6 Safety Myths You Believe
Keeping Solvent Soaked Rags Away From Heat is Enough
So you’ve managed to paint your masterpiece without killing yourself or cutting off a chunk of your finger. The danger has passed and you can safely enjoy your model. If you think so, you might be wrong. DEAD WRONG.
Well, dead in a fire wrong, which seems just as bad. As oil dries it oxidizes and heats up. That rag you used to clean up has oil on it. If that heat builds up too much, which can happen surprisingly quickly and easily, the rags can spontaneously combust. If the pile of rags also contains flammable solvents the fire can become very intense. It’s not an obvious danger and it’s not an immediate one. Oils take a long time to dry so an oily rag that has been sitting on a workbench for a couple of days can still be hazardous if thrown in a wastebin.
Should I Be Scared
In this case I’m going to say yes. A house fire is more likely to kill you than supergluing your thumb back on, plus if you have family, roommates or live in an apartment building you are putting more lives at risk than your own.
I researched this and everything I read said to keep oily rags in a special oily waste can which is designed to allow air to circulate and stop heat from building up. They also say these containers need to be emptied daily but then don’t go into details about what to do with the stuff you are emptying out.
My plan is to make sure any cloth I use during oil painting is laid flat to dry. For the quantities of oils that I use the risk is low unless I need to clean up a spill. Solvent soaked rags should be allowed to fully dry in either a well ventilated room or outdoors if possible Never throw either type of rag into a closed waste container and find out the proper disposal procedures in your area.
Don’t Be Afraid, Be Aware
The purpose of this post was not to scare anyone. I’m really hoping that no one avoids the hobby based on these warnings. The really scary stuff, solvent fumes and spontaneous combustion, is not a problem if you stick with acrylic paint. I’ve been using acrylics for years with great results and generally prefer to find a way to do with acrylics what can be done with oils or enamels, at least as far as airbrushing goes.
My point is to be aware that there are risks that people don’t tend to talk about, learn as much as you can to protect yourself and then enjoy a long healthy life in the hobby.
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