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Are Essential Oils Flammable? Everything You Should Know

With a powerful influence on our senses, essential oils have become a huge part of our lives. But how safe are they really? Are essential oils flammable? And what can we do to protect ourselves and our homes from a disaster? 

In this article, we’ll explore the composition of essential oils and give you some practical tips and guidelines to ensure that you can keep using those therapeutic miracles without any risk. 

Essential Oils Composition 

Essential oils are highly concentrated extracts from plants. And while that sounds simple, you’ll find that their composition is not. To find out whether they’re flammable oils, we must first understand what they’re made of. Here are some common essential oil components:

  • Terpenes: Essential oils contain a high amount of these compounds, which are responsible for the great aroma and medicinal properties.
  • Alcohols: Alcohols in essential oils have antiseptic properties, which are beneficial for your skincare routines and can help with respiratory problems.
  • Esters: They give essential oils their sweet, fruity, and even floral scents. 
  • Ketones: Ketones, like camphor and menthone, have calming or stimulating effects.
  • Aldehydes: They’re mostly found in citrus essential oils and contribute to their specific aroma.
  • Phenols: They have powerful antibacterial properties.
  • Sesquiterpenes: They’re found in essential oils derived from roots or woods and have anti-inflammatory and immune-stimulating properties.

Note that the composition will vary depending on the type of oil, its extraction method, and environmental factors. 

Volatility and Evaporation

These are the main properties of essential oils and their applications, which are also responsible for making them flammable oils.

Volatility indicates the rate at which a substance transitions from liquid to gas state at a low temperature. Essentially, it’s the ability of a substance to evaporate. Essential oils are highly volatile because of their terpenes and other aromatic molecules. That’s what makes them ideal for aromatherapy and diffusing. 

High volatility means high evaporation. That’s why essential oils evaporate when exposed to air, and that’s how they release therapeutic compounds we benefit from. Factors like temperature and humidity can influence this process.

We’re getting to the good part. 

Flashpoint Definition

Flashpoint is the lowest temperature at which a substance can produce enough vapor to form an ignitable mix in the air around it. We’ll talk about it more below in terms of essential oils as this is the crucial measure that determines how hazardous a substance is. 

Knowing the flashpoint of essential oil is important as you’ll understand how to better store and use it. Still, keep in mind that the flashpoint will vary depending on the specific oil composition.

Are Essential Oils Flammable?

Yes, essential oils are flammable. They contain a lot of highly volatile compounds, like terpenes, which have low boiling points. 

Some essential oils have very low flashpoints, meaning they can ignite at a low temperature, while others have higher flashpoints. That’s why it’s crucial to follow the safety guidelines below to avoid any risk. 

We’ll explore the different flashpoints of some popular types of essential oils below. 

Flashpoint of Essential Oils: Examples

The flashpoint of essential oil can vary significantly depending on its composition. This is the lowest temperature at which the oil can ignite in the air. Here are some examples of essential oils and their flashpoints:

  • Lavender Essential Oil: Around 131°F (55°C)
  • Peppermint Essential Oil: Around 135°F (57°C)
  • Tea Tree Essential Oil: Around 131°F (55°C)
  • Eucalyptus Essential Oil: Around 120°F (49°C)
  • Lemon Essential Oil: Around 118°F (48°C)
  • Sweet Orange Essential Oil: Around 115°F (46°C)
  • Cinnamon Essential Oil: Around 147°F (64°C)
  • Clove Essential Oil: Around 200°F (93°C)
  • Rosemary Essential Oil: Around 115°F (46°C)
  • Frankincense Essential Oil: Around 109°F (43°C)

Note that the essential oil flash point is approximate, and the real temperature can vary depending on the batch of essential oils and the compounds in it. 

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Comparison with Other Flammable Substances

Let’s compare essential oils to some other flammable substances to put those numbers into perspective:

SubstanceFlashpoint
Essential oils100°F to 200°F (38°C to 93°C)
Gasoline-45°F (-43°C)
Alcohol (Ethanol)55°F (13°C)
Acetone-4°F (-20°C)
Propane-156°F (-104°C)

It’s evident from the table that essential oils have higher flashpoints compared to highly flammable substances like gasoline, acetone, and propane. So, they’re less likely to ignite at room temperature. 

Still, you shouldn’t forget that essential oils are flammable substances. You should handle them with care to avoid a fire hazard near open flames or due to improper storage.

What Essential Oils Are Not Flammable?

All essential oils are flammable to some extent. Even essential oils with relatively high flashpoints can still pose a fire hazard if you don’t handle them properly. Flammability is an innate property of essential oils composition, no matter the type of oil. That’s due to the presence of volatile compounds like terpenes, alcohols, and esters.

