Is Spray Paint Flammable? What’s the science behind it?


Last updated: August 31, 2023

Spray Paint Contains Butane and Propane – Highly Toxic Gas Propellants

Is spray paint flammable?

If you’ve done some DIY paint projects before, you know that a smooth finish is necessary to complete the job, and great finishes require spray paint. Yet, like every task involving chemicals and industrial substances, the question you’d probably ask is, is spray paint flammable? What is the flammability of spray paints? 

In this guide, we discuss everything about the flammability of spray paint. Our text covers the definition of flammable spray paint,  different flammable spray paint types, the conditions in which spray paint can be flammable, and safety precautions when handling spray paint. Keep reading.

Is Spray Paint Flammable?

Yes. Spray paint is generally an oil paint and contains butane and propane, the most toxic gas propellants. These propellants are pressurized inside the aerosol can and, when released during spray painting, are highly toxic and flammable. Fortunately, the flammability of spray paint only occurs when the paint is wet. Once it dries, it cannot ignite.

What is the Meaning of Flammable?

Flammability is the probability of a chemical or substance blowing up when exposed to heat. Usually, the flammability of such materials depends on their chemical composition. 

With spray paint, the low flashpoint makes it easy to ignite at reasonably low temperatures. Flashpoint is the maximum temperature level that causes a substance to burn when exposed to heat. 

The maximum flashpoint for flammable spray paint is usually 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37,8 degrees Celsius) and 200 degrees Fahrenheit (37,8 to 93,3 degrees Celsius) for combustible paint. 

Gas, paper, rubber, and specific types of paint are a few examples of flammable paint materials. Examples of combustible materials include aluminum coal, and iron. 

These materials generally have high flashpoints, meaning they can only ignite under higher working temperatures.

Are Flammable and Combustible the Same Thing?

Flammable and combustible are sometimes confused to mean the same thing, but they are not. So what’s the difference between flammable and combustible? 

Having explained what flammable is, you need to understand what combustible means so you differentiate the two. This will help you determine if the paint you’re using is flammable, combustible, or both. 

But as we have hinted above, flammable and combustible are two different things with different flashpoints. A subtle explanation of these two substances is as follows:

  1. Flammable paint materials have a high ignition rate, meaning they can burn quickly at standard working temperatures. Flammable liquids typically have a low flashpoint below 60 degrees.

  2. Combustible liquids have high flashpoint levels above 60 degrees, making them less volatile and not easily ignited.  

Is Spray Paint Flammable?

Paints are manufactured using different ingredients, and some of them require solvents to enable the ingredients to dissolve. 

Oil based paints and solvent-based spray paints typically provide a good texture and color but are the most highly flammable materials. Examples of such paints include alkyd, acrylic enamel paint, and lacquer.

On the other hand, water based paints are not flammable, and these include the likes of latex and acrylic paints, or a mixture of acrylic-latex paint. Some oil and water based paints may contain dangerous pigments that require you to handle them more carefully. 

Is Water-Based Spray Paint Flammable?

Water based paints are some of the most common types used in commercial and domestic projects. They can be used in construction sites, home DIY projects, and even individual hobbies like art. 

The most significant advantage of a water based paint like the acrylic enamel paint is that they are environmentally friendly, emit low fumes, dry faster, and are durable. 

Yet the question remains: is water based paint flammable? As the name implies, the binding formula of such paints is nothing but water, and water is naturally not flammable. 

You should only worry about the metallic pigments like mercury and silver in these paints, which may be toxic and hazardous.

In addition, some water based paints may contain ammonia or formaldehyde, a hazardous substance that’s easily ignited. But generally, water based paints are not flammable.

Is Oil Based Spray Paints Flammable?

Oil-based paints have the advantage of texture, maximum surface protection against the elements, and durability. The only downside is their strong odor, requiring you to wear protective gear like the reusable respirator mask when using them. 

When using oil-based paints, ensure your workspace has sufficient ventilation since these paints take longer to dry and are not easy to clean up. But are oil-based spray paints flammable? 

