Is Ink Flammable? Exploring The Science Behind Ink And Fire

Ink is a common substance that most people use daily for different occasions, from refilling pen and printer cartridges, printing colored documents, or even getting a new tattoo. So most, if not all, people are familiar with inks.

But the discoloration it leaves on your hands can be easily washed off, so this should not be your only concern. The big question here is: is ink flammable? Can it cause a fire hazard? Should you be worried about the risks around this substance? Well, this article will cover this and much more.

Is Ink Flammable

Is Ink Flammable?

Ink is flammable, depending on the type. Some contain volatile contents such as hydrocarbons and alcohol that quickly catch fire. When using flammable types, caution is essential to prevent fire and related hazards.

Other types are water-based; the high water content makes the ink non-flammable. Knowing the contents of the ink you use is, therefore, significant. But let's dig deeper to understand why some inks are considered flammable.

Is Ink Flammable Or Combustible?

To answer the above, let's look at the differences between combustible and flammable.

  • Combustible: Any material that ignites in the air despite its flash point is combustible. Wood and even paper are common examples one can relate with.
  • Flammable: Any material that self-ignites at a flash point is flammable. Acetone falls under this category.
  • A Flash Point is the lowest temperature at which a material emits enough vapor to catch fire.

Ink is a flammable liquid containing hydrocarbon compounds, a mixture of carbon and hydrogen. The portion of hydrocarbons present determines how flammable the ink is; the higher the levels of these compounds, the more flammable the ink.

Can Ink Burn?

Ink is a form of liquid with different components. Solid and liquids emit vapor in the air, which can quickly burn depending on the surrounding temperatures. Once the vapor comes into contact with heat and even flames, it will burn.

Since ink contains different chemical elements, then the vapor may react differently. For instance, water-based ink will not burn, but hydrocarbon-based ink will burn when exposed to heat and ignition sources.

Checking the label to know the components of the ink you are using is essential. If you fail to see any water content, you can assume it's flammable, and you should handle it with ultimate care.

Is Ink Flammable Or Combustible

What Are The Different Forms Of Ink? 

Ink is a popular substance with different types for different items and uses. There are two main types of ink; (non-water) chemical-based and water-based inks.

  • Water-based: These inks use water as the dominant solvent for pigment transmission. Usually, this form of Ink is less common and consists of acrylic resins/hybrid acrylic resin-polyurethane mixtures.
  • Non-water/Chemical based: Chemical-based inks use hydrocarbon as the base solvent and are highly flammable. Most inks fall into this category. The only difference is the levels of chemicals in each type of ink. For instance, printer ink differs from fountain or ballpoint pen ink.

Wet ink is flammable, and as it dries after application, the solvents quickly evaporate and are only ignited depending on the surrounding temperatures. Only then should you feel reassured about using ink as long as caution is maintained and open flames are not nearby.

What Is The Chemical Composition Of Ink?

As stated above, water-based ink uses water as the base plus dye/coloring and is not flammable. But adding flammable addictives automatically makes the substance volatile.

Non-water-based inks use chemical compounds, including benzene, ethers, toluene, ketones, hexane, esters, pentane, mineral oil, naphtha, and alcohol.

Apart from the above, some of the main components of ink may include:

  • Pigments and Dyes: These components easily dissolve in water and help to give color to ink. Dyes, for instance, comprise other ingredients such as fluorescent and bromine.
  • Polymers: Help inhibit the ink from clogging and promotes a smooth flow.
  • Additives: Additives significantly improve the quality of ink. Additives such as glycerides contain fatty acids and alcohol glycerin, which are common in plants. 

At What Temperature Does Ink Burn?

Ink burns once temperatures go below 199.4 Fahrenheit. Ink will emit enough vapor to ignite when exposed to a spark or naked fire. The flammability of your ink probably doesn’t often cross your mind, but it doesn't harm to check the ingredients. This way, you can be cautious when handling the liquid and minimize fire hazards.

Is Ink Flammable In A Pen

Is Ink Flammable In A Pen?

Now that we have explained that ink may be flammable, one may wonder about pen ink. Is it flammable? You never know what you have stored in the office/house; perhaps even simple stationery can be dangerous. So checking the ingredients is the most straightforward way to get the information.

Water-based inks are unpopular, and chances are, the ink pen is non-water based. It may contain some volatile elements once they evaporate and come into contact with a flame.

Read the instructions or ingredients list to determine if an ink pen is flammable. If a water component is missing, the ink will ignite quickly.

Can Printer Ink Burn?

Most of us have used a printer at one point, and ink is an essential substance for printers. The cartridges need a refill to print out any document. The good thing is the majority of printer inks contain non-toxic components of water, ethylene, and alcohol. And printing ink will only burn while in the printer if you expose it to flame.

Modern technology has seen the advancement of cartridge casings that can withstand heat and prevent horrific fire. But don't get too excited, as there are few health risks when printer ink comes into contact with the human nose, eyes, and skin. These include:

  • Skin exposure may cause skin irritation, cracking, and dryness.
  • Exposure to one's eyes may cause severe eye damage.
  • Inhaling the ink may lead to respiratory irritation.

Final Thoughts

Fire safety is an essential factor that we should always uphold. It can even be surprising that some substances around us that seem harmless actually aren’t. Does ink seem hazardous to you? Is ink flammable? We now know that ink is volatile, depending on the type and the ingredients.

Water-based ink is safe and non-flammable. Non-water-based types have chemical contents such as hydrocarbons and are thus considered flammable. By checking the ingredients, you can determine what you are dealing with and avoid possibly hazardous fire outbreaks.