Self-ignition of laundry


Fat and oil are the flashing points

A common cause of fire

Fires, especially in the hotel industry and the gastronomy, but also in commercial laundries, consistently arise from self-ignition of laundry. It is possible for the recently washed and dried laundry, folded or not, to self-ignite in the shelfs, baskets or container. There are also cases known where the laundry self-ignited in the dryer itself – without the dryer being in use. Such fires often happen off the normal opening times, are mostly detected belated and because of that cause immense damage to property.

Self-ignition means, that the ignition happens without any input of energy from the outside. But before the textile catches fire it self-heats to the ignition temperature, mostly caused by hyperthermia after drying.

Cause of fire in textile

Hotel- and gastronomy-textile, like for example floor cloth, towels or clothes, commonly come in contact with vegetable or animal fat or oil – for pans, fume hoods and fryers are being cleaned regularly. But also towels and bathrobes from the hotel spa area can be polluted by massage oil. Such fat and oil often contains so called polyunsaturated fatty acid that can, under bad terms, catch fire. The adhered fat or oil often doesn’t get washed out of the polluted textiles completely, which yet won‘t cause self-ignition in ambient temperature. But after washing, the textiles mostly are being dried in the dryer and after that are being stacked on piles, shelfs or transportation wagons. The temperature of the textile is now higher than normal and even increases when the laundry is being stacked, which favours the reaction that can lead to self-ignition. The slow running reaction can cause – in combination with the effect of isolation with the stack of laundry aside – an increase of the temperature until it is high enough for the laundry to self-ignite.

Fire precautions

To obviate such self-ignition of the laundry there are some points to be kept in mind:

  • Wash highly with fat or oil polluted textiles separately
  • Use a special balanced washing program
  • Use a special fat solvent in addition to your usual cleaning agent
  • Avoid overloading of your washing machine
  • Check the results of washing regularly
  • Respect the maximum setting of your dryer
  • Only remove your laundry from the dryer after the cool down phase is over
  • Don’t keep hot textiles in the dryer for a long time or even over night
  • Spread out your hot laundry so the heat won’t pond
  • Let your dried laundry cool out before stacking or packing