Oily or gas-soaked rags

A little known but common fire hazard: spontaneous combustion of oily or gas-soaked rags.

Oily rags have a long history of being a source of fire because many people are not aware that they have the ability to spontaneously combust and catch on fire.

Remodelling projects often involve the use of products with compounds that make them flammable. Examples of these products are oil-based paints and stains, varnishes, and polyurethane paint thinners.

How can a pile of rags sitting on your garage floor start a fire?

As oily rags begin to dry, heat is produced. If they’re thrown into a pile or folded, oxygen is trapped underneath. The combination of heat, oxygen, and the soiled cloth can lead to spontaneous combustion, which results in a fire that could destroy your home.

This is why it is important to properly dispose of oily or gas-soaked rags.

What to do

Hang them outside to dry in a safe area or spread them out flat, making sure they are weighted down if outdoors. Or, soak them in water in a metal container with a lid. As long as the lid is sealed, you can keep the rags in the container.


Once you're ready to dispose of them, take them to a disposal facility. Find out which facilities accept your product by using the What Goes Where tool:

What Goes Where (scroll down to the garbage pick-up schedule)


West Vancouver Fire & Rescue



Report a fire

Call 9-1-1 immediately to report a fire.

Indicate where the fire is located, provide a description of what is on fire, who is trapped or in danger, how the fire started and any additional details: odour, smoke, flames.