You might have heard about kitchen fires and wondered: Is grease flammable? Sometimes it only takes four steps: heat, boil, smoke, and ignite.
However, an uncontrolled blaze can quickly get out of hand, engulf property and cause extensive damage—or worse. In this article, we'll explore the question of whether or not grease is flammable and provide tips for safe handling.
Is Grease Flammable?
No, grease isn't flammable. This answer is, however, subjective due to differences in manufacturers' ingredient lists. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), flammable substances possess flash points below 100°F. The grease used in cooking and lubricating is very different. However, they both have flash points over 100°F, so they are combustible.
What Is Grease?
When you talk about grease, it is usually a word that describes a substance in a particular physical state. Grease is a thick, viscous, semi-solid substance with oils, additives, and thickeners. There are two common grease types: lubricating grease and cooking grease.
Lubricating grease is usually used in cars to reduce friction in moving car parts, protect against corrosion, and seal sensitive parts from water. Cooking grease describes thickened vegetable oils, animal fat, lard, or butter. This cooking grease helps prevent food from sticking to the bottom of the pans while cooking.
Uses of Grease
So, now that you know what grease is and how it's used, what are some of its most common uses? Here are just a few:
- Automobiles: Grease is often used in automobile engines, transmissions, and differentials. It helps to protect against metal-to-metal contact, corrosion, rust, and extreme temperatures.
- Machinery: Grease is also used in many types of machinery, including motors, bearings, gears, and other moving parts. It can help prevent wear and tear.
- Household: Besides cooking grease, industrial grease is sometimes used in homes for things like door hinges and creaking floors. It can also lubricate zippers and other moving parts on clothing.
How Flammable Is Grease?
Grease isn't considered flammable. However, it is considered combustible. Grease is made up of several different chemicals, and some are combustible. In contrast, others are flammable depending on the manufacturers' ingredients.
When these chemicals are heated, they can start a fire. The fire won't spread as quickly as with other materials like wood or cloth, but it's essential to act fast if you see a flame.
How To Put Out A Grease Fire
Firstly, never leave your food unattended. If a grease fire does start while cooking, you can turn off the heat and put a lid on the pan to smother the flames. DO NOT try to move the pan—you don't want to spread the fire.
And whatever you do, don't pour water on a grease fire! Water worsens the situation by splattering the hot grease and spreading the fire. Instead, always call the fire department if the fire is out of control.
How Often Can Grease Catch Fire?
How often does grease catch fire? Only sometimes, however, the answer depends on a few factors, such as how often you cook with grease and the type of grease you use. If you cook with grease regularly, it's essential to be extra careful and ensure good ventilation.
The most common cause of grease fires is when the grease gets too hot and starts to smoke. If you don't have proper ventilation, the smoke will build up and can eventually ignite. That's why it's essential to have a range hood or fan to vent the smoke outside.
Cooking grease and oil is one of the major hazards in commercial kitchens and food production. A grease fire is more likely to occur in the kitchen than the living room. Most grease fires start when the grease is left unattended and overheats.
Most vegetable oils have a smoking point of around 450°F, and animal fats like lard or goose fat start smoking around 375°F. Many lubricating greases contain petroleum-derived mineral oil or hydrocarbon-based synthetic fluid.
Those materials are generally considered combustible with a flash point at over 400 °F. However, in a few cases, the lubricating fluid in grease would be regarded as flammable below that flash point.
Safety Precautions For Handling Grease
Take these steps to ensure your safety, as well as anyone else working with grease.
Store Your Grease Properly
Grease should be appropriately stored, especially lubricating grease. If you transfer lubricating grease, ensure the new container is labeled correctly and stacked away from your children and pets.
If you use cooking grease, ensure it's stored away from your cooktop. Please don't keep it on shelves directly above your cooktop; it can topple over in an accident.
Keep Your Grease Away From Open Flames Or Fire
As grease isn't flammable but combustible, it needs a little help to burn, and an open flame will do the trick. To avoid fire accidents, keep your grease away from heat sources. This could be hard, especially for cooking grease, because it's made to be used with fire, so ensure you don't leave the fire unattended when cooking.
Don't Mix Different Brands of Grease
Mixing your cooking grease with your automobile lubricating grease because it's almost finished is a horrible idea. Likewise, using your cooking grease as a lubricating grease is also a bad idea.
This is because mixing these greases can result in a mixture with a lower flash point, making it more combustible and thereby increasing the chances of a fire.
If this mixed grease is used in a car engine, that could be very hazardous. Car engines usually run perfectly at 220°F; however, some cars go up to 400°F, especially when faulty, which can lead to a fire.
Ensure Proper Disposal
Don't dump it in your drain. You could dispose of the container with your general waste, but ensure you place a tag saying ‘don't recycle.’ If you're working with a lubricating grease, consult its safety data sheet (SDS) or the nearest waste collection office to determine other safety precautions for proper disposal.
So, is grease flammable? The answer is yes and no. Technically, grease is not flammable, but it can be a fire hazard. Cooking fires happen when the grease gets so hot that it ignites.
Most lubricating greases are not readily flammable and are not considered significant fire hazards. Under the right conditions, however, even these lubricating greases can burn.