The main components of oil-based paints are oil, resin, binder, and pigment. The binder is similar to paint thinner, a highly flammable substance.

However, the paint film in oil-based spray paints becomes non-flammable when the binder solvent evaporates. Remember, some acrylic paints are oil-based and can ignite if handled without care.

Is Rust-Oleum Spray Paint Flammable?

The straight answer is yes. Rust-Oleum spray paint is flammable, and this type of spray paint is mainly used on grills, cars, ovens, and other metal surfaces. 

It contains an extremely flammable solvent which requires it to be handled carefully. Any proximity or exposure to highly combustible substances can ignite an explosion. 

Furthermore, if the paint container is pressurized, it can explode at high temperatures.

Is Krylon Spray Paint Flammable?

Like oil-based paints, Krylon is an example of spray paint that’s very flammable. Krylon contains high pressure that may include flammable gas substances. The pressure increases when used close to a high heat source or fire. The result can be a catastrophic explosion. 

Why is Spray Paint Flammable?

Spray paints become flammable due to the Volatile Organic Compounds and ingredients they’re made of. These volatile substances or solvents can easily ignite a fire and cause an explosion. A good example is propane glasses and butane.

To fully understand why spray paint is flammable, you must first understand what they’re made of. Spray paints are typically formulated with different ingredients. 

Most of these ingredients include propellants, solvents, and pigments. Solvents make up all the ingredients in spray paints and help determine the product’s ability to disperse effectively.  

Some paints contain Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs. Further, these VOCs, also known as spray paint perfumes, consist of different chemicals responsible for igniting a fire. 

Understanding different solvents are vital to knowing their side effects, especially if you use them frequently. This will help you understand what’s flammable and hazardous to your health

Besides butane and propane gasses, which make spray colorant flammable other highly flammable solvents include acetone, methyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, varnishes, methanol, and toluene.

These solvents are higher in oil-based paints than in other types of spray paints.

Is Spray Paint Fumes Flammable When Dry?

Can Spray Paint catch fire once dry?’ is a question we get asked often. The answer is that every spray paint is safe and non-hazardous after drying. Before spray paint dries, it’s highly flammable. 

However, once it’s dry, it’s only combustible and not easily ignited. Always remember that when the paint is still in its container, it contains a high concentration of solvents, making it highly flammable. 

Once the spray paint is applied and dried completely, the solvents evaporate, making it less hazardous. In short, spray paints, when dry, are combustible, not flammable. 

How Long Are Spray Paint Fumes Flammable?

The flammable liquid in spray paint cannot catch fire. What causes fire is the mixture of paint fumes and present air. So while spray paint fumes can easily cause an explosion, the question is, how long does it last?

Typically, spray paint fumes can take 2-3 days to clear. That means you’ll need to wait at least two days for your newly painted room to retain its natural smell. Still, this depends on a few factors, including:

  • The size of the room

  • The type of paint used

  • Amount of ventilation available

To avoid spray paint fumes becoming flammable, you should follow certain safety precautions. Ensure you read the safety guidelines and warnings attached to the label on the paint container. 

Be sure to understand which product contains combustible substances, and avoid using heat or fire substances when spray painting your home. 

Finally, all flammable paints should be kept in a cool, dry place where they cannot be damaged.

What Happens If You Burn Spray Paint?

Nothing serious apart from a small fire that is likely to ignite. Typically, most artists apply this method of burning spray paint to create a good texture and maintain a contemporary look. 

The heat ignited using this method also helps accelerate the drying process. While burning paint during DIY projects is useful, especially to artists, it can be dangerous if the paint catches fire. 

The small amount of fire may erupt into a fire trail which can then explode. 

What are the Health Risks of Spray paint?

As we have learned, spray paint flammability is caused by toxic solvents, pressurized metal containers, and fumes. These solvents or chemical compounds can cause adverse health effects besides being able to generate a fire. 

