If you’re creating art in your oven or hoping to take a butane torch to a painting, you may find yourself wondering, “Is paint flammable?” There are various art projects where you expose the paint to heat or flame. The result creates some magnificent effects. But you want to make sure you’re taking steps to store and use the paint safely.
Some paints are flammable, while others are combustible. How your paint reacts depends on the ingredients. Water-based paints, like acrylic and latex, are typically not flammable. Oil-based paints and spray paints are flammable and sometimes combustible with heat.
In this article, we’ll discuss the difference between flammable and combustible and get into the chemical makeup of various paints to see which are safe. The bottom section even goes over how to properly dispose of hazardous paints and other safety tips for working with paint.
- Flammable vs. Combustible: What’s the Difference?
- Is Paint Flammable?
- Is Paint Combustible?
- Is Latex Paint Flammable?
- Is Acrylic Paint Flammable?
- Is Oil-Based Paint Flammable?
- Is Spray Paint Flammable?
- Non-Flammable Paints
- Is Paint Thinner Flammable?
- Hazards of Flammable or Combustible Paints
- Safety Tips for Working with Paint and Paint Thinner
- How to Dispose of Paint
Flammable vs. Combustible: What’s the Difference?
The words flammable and combustible are often used interchangeably. But they have a subtle difference. What makes something flammable or combustible depends on the characteristics and their flashpoints.
Flashpoints are how we classify the lowest temperature required for vapors of volatile materials to ignite or start burning at the liquid’s surface. Various materials are separated into categories based on the flashpoint associated with them.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA standards define different flammable and combustible liquids based on each’s flashpoint temperature, and they claim flammable materials typically have flashpoints above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (F). OSHA also explains that:
- Flammable liquids catch on fire and tend to burn easily at the average working temperatures. They have a low flashpoint.
- Combustible liquids can burn at temperatures above the working average. They have a high flash point and typically include paints.
While the liquids themselves don’t burn, the vapor in the air burns. The flashpoint of each liquid determines the temperature they must reach to ignite in the air. For this reason, flammable liquids are a huge fire hazard.
For example, flammable liquid vapors burn quickly and produce tons of heat along with toxic black smoke. Combustibles also release a vapor that burns in the air, but they can create an even more serious fire hazard because they may explode with the right heat source.
Both flammable and combustible liquids come in tons of everyday products, including paints and thinners. It’s best to understand the hazards and how to work with these liquids for safety purposes.
Is Paint Flammable?
Technically, liquid paint is not often flammable. There are many paint types and solvents that release toxic or flammable fumes. The paint fumes ignite, which is highly dangerous if the temperature gets too high or a fire erupts nearby.
Some paints are flammable, such as aerosol and oil-based paints. Oil-based paints, varnish, and stains often contain flammable components.
Water-based paints are not flammable, including acrylic, vinyl, or latex paint. Many artists’ paints are non-flammable and water-based. Certain water-based acrylic paints even come with flame-retardant designs. However, there are some flammable water-based paints too.
Whether the paint is flammable or combustible comes down to the base. But the most common flammable paint types include:
- Aerosol paints: Use propellants like butane gases and propane.
- Oil-based paints: Contain flammable ingredients, like toluene, methanol, and ketones.
- Alcohol-based paints: Alcohol is a flammable material that catches fire easily.
For the best results, check the ingredient label on the paint. They should list any hazardous things you need to look out for or clearly say if the product is flammable or combustible.
Is Paint Combustible?
Some paints are combustible. Spray paints or aerosols are highly flammable. They become combustible when they are punctured or under high heat. Any product that combines oil-based paint in spray form is also a heightened fire and explosion risk.
Is Latex Paint Flammable?
Latex is another water-based paint. Unlike acrylic paint, it’s combined with a polyvinyl material with acrylic resin. There’s no rubber or latex in the paint, even though the name suggests it. It’s safe for people with latex allergies and popular for its smooth and spectacular results.
