Is Paint Flammable? Practice Caution When Handling These Paint Products

Painting is a useful tool in art and construction. You’ll find various types of paint depending on price, quality, finish, and purpose. In office and school supply stores, you’ll find washable water-based paints for students and painting beginners. And in hardware stores, you can find high-grade paints and spray cans.

But don’t let the colors fool you. Despite their bright and vibrant hues, paints are solvents that can either be toxic, combustible, or flammable. When dealing with these types of paint, practice caution as these paints can be flammable.

Is Paint Flammable?

Different types of paint have different ingredients, so it depends mostly on what it’s made of. For paints that are flammable, it’s usually because of the solvent used in the paint. Paint solvents are used to dissolve the different ingredients that give paint its color, texture, and consistency.

When flammable paint is still in its original container, there are solvents present in it. However, once it’s been applied to a surface and dried, the solvent evaporates. That scent you can smell when you’re painting a room is the scent of solvent evaporating. In a room with good ventilation, this can be dizzying but not lethal. But if you’re painting a windowless room, the door’s closed, and you’re there for several hours, it could be toxic and damage your respiratory health in the long run.

Water-based solvents are not flammable, while oil-based solvents and aerosol paints are flammable. That’s not to say that water-based paints are completely safe. Aerosol paints are flammable because of the pressurized propellants inside the can needed for the can to work and to make spray paint give its uniform coating properties.

Latex paint
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Is Oil-Based Paint Flammable?

Oil-based paints are flammable because its solvents are made of flammable oil components. Today, most painters and construction companies use latex paint as it’s a good alternative to oil-based paint. However, some still choose to use oil-based paints, though it’s nearly being phased out in favor of latex paint.

One of the reasons for its decline in popularity is the restrictions against it. Many states have regulations on using and disposing of oil-based paint. Oil-based paints continue to give off gasses of volatile organic compounds.

For example, it was illegal to throw oil-based paint down drains and toilets as these could be a flammable hazard in water treatment centers. Paint thinners were required to clean spills, and brushes that had traces of oil-based paint had to be disposed carefully. And even the paint thinners, whether or not the container was empty, had to be disposed carefully at special locations so as not to risk catching fire surrounded by other garbage.

If you’ve lived in a house or property that hasn’t been painted since 2005 or older, it’s highly likely that the walls are using oil-based paint. And given that regulations are becoming more strict, it’s highly likely that it will soon phase out.

However, while it’s still in the market and other countries still have no regulations on oil-based paint, many painters may still choose to use it. Oil paintings on canvas or walls are generally harmless especially when dried completely and handled with care.

Is Acrylic Paint Flammable?

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

Acrylic paint is water-based, making it non-flammable. This means it uses water to act as an emulsifier for acrylic polymer, which means it does not contain flammable oils.

When used for typical painting surfaces, acrylic paint is non-toxic. How long it takes acrylic paint to dry depends on the amount used and the paint’s formula, but it should not take more than 24 hours to completely dry. While its solvent is water, it’s still recommended you paint in a well-ventilated room because of its other components.

Water-based acrylic paint also means that you can wash paint away with soap and water from your body without the need for toxic cleaning chemicals like paint thinner. However, this is only advisable in case you accidentally get acrylic paint on your body. Do not try to use acrylic paint as body paint or face paint. Do not try to ingest acrylic paint as this can be toxic due to ingredients like ammonia and formaldehyde.

Is Latex Paint Flammable?

Latex paint is non-flammable. Both latex paint and acrylic paint are made with acrylic polymers and water-based solvents. The only difference between the two is the type of binders used for the polymer microparticles.

Latex paint is also known as house paint, the alternative to oil-based paints for painting the indoor and outdoor walls of a building. Like acrylic paint, latex paint is not toxic on the skin and can be easily washed, but it shouldn’t be ingested or used as face or body paint.

Latex paint was invented in the ’40s in Canada after resin from a rubber tree was used as a binder.  While modern-day latex paint now uses synthetic resins, the name still applies because the properties are still the same. Latex paint became a popular replacement for oil-based paint because it is flexible and can expand or contract depending on the temperature, preventing cracking. It is also porous and can allow moisture to escape, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to wait for your surface primer to dry out before applying a layer of paint.

Is Spray Paint Flammable?

Spray paint
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Spray paint (or aerosol paint) is flammable. This is because it contains propane and butane gasses used as a propellant. Spray paint cans contain a mixture of propellant and paint. The inside of the can is highly pressurized. The propellant serves two purposes.

First, it pushes the paint out of the can. Whenever the valve of the spray can is pressed, it releases the pressure inside the can. The drastic pressure change causes the propellant at the top of the can to push the paint down to the bottom of the can. Because the valve is opened and connected to a dip tube that reaches down to the bottom of the can, the paint being pushed downwards makes its way into the dip tube, up to the valve, and out of the nozzle. The paint that is released has some amount of propellant with it.

Second, the propellant that is released with the paint forms a uniform mist. Propellants are all positively-charged particles, so they repel each other. The longer it stays as a mist, the farther they repel each other. The repelling is uniform, so when it finally reaches a surface, the resulting paint is that smooth and uniform finish that’s popular for spray paint art. If you’re using spray paint on canvas, the farther the nozzle is from the surface, the bigger the scope of the spray paint is.

Because of the propellant and pressurized contents of a spray can, you should never try to puncture the can.

Is Paint Thinner Flammable?

It is not flammable, but it is combustible. Paint thinner is used to dissolve the paint and make it easier to remove paint. It is a mixture of volatile organic chemicals with low flammability and low combustibility, though some manufacturers can have varying formulas for their paint thinners.

Paint thinners have petroleum in them, making them combustible rather than flammable. This means that paint thinners won’t catch fire or explode simply because it’s come into contact with a small spark. For it to burn or explode, it hypothetically needs to come into contact with a high-temperature flame.

Because of its composition, it’s highly recommended that you open and use paint thinners in well-ventilated rooms. Its vapors can be toxic. A large amount of paint thinner liquid can also be a fire hazard in a construction setting.

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