From helping remove temporary tattoos to helping prevent diaper rash for your baby, mineral oil is considered a household staple. But, occasionally, the question pops up – is mineral oil flammable?
Although the answer to this question might be confusing, we've been able to break it down with bonus tips for handling and use to ensure your safety.
Is Mineral Oil Flammable?
No, mineral oil isn't flammable. Hydrocarbons are usually highly flammable; however, mineral oil's flash point is between 300 - 350°F, so it isn't considered flammable.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a flammable substance will possess a flash point below 100°F, and combustible substances have a flash point over 100°F, so mineral oil is considered combustible but not flammable.
What Is Mineral Oil?
Mineral oil is a highly refined petroleum product. It is a colorless and odorless oil obtained from purifying fossils of plants and animals. Mineral oil can also be synthesized. The most common mineral oils are classified as cosmetic grade for skincare and cosmetics.
Mineral oil is available in multiple household materials but usually under different names, like paraffin, paraffinum liquidum, microcrystalline wax, petrolatum, ceresine isoparaffin, and synthetic wax.
Its most common use is as a humectant in cosmetics to increase hydration on the skin by attracting and trapping moisture from the air to the skin. The layer of mineral oil on the skin also prevents water loss and, in turn, prevents skin dehydration.
Uses Of Mineral Oil
Mineral oil is used in various industries and in various ways. Let's talk about a few of its applications within and outside the home:
- Medicine: Mineral oil is used in medicine or healthcare as a potent laxative to relieve constipation in human and animal patients. It works by retaining water in the stomach and intestines. It is also used as a lubricant and culturing medium.
- Cosmetics: Mineral oil is used in various creams, lotions, and ointments for adults and children as a moisturizing oil and a carrier for other ingredients. It's also used as a makeup and temporary tattoo remover.
- Food Preparation: Mineral oil is often used in food prep as a preservative oil for wooden cutting boards and utensils. The food-grade mineral oil prevents water absorption, reducing the degradation of wooden utensils in the kitchen.
- Textile Production: In textile production, mineral oils are used as lubricants, fabric conditioners, and cutting oils. And in the industrial setting, it's used as a coolant that's non-conductive or as an insulator for electrical components.
How Flammable Is Mineral Oil?
The flammability of mineral oil is dependent on its flash point. A flash point is the lowest temperature a liquid needs to reach before igniting in the presence of an ignition source like an open flame. A liquid will only ignite or burn once it has reached and exceeded its flash point.
Liquids with lower flash points, usually below 100°F, are considered flammable. However, the flash point of mineral oil is 300–350°F, which is relatively high, so it's not flammable.
It's essential to note that factors like the mineral oil's purity and combination with other substances can affect its flammability. For example, the addition of products like gasoline will reduce its flash point – making it more combustible and volatile.
So a mineral oil with a high water content, impurities, or flammable substances will ignite at a lower temperature than expected.
Is Mineral Oil Toxic?
Mineral oil is not considered a toxic substance. It's been used safely amongst the masses for many years. However, it can be irritating when in contact with the eyes, nose, and mouth. It's also advisable to consult your physician before using mineral oil if you have eczema, asthma, skin lesions, or inflammations.
How To Put Out A Mineral Oil Fire
The chances of a mineral oil fire occurring are low but never zero, so having some tips in mind will do you much good. In the case of a small fire, you could easily smother it with dry chemicals and foam.
For larger fires, a water spray can cool heated surfaces to prevent the reignition or combustion of other materials. But, as always, call the fire department if the fire is out of control.
Safety Precautions For Handling Mineral Oil
Take these steps to ensure your safety as well as anyone else working with mineral oil.
Store Your Mineral Oil Properly
Mineral oil should be stored appropriately, preferably keeping the container upright in a cool, dry place away from open sparks, flames, and heated surfaces. Ensure the containers are labeled with a visible safety data sheet and handling information.
It would help if you also stored these containers away from children and pets to prevent mishandling or accidental fires.
Keep Your Mineral Oil Away From High or Extreme Temperatures
Mineral oil may not be highly flammable, but it's still combustible and ignites and burns when exposed to high temperatures. Also, these extreme temperatures can damage the oil, reducing its efficiency.
Don't Mix Mineral Oil With Other Oils
Whether plant-derived or animal-derived, various oils are used for various purposes, each with unique flash points. Mixing mineral oil with other oils like almond, coconut, or sunflower oil can reduce the flash point, making it more flammable. However, it can also cause a reaction that would damage both oils when stored together.
Ensure Proper Disposal
Federal regulations prohibit dumping petroleum oils down the drain, so avoid doing that, as it can act as a pollutant or contaminant. Instead, after dispensing the waste or used mineral oil, please take it to the nearest recycling center or used oils collection site.
Don't incinerate or pour on the ground. Some manufacturers offer collection services, so ensure you check the product safety data sheet for more information on its disposal from the manufacturer.
Mineral oil is present in most daily grooming and hygiene products for adults and children, so knowing whether or not it's flammable is a good idea. Even though it's not considered flammable, it is still combustible.
Because it usually comes mixed with other solvents, the flammability and fire risk increase. Understanding the most suitable storage conditions for mineral oil reduces the chances of a fire.