Nixa, Mo. firefighters warn of improperly disposing oil-soaked rags

NIXA, Mo. -- The Nixa Fire Department is warning about the dangers of an oily rag.

Firefighters say two recent fires have been caused by rags soaked in stain or oil-based products used for home improvements projects or construction. As rags start to dry, they produce heat. The rag itself can spontaneously combust or catch other things on fire.

The most recent fire happened when someone stained some cabinets at a Nixa home. They left the rags in the garage. They then caught fire. The fires only damaged the garage. Firefighters also responded to a fire at construction by professional contractors. That house lost its entire roof.

Firefighters say linseed oil and other oils in paints and stains make them combustible. If you read the labels carefully, the products do warn you about the risk of not disposing of rags properly.

"There's just a lot of different chemicals they use nowadays," said Assistant Chief Whitney Weaver. "Many different oils can spontaneously combust or build heat when they dry. So it's really just taking care of those rags and properly letting them dry out, disposing of them in water, things like that."

Firefighters say to safely dispose of the rags, lay them out to dry on a non-flammable surface for a couple days. And if outdoors, weigh them down so they won't blow away. Then, you can throw them away or put them in a metal container filled with water and detergent, which will break down the oils. If you spill some flammable liquid on your clothes, lay them out to dry just like the rags before laundering.