Lots of things that we keep in our homes can turn out to be surprising fire hazards. Steel wool is actually flammable, and many types of cooking oils are responsible for all sorts of kitchen and house fires. Some chemicals that we rely on in everyday life can be flammable too, but not all of them are…
But knowing which ones might help you prevent a disaster! Let’s look at laundry detergent. Is laundry detergent flammable?
No, laundry detergent is not flammable in either liquid or powder form. Powder laundry detergent might catch fire if exposed to extreme heat, but it isn’t considered a significant fire hazard.
That was definitely worth looking into, because who knows what sorts of chemicals are in laundry detergent these days!
Even though detergent isn’t flammable and not considered a major fire hazard there are still situations where it could potentially ignite.
It’s worth knowing about, just in case, so keep reading and I’ll tell you what you need to know…
Is Laundry Detergent Combustible?
Laundry detergent is not considered combustible. In scientific terms, the difference between something being flammable and combustible lies primarily in the substance’s flash point.
The flashpoint is the temperature at which a substance starts to emit vapors which will ignite.
Flammable substances will, typically, easily ignite at or near room temperature, making them far more likely to catch fire and burn.
Combustible substances, on the other hand, have a flash point significantly well room temp, meaning they require much higher temperatures to ignite overall and are less likely to do so accordingly.
Note that different agencies and organizations have different standards for both!
Laundry detergent, whether liquid or powder, doesn’t fall into either of these categories making it safe to store and use in typical household conditions.
Does Laundry Detergent Ignite at Any Temperature?
Yes, it can. While laundry detergent is not combustible or flammable under normal circumstances, it can potentially ignite when exposed to extreme heat.
The specific ignition temperature for laundry detergent, however, is not universally defined.
Powdered laundry detergent, due to its particulate nature, can theoretically ignite under high temperatures since it’s dry, and its smaller particles are more prone to catch fire.
But, the likelihood of such an event in a home setting is extremely low unless a fire is already raging, given the extreme temperatures required.
Does Laundry Detergent React with High Temperature?
Yes, it does. Laundry detergent can react when exposed to high sustained heat.
The chemical composition of detergents includes alkalis, soluble salts, and various enzymes such as lipases and proteases.
When subjected to high temperatures, these may undergo chemical breakdown.
For instance, the cleaning power of detergents can diminish as the heat causes the alkalis and enzymes to degrade far more rapidly than they would under normal conditions.
However, some detergents may exhibit increased thermostability, meaning they maintain stability even at higher temperatures.
However, it’s crucial to note that the reaction of laundry detergent to heat doesn’t render it combustible or flammable (except as climbing temperatures get it closer and closer to ignition in any case) but could affect its cleaning efficacy.
Is Powder Laundry Detergent Flammable?
No. While powdered detergent is not technically classified as flammable, it may ignite more readily than its liquid counterpart under specific conditions.
The particulate nature of powdered detergent can, in theory, allow it to ignite at high temperatures and do so more easily than liquid detergent as a rule, but this is still unlikely.
In all cases, the ignition point for powdered laundry detergent is is usually far above normal environmental or usage conditions.
Nonetheless, you’ll want to store powdered laundry detergent in a cool, dry place away from any substantial potential heat sources to minimize any risk.
Note that a warm laundry room won’t bother it at all!
Is Liquid Laundry Detergent Flammable?
No. Liquid laundry detergent isn’t classified as flammable.
And while it’s conceivable that under extreme heat or intense, sustained flame it might ignite, this scenario is going to be extremely difficult to achieve in your own home outside of a major fire already; the ignition point for liquid detergents as a class is far beyond anything in your home.
Unless there’s an already existing, intense fire in close proximity, the chances of your liquid laundry detergent catching fire are basically zero.
Will Laundry Detergent Make a Fire Worse?
No, not really, even in the case of powdered detergent. A common concern is whether laundry detergent, particularly the powdered variety, could exacerbate a fire if one were to occur.
The answer is a reassuring one, for once: laundry detergent of any kind is not likely to appreciably intensify a fire.
Even in the unlikely event of the detergent catching fire, it will not contribute significantly to the overall severity of the blaze.
This is due to the chemical composition of the detergent, which doesn’t contain highly combustible elements.
Is Laundry Detergent Reactive with Other Substances?
Possibly. While laundry detergents are formulated to interact with stains and dirt on clothing while leaving dyes and fabrics unharmed, they do not show high reactivity with most other substances typically found in and around your home.
The primary components of laundry detergent are designed to neutralize acids and break down organic materials in the washing process but they shouldn’t react in a hazardous way with common household chemicals or any other things they might be spilled on or encounter in a wash cycle.
That said, it’s always advisable to avoid mixing different types of cleaning products, as certain combinations can produce unwanted effects.
For instance, bleach and ammonia, when mixed, can create toxic gases and such an interaction is hardly out of the question depending on the type of laundry products you use.
Overall, both liquid and powder laundry detergents are generally safe and non-reactive, and certainly won’t create an enhanced fire risk.
How Should You Deal with Laundry Detergent Exposed to Fire?
In the event of a fire involving laundry detergent, standard firefighting measures should be plenty effective.
As laundry detergent is not highly combustible or flammable, it can be extinguished using common methods such as flooding or spraying with water or using a standard fire extinguisher.
Nonetheless, you should always prioritize personal safety and call emergency services if a fire escalates beyond manageable levels or if you have any doubts about your ability to control it.
Always ensure that your home is well-equipped with functional and maintained fire extinguishers and that all of your family members are knowledgeable in their use in case of a fire.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.