Due to the water ingredient, latex paint is not flammable. It only dries to feel rubbery. Most latex paint forms don’t use flammable solvents, so there is no combustible vapor.
You never have to worry about latex paints burning or exploding. There is no danger in storing them at home. Regardless, don’t allow young children to use latex paints unsupervised.
Is Acrylic Paint Flammable?
Heating acrylics helps a wide range of art projects create different effects, from porcelain projects to acrylic pouring. Most types of acrylic paint are not flammable in liquid form. The vapor or fumes could be, however.
Water-based acrylics are not likely to catch fire. However, you want to pay attention to the paint label to see if they contain other flammable solvents like:
- Petroleum distillates
Because the solvent is water, this type of acrylic paint is non-toxic and safe. Use the paint in a well-ventilated area due to other components. But unless the product contains a flammable solvent, it’s probably not a fire risk.
Is Dried Acrylic Paint Flammable/Combustible?
Dried acrylic paint is another story. After the paint dries, it becomes a different substance altogether. The solid is a plastic polymer, meaning it’s flammable in this state.
However, liquids are more dangerous than flammable solids. Liquids are easier to spill, and they can flow in multiple directions quickly. A massive amount of flammable liquid could coat a huge surface space, not something a solid could do.
Are Acrylic Paint Fumes Flammable?
Some acrylic paint fumes are flammable.
Water-based acrylics do not typically have flammable fumes at all. The majority of these products are flame-retardant. However, some products may contain toxic materials, including ammonia, formaldehyde, and metallic pigments of mercury or silver.
However, look for a combustion warning on the box. Make sure to also store acrylic paints safely out of reach of children.
Is Oil-Based Paint Flammable?
Oil-based paints are highly flammable and toxic. They contain flammable components, and many states have regulations on how to dispose of the paint properly. The paint products gasses of volatile organic compounds long after use, which poses a safety risk.
Once an oil-based paint is dry, it’s generally harmless. Many painters still use it for painting on canvas. However, it would be best if you still stored the paint with care.
Is Spray Paint Flammable?
Spray paint is extremely flammable. It combines a mixture of paint and flammable or combustible propellants. Plus, the can is highly pressurized.
If a spray paint can get damaged, punctured, or comes into contact with a flame or high heat, beware. The gas in the can could ignite, causing a fire or an explosion. Many spray paints contain propellants or substances like butane gas or propane, which are flammable. These propellants push the paint from the can to spray out in a uniform mist.
Spray paint fumes can ignite. But they’re more dangerous because there is a strong possibility the flashback could cause the can to explode like a grenade.
The real danger comes down to the design. The propellant combined with the pressurized can means a small puncture could set off an explosion. Always store spray paint carefully and keep the cans away from children.
Non-flammable paints are considered in the fire retardant paint category. These are special paint types that offer a protective coating to reduce the flame’s spread if a fire occurred. The coating appears similar to traditional paints and varnishes. However, it’s difficult to distinguish the difference using your eye alone.
Special, non-flammable paints are common in commercial buildings or areas where a fire would occur. The other two paint types of traditional paint that are not typically flammable include:
- Water-based acrylic
Is Paint Thinner Flammable?
Other products like paint thinner may have highly flammable fumes. Thinners help dissolve and remove paint. They are common if you paint with oil or enamel. But most paint thinner is more combustible than flammable.
Paint thinner is volatile organic chemicals with low combustibility and flammability. But some manufacturers have formulas with petroleum in them, which makes them combustible.
Most paint thinners will only burn or explore when they come into direct contact with a high-temperature flame. They don’t tend to catch fire or explore with a small spark. That said, using a large amount of liquid paint thinner can be a fire hazard, like in a construction setting.
Hazards of Flammable or Combustible Paints
Follow best practices for using and storing paint thinners to protect yourself from fire and explosions. Flammable and combustible paints are also dangerous after you use them. Make sure to dispose of the paint properly, or you could cause a fire risk.
