll typically be working. Combustible ones require temperatures between 100 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit in order to burn.

Some paints are combustible, but they’re not flammable. Others are flammable and may easily catch on fire at a normal room temperature.

What Makes Paint Flammable?

Some paints burn easily. What is it about those paints that causes them to readily catch on fire?

It has to do with the chemicals that make up the paint. They include various binders and pigments. Different types of paints use different ingredients. Some of them have low flashpoints and burn easily at room temperature.

Technically, the liquid paint itself doesn’t burn. Rather, the fire happens at the surface of the liquid as its vapor mixes with the air.

Flammability of Water-based Paint

As the name suggests, one of the top ingredients in water-based paint is good old H20. As you know, water is generally effective at quenching flames. You may not be too surprised, then, to learn that water-based paints don’t readily burn. Their water content keeps them from quickly catching on fire.

Many house paints and primers are water-based. Latex and acrylic are large categories of water-based paints. Other products that fit this category include chalk paint and acrylic enamel paint.

The general inflammability of water-based paint is not a hard and fast rule. Some products contain pigments or other ingredients that can make them a greater safety hazard than most water-based paints.

Also, the water content of water-based paint evaporates as it dries. That can change its flammability. Some water-based paints aren’t flammable when wet but can become flammable or combustible when dry.

Flammability of Oil-based Paint

While water-based paints list water as a primary ingredient, that’s not the case for oil-based paints. Rather, those products use natural oils or synthetic resins in their formulas. Because those ingredients burn more readily, oil-based paints and primers are much more flammable than water-based paints.

Oil-based paints can also take a lot longer to dry. They may release harmful vapors and stay flammable throughout that slow process.

On the positive side, oil-based paints are only flammable while they’re wet. Once the paint dries, it leaves behind a hard, strong layer of color. At that point, the paint is no longer flammable.

Flammability of Spray Paint

Not only is spray paint an oil-based product, but each can contains gas propellants. They’re essential for shooting the aerosol paint out of the can. They do, however, increase the flammability of these paints.

As you’re spraying, the airborne paint can catch on fire. There’s also a risk of the paint can exploding. Smart spray painting involves using the paint outside or in a well-ventilated area and far away from any sparks or other fire sources.

Once spray paint dries, however, the flammable solvents evaporate, and the fire hazard is no longer present. Keep in mind, though, that the fire risk may be there until all the fumes have dissipated.

Flammability of Paint Thinner

When you’re working with paint, you may have paint thinner out, too. It’s important to take safety precautions with paint thinner. It’s not typically flammable, but it is combustible. Under certain conditions, paint thinner can cause an explosion. Also, paint thinner doesn’t dry quickly, so the combustion risk can linger for some time.

Learning More About the Flammability of Your Paint

When you buy a new container of paint, take a look at the product label. It should provide details about the paint, such as whether it is a water-based or oil-based material. There should also be safety warnings if the paint is flammable. Informing yourself of these facts can help you use the product as safely as possible and take any necessary precautions.

Safety Tips for Paint

Since fires happen when flammable vapors come in contact with an ignition source, good ventilation is essential. Whenever possible, use flammable paints outdoors. If that’s not an option, make sure the space is well ventilated. Vapors can travel a distance from the liquid, so simply keeping your paint can away from an open flame might not be enough.

Also, make sure to keep paint containers closed as much as possible. That can keep vapors from spreading excessively.

When you’re finished painting, be sure to clean up thoroughly. Remember that paint-soaked rags can produce dangerous vapors, so be sure to dispose of them properly.

Store leftover paint in a cool, dry area. Make sure that your storage spot isn’t located near a heat source.

Finally, always read product labels before beginning to paint. Follow all of the manufacturer’s directions for use, cleanup and storage. As long as you take precautions and follow the instructions, there can be a place for both flammable and nonflammable paints in your various home projects.