Essential oils are used a lot in aromatherapy as a form of alternative medicine. Many users herald the unique plant extracts that are used for a variety of health purposes.
Of course, you may have heard that the actual health benefits of essential oils are debated heavily all the time, with people on either side of the fence claiming them as miracle cures while others believe it’s just a scam.
We’re not interested in arguing about whether these oils are effective for health purposes, but we do want to get to the bottom of whether or not they’re a fire hazard.
Essential oils are, in fact, highly flammable and in some nations they are even considered fire hazards and won’t be allowed on planes. However, there are so many different essential oils out there and they all have their own different properties and levels of flammability.
In this article, we’ll be talking about what the differences are between certain essential oils, how they should be used and what makes them flammable.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are effectively oils that are extracted from plants. Because of this, the qualities of each oil can change massively depending on which plant it was extracted from.
The aromatic chemicals are extracted from the plant using distillation or other, more mechanical methods. These chemicals are then mixed with a carrier oil, which is much safer for use on humans. The result is a skin-friendly, aromatic oil infused with chemicals from a certain plant.
Through aromatherapy, essential oils are meant to be applied to your skin or inhaled. However, they should never be consumed through the mouth or nose and swallowed.
Different Types Of Essential Oils
As we’ve just established, essential oils can vary greatly depending on what plant they are extracted from. These are some of the most commonly used essential oils and their unique properties:
This is one of the world’s most popular varieties of essential oils and supposedly helps people to sleep and relaxes them. However, some of the known side effects of this oil include nausea, headaches and vomiting.
These differ from person to person and you should also check if you have an intolerance to lavender because this can cause it to irritate your skin.
As well as being a traditionally beautiful flower, roses produce some very popular essential oils. It supposedly reduces anxiety and can be used as a skin treatment. Despite the skin-based benefits, it has also been found to be an irritant in some cases, and so requires extra carrier oil to be safe.
Sales of this essential oil almost definitely increase massively over the holiday season! However, all throughout the year, it can be used for its digestive, antiseptic and disinfectant properties.
It apparently can be used to prevent oral ailments and can improve skin health. It is also one of the few essential oils with very few known side effects.
This is a plant that’s used in a lot of soaps and other cosmetic items so it makes sense that it would provide a popular essential oil too. The instantaneous cooling effect that comes when you apply the oil to your skin can help with issues like muscular pain and itchy skin.
This oil, like all other essential oils, should never be ingested and so it shouldn’t be used to cure bad breath like a regular mint would.
Which Essential Oils Are Most Flammable?
There are so many other essential oils that we didn’t mention in the list above, but every variety is flammable and should be treated with care. However, there are some varieties that are particularly flammable, including:
- Tea tree
These essential oils in particular need to be handled and used extremely carefully, especially when there are open flames around.
Why Are Essential Oils Flammable?
The reason essential oils are so flammable and dangerous is because, like many other types of oil, they have a relatively low flashpoint. A flashpoint is the temperature at which a liquid produces enough vapor to ignite when met with an open flame or spark.
The flashpoint of essential oils can vary between 100°F and 215°F, which is well below the standard temperature of a flame. This makes them very likely to catch fire and produce a large flame if introduced to too much heat.
Of course, the different varieties of essential oils all have slightly different flashpoints and the ones we listed above as being the most flammable all have a low flashpoint within that range.
How Dangerous Are Essential Oils As A Fire Hazard?
The main mistake people make when using essential oils is underestimating how dangerous they can be around heat and fire. There’s a good reason they have been classified as official fire hazards by some governments.
Research has found that essential oils can produce even bigger flames and burn more easily than substances like gasoline, which is widely known as a serious fire hazard. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to be careful when using essential oils.
Most people will only use a few drops of the essential oils per use, as this is the safest and most effective way to apply them. However, when you use too much, even on your skin, you can create a fire hazard as not all of the oil will evaporate or be absorbed properly.
A common misuse of essential oils is to leave their container open in the same room as open flames like candles. The oils come in a fire resistant container for a reason, to stop the application of direct heat to the oil.
If you leave the lid of the container off, you leave yourself much more vulnerable to the whole bottle catching fire and potentially setting light to other things in the room.
Can You Use Essential Oils In Candles?
Based on everything we’ve said so far in this article, you’d be forgiven for thinking that essential oils should never be used to make candles. However, there are actually safe ways of doing this.
When added to wax and other important ingredients properly, essential oils lose all of their flammability. When done correctly, the aromas of some essential oils will be released more intensely by a burning candle, filling the room with a stronger scent.
However, it is important to note that you should never simply add essential oils to an already made candle and especially not one that is already burning or has been burnt.
Always do your research about the safest practices for making your own essential oil infused candles before attempting to burn one, just to be careful.
Can you use essential oils in a clothes dryer?
This is something a lot of people have considered doing. It makes sense to have a nice smelling oil surrounding your laundry as it dries, but before doing it you should probably ask yourself if it poses any risks.
Firstly, no, you should never use essential oils in a clothes dryer. A machine dryer works by applying heat to your clothes as they dry, which is exactly one of the conditions needed to create fire.
Putting a highly flammable liquid like essential oils in a hot clothes dryer makes it so much more likely that a flame will be produced. At that point, the flame will be surrounded by dry, also flammable clothing, which is absolutely a recipe for disaster.
Hopefully, you now understand a lot more about how and why essential oils are flammable. Most bottles you can buy online and in stores will have a warning on the label explaining how flammable and dangerous they are.
This doesn’t mean you should be afraid to use essential oils, though. Plenty of people around the world use various oils every day, following the safe practice methods we’ve identified in this article. Some even infuse the oils with homemade candles completely safely!