Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spontaneous combustion

Did you know that you can burn down your house with nothing but linseed oil? I didn't till this weekend. Diligent as we were to use non-toxic products on our countertop we opted to combine linseed oil and beeswax to polish and seal our countertops. We followed the proper process, soaking a rag with linseed oil and rubbing it into the countertop. We then tossed the rags in the corner of our kitchen. The next day we walked into the kitchen and noticed a really strong smell of linseed oil. At first we just thought it was the countertop off gassing. But then Brendon noticed something strange. One of the rags had been perched on top of Styrofoam packaging and it had melted a hole in the material. Brendon snooped around further and opened up one of the rags. Low a behold it was almost entirely charred in the center.

So why did this happen? Apparently if I had called my grandparents I probably could have gotten the answer pretty quickly. Years ago linseed oil was really the only product available to keep wood surfaces polished and protected. It was commonly know that rags soaked with oil should always be stored outside in addition to being laid out flat. The reason? The drying process for the oil is one of oxidation. This is an exothermic reaction which basically means that by using oxygen it creates heat, which in some cases may result in spontaneous combustion. So a warning to all you guys: just because it's natural doesn't mean it's not dangerous. Always make sure you know how to dispose properly of the product you use!

1 comment:

  1. Note to self... remove linseed oil from sex toy drawer. "Baby, you're burning me up!"