Safety Precautions and Best Practices

When handling essential oils, you should keep their flammability in mind and take the necessary safety precautions. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Keep away from open flames and heat sources: Never use essential oils near open flames, candles, or any heat-producing appliances. You also might want to reconsider putting your diffuser near the fireplace.
  • Avoid high temperatures: Store essential oils in cool, dry places away from direct sunlight or sources of heat.
  • Use appropriate containers: Store essential oils in tightly closed, dark glass bottles to minimize the risk of evaporation and exposure to air, which can lead to oxidation.
  • Dilute before use: When applying essential oils on your skin, always dilute them with a carrier oil to reduce the risk of skin irritation and potential fire hazards. If you spill a generous amount, you should also know how to remove essential oil from your skin.
  • Follow diffusion guidelines: When using essential oil diffusers, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines, and do not leave them unattended.
  • Keep away from children and pets: Store essential oils safely away from children and pets to prevent accidental ingestion or spillage.
  • Be cautious with flammable surfaces: Avoid spilling fragrance oils on flammable surfaces, and clean up any essential oil spills immediately.
  • Dispose of essential oils safely: Essential oils contribute to air and water pollution, so it’s crucial to dispose of them responsibly.

If you follow these safety measures, you can keep enjoying your essential oils responsibly. 

Common Myths about Essential Oil Flammability

Let’s bust some common myths about flammable fragrance oils:

Myth 1: Essential oils are not flammable because they are natural.

Reality: All essential oils are flammable, and it’s essential to handle them with care. Although they come from plants, they contain volatile substances that pose a fire hazard when exposed to heat or an open flame.

Myth 2: High-quality essential oils are not flammable.

Reality: The quality of essential oils does not influence their flammability. The only aspects it can influence are the oil’s purity and potency. Even high-quality oils contain volatile compounds like terpenes, alcohols, and esters.

Myth 3: Essential oils are safe to use around candles or open flames.

Reality: Using essential oils near candles or open flames is not safe and can lead to potential fire hazards. They’re susceptible to catching fire if exposed to a flame, so keep them away from any heat source.

Myth 4: Essential oils cannot cause fires.

Reality: Essential oils alone cannot cause fires under normal circumstances, but mishandling or improper use can lead to accidents. If you accidentally spill them on flammable surfaces, or if they come into contact with a spark or heat source, they can cause a fire.

Myth 5: Essential oils with higher flashpoints are not flammable.

Reality: They’re less likely to ignite at lower temperatures, but they’re still flammable and can be fire hazards if exposed to heat or flames.

Myth 6: Using a diffuser eliminates the risk of flammability.

Reality: While using a diffuser can help disperse essential oils safely, it does not eliminate the risk of flammability entirely. Diffusers still release the volatile compounds of essential oils into the air, and if exposed to an ignition source, they can still catch fire.

Myth 7: Essential oils do not need to be stored carefully because they are natural.

Reality: Proper storage is crucial to maintain their quality and prevent accidents. You should store essential oils in tightly closed, dark glass bottles, away from direct sunlight, heat, and open flames.

It’s important to understand the reality behind these myths and treat essential oils with the same caution as any other flammable substance. By handling essential oils safely and responsibly, you can enjoy their benefits while minimizing potential risks.

FAQ

Is peppermint oil flammable?

Yes, peppermint oil is flammable. Like all essential oils, it contains volatile compounds that can vaporize and ignite when exposed to heat or an open flame. The flashpoint of peppermint oil is approximately 135°F (57°C).

Is tea tree oil flammable?

Yes, tea tree oil is flammable. The flashpoint of tea tree oil is approximately 131°F (55°C). Exercise caution when using it and keep away from heat sources.

Can you put essential oils in a fire pit?

No, it’s not a good idea to put essential oils directly into a fire pit. Essential oils are flammable and can ignite when exposed to flames or high heat. Adding them to a fire pit can cause unexpected and dangerous flare-ups.

Are essential oils flammable in the dryer?

Yes, essential oils are flammable in the dryer. Adding them to fabrics or dryer sheets can create a fire hazard because the heat from the dryer can cause the oils to vaporize and potentially ignite. Not to mention that they can leave stains, and it can be difficult to remove essential oil leftover from clothes.

Is diffusing essential oils safer than candles?

Diffusing essential oils is generally safer than candles as long as you’re using the diffuser properly. Still, it’s essential to follow the guidelines and safety precautions to ensure safe and responsible use of essential oils.

Is it safe to use essential oils on an oil burner?

Using essential oils on an oil burner can be safe if done correctly. Oil burners are designed specifically for heating and diffusing essential oils safely. However, it’s essential to follow the instructions, avoid overheating the oil, and never leave the burner unattended to prevent accidents or fire hazards.

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