ROBBINSVILLE, NJ -- The Robbinsville Township Fire Department (RTFD) warned residents on Monday about the dangers of oily rags that can spontaneously combust and cause a fire.   

The RTFD said that they recently "responded to several fire incidents involving the improper disposal of oily rags used in the home during home projects or renovations. These incidents have caused serious property damage or without fire department intervention could have resulted in property loss."

Many do-it-yourself projects involve using products with high volatile organic compounds (VOCs) making them flammable, the RTFD said. Examples of these products are oil-based paints and stains, varnishes, polyurethane, paint thinners, etc. Oily rags have a long history of being a source of fire because of their ability to spontaneously combust (when improperly disposed) and catch fire after being soaked with these products.

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RTFD advised that oil or gas-soaked rags should be safely disposed of after hanging them outside to dry in a safe area or spread them out flat, making sure they are weighted down outdoors, but not in a pile.  When dried, oily rags should be disposed of either in a small, airtight, non-combustible (such as metal) container with a tight-fitting lid or emptied by a private contractor.

The rags should be completely covered with a solution of water and an oil breakdown detergent. Do not add any other combustible material as they can catch fire, they warned.

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