Are Essential Oils Flammable?
We use them, we love them, and if you are like me, can hardly live without them. They are the components in our perfumes, bathing soaps, and shampoos that give them fragrance. Essential oils are a part of our daily lives; if you take a deep breath right now, you may be inhaling one. Using them topically in a body product is only one of many methods of use. Many people ingest them in water and vegetable capsules as a supplement. Others dip a drop or two into a burning candle. In light of this recent trend, reports have been gathered concerning the dangers of unsupervised or careless usage of these oils. If you are a lover of essential oils, here is what you need to know about them.
Essential Oils are Volatile
When a substance is classified as volatile, it means it is flammable, dangerous and very unstable. Flammable substances are determined by their flash point value (the lowest temperature at which a substance can ignite when there is an ignition source in close proximity with it). Most volatile substances that are also flammable have a flash point of more than 60.5 degrees Celsius (140.9 Fahrenheit).
If you ever wondered whether all essential oils are flammable, the answer is yes! However, they have different flash points and are classified according to their varying degrees of flammability. Tea tree, lavender, and citrus oils all have a flash point of about 50 – 60 degrees Celsius and hence are flammable.
Are Diffused Essential Oils Flammable?
Should anyone worry about essential oils catching fire when diffused? Suppose you are re-creating the night of your first dinner date with the love of your life, is it a good idea to drop a few drops of lavender on a burning candle? Robert Tisserand, a leading expert in the field of essential oil study had this to say:
“Where there have been problems is with burner/vaporizers that use a naked flame candle – these have been known to “spontaneously” catch fire, and they are a fire hazard. When a naked flame comes into direct contact with concentrated essential oils and a very hot burner, sometimes with oily residues, this can be a risk. It is much better to use ones that operate without a naked flame. As for a spark from electrical equipment, this has never been known to ignite essential oil, and I can’t imagine a scenario where it would be a problem.”
Tips on How to Avoid Essential Oil Fires
- Although not all vaporized essential oils can ignite and catch fire, it is advisable not to use oils close to open fires such as a gas cooker stove.
- Never store essential oils close to open fires or the gas stove.
- Avoid heating essential oils over a naked flame candle to perfume a room. First, the heat changes the chemical composition of the oils, and there is always the possibility of the vapors igniting and catching fire. Instead, use a mist diffuser which is safer, convenient and simply disperses the scent particles into the air using water.