Other than the injuries you could receive from fire or explosions, flammable or combustible chemicals can also damage your health. For example, inhaling the fumes can cause:
- Brain injury
Read all directions of the paint packaging before you use or store paint in your home. Doing so could help you prevent poisoning or chemical burns as well as the risk of fire.
Safety Tips for Working with Paint and Paint Thinner
Whether the paint or paint thinner you work with is toxic and flammable or not, you should always consider safety precautions. You need to use, store, and dispose of the materials properly. Use these safety tips for working with paint and paint thinner.
Tip 1: Only Mix it with Paint
Never mix paint thinner with anything other than paint, or you may cause a deadly reaction. Thinners are typical with oil-based paints. Make sure also to mix paints of the same type and finish. If you’re unsure, check with the paint manufacturer.
Tip 2: Use Safety Equipment
Protect yourself as you use paint and thinners with safety gear. Wear protective clothing, gloves, goggles, and a mask or respirator. Lay down a tarp or newspaper to keep your work area safe.
Tip 3: Create Ventilation
Always work in a space with proper ventilation and wear a respirator if you’re working with high amounts of dangerous fumes. Avoid closed spaces. The toxic fumes thinners product can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and breathing issues.
If you must work inside, open a window or door. A garage is a perfect space to keep your project away from the elements. Incorporate a fan if needed.
Tip 4: Never Place it Near Combustible Material
Accidents happen. Keep all combustible materials in a secure location. If your storage is not up to par, you could cause a fire and destroy the structure. Thinners and spray paints are particularly combustible materials that could create a huge explosion.
Tip 5: Don’t Use it to Clean
Never use paints or paint thinners to clean your work area, even though some thinners are for cleaning walls, counters, or floors. The flammable materials could easily spark and cause an explosive fire.
Tip 6: Avoid Eating Nearby
Some paints and thinners release toxic fumes and gases, which could be poisonous to humans. Avoid eating near your work area, or the edibles could infuse with these toxins to enter your bloodstream and cause irreversible damage.
Tip 7: Clean Thoroughly After Use
Wear gloves and wash your hands, especially before eating. Once you’re done using the paints and thinners, clean with soap and water thoroughly. Clean up your work area. Double-check for spills on the containers as well.
Tip 8: Proper Storage
Keep paints in a safe area. Store flammable or combustible materials in a place where they’re unlikely to come into contact with flames, sparks, or a fire source. Make sure it’s far from the reach of kids.
If you’re not sure if your paint is flammable or not, store it safely just in case. Some companies also sell safety storage cabinets for storing flammable or combustible materials in bulk.
How to Dispose of Paint
Both water and oil-based paints contain pigments that make them hazardous if you don’t properly dispose of the paint. Leftover paint is sometimes hazardous. It could leak into the ground or contaminate septic tanks.
Before you toss any old paint or cans, make sure you know how to dispose of the paint. Check your local laws too. Rules vary by location.
Allow Leftover Paint to Dry
Even if there’s a tiny amount of paint left in the can, set leftover paint out in the sun to dry before throwing it out. Wet latex, for example, can be hazardous. Most locations allow you to throw away dried paint with your regular household trash, including water-based latex and acrylic paints.
If you need to dry a large amount of paint, you’ll want to buy a paint hardener from your local home improvement store. You could also use newspaper or kitty litter to soak the paint faster. Leave the paint can out in a well-ventilated area, stirring every few days until it hardens. When the paint feels hard, fill the can with a paint hardener. Dump the paint in the trash, and consider recycling the metal or plastic paint can.
Let the Professionals Handle It
You can’t dry out all paint types and throw them with your curbside trash, like an oil-based paint. Certain locations also may not allow you to dispose of paints that way. Search for your local hazardous waste drop-off facility or look for companies that handle paint disposal, like PaintCare.
Learning how to store, use, and dispose of paints is crucial for safety concerns. Flammable and combustible materials can cause fire risk and serious damage to your body. Make sure to always check the ingredients in your paints and store them in a safe location away from children—practice safety at all times.
Did you learn something new about flammable or combustible paints? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. If you enjoyed the article, let your friends and family know they should read it too.