Each brand may modify the ingredients contained in their spray paints, but overall, the most toxic chemicals found in most paints include:

  • Acetone

  • n-Butyl Acetate

  • Carbon Black

  • Ethylbenzene

  • Magnesium Silicate

  • Liquefied Petroleum Gas

  • Xylene

  • Methyl Ethyl Ketone

  • Liquefied Petroleum Gas

  • Propylene Glycol Monobutyl Ether

You may develop several health effects when exposed to these VOCs for prolonged periods. These health effects may be long or short-term. 

Short-term effects include irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat compounded by headaches, loss of balance, nausea, and dizziness. 

On the other hand, long-term health problems associated with inhaling spray paint include damage to vital internal organs like the heart, kidney, liver, and central nervous system. 

Some compounds are also suspected of causing cancer. Primary symptoms to watch for when exposed to VOCs fumes include:

  • Allergic skin reaction

  • Declines in serum cholinesterase levels,

  • Conjunctival irritation

  • dizziness

  • Dyspnea

  • Emesis

  • Epistaxis

  • Fatigue

  • Headache

  • Nausea

  • Nose and throat discomfort  

Safety Tips When Using Spray Paint

If you use oil-based spray paints that are highly flammable, the residue may contain small amounts of paint pigments, which may be dangerous.  

To ensure safety, you must carefully dispose of the spray paint and the metal can. But first, try the following tips to ensure the can is empty: 

  • Protect the ground: Place some cartons or newspaper sheets on the ground beneath where you intend to work. This way, you’ll shield the ground and grass from being damaged by straying paint. Later, you can dispose of the newspaper sheets or cartons without damaging the ground.

  • Examine if the can contains any spray paint: Confirm if the spray can is empty or contain significant paint residues. To do this, place the spray nozzle on the newspaper sheets or cartons and open it. 

If no noise is registered when doing this and no paint is coming out, then the can is empty. You can spray the paint on the papers placed on the ground until the can is empty. 

Best Non-flammable Spray Paint

Working with fire-resistant paint is one way to ensure safety when dealing with spray paint. Fire retardant paints can be used in both large and small-scale DIY projects but not on things like BBQs and exhaust pipes. 

Below are two examples of the best non-flammable spray paints.

DRI-ONE Fire Retardant Spray: This water based paint is one of the best non-flammable spray paints with fire retarding capabilities. DRI-ONE Fire Retardant Spray has a good texture, is clear, and contains no sticky formula making it a favorite with artists and passionate DIYers. 

Rust-Oleum 241169 High Heat Ultra Enamel Spray: This is the ultimate spray paint for those looking for non-flammable paint products for use on metal surfaces. The rust-oleum spray paint is capable of protecting metal surfaces over 1200°F. However, it shouldn’t be used on surfaces where it can be exposed to flames. 

FAQs – Is Spray Paint Flammable?

Can spray paint spontaneously combust?

Yes, spray paints can spontaneously combust. However, this can be prevented with proper storage. The main reason why this occurs is due to the solvents discussed above, which pose the risk of combustion if the fumes escape a (pressurized) can to a hot environment, resulting in the ignition.

At what temperature does spray paint ignite?

Spray paint can ignite at 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 37,8 degrees Celsius, this is the maximum flashpoint for flammable spray paint – flashpoint is the highest temperature that can cause a substance to ignite. However, combustible spray paint can ignite around 100 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, equivalent to 37,8 to 93,3 degrees Celsius.

Why should you store spray paints in flammable cabinets?

Most spray paints are packaged in aerosol cans, which are not only versatile but light and easy to use. However, aerosol cans are known to be hazardous since the product, and the solvents are highly flammable. That’s why it’s recommended that you store your spray paint in flammable safety cabinets to safeguard them from fire.

Why Is Spray Paint Flammable?

The main reason why spray paints are highly flammable is the high concentration of aerosols and vapors in the paint which are highly flammable. These flammable substances can easily ignite under high temperatures during spraying sessions. Ignition sources include poor ventilation systems, open flames, and electrical equipment. 

Is Dried Acrylic Enamel Paint Flammable?

Yes. Dried Acrylic paint is flammable. Although the water based acrylic enamel paints are not flammable, once they dry, they gain a slight flammable rating of 1, meaning they have a slight flammability score.

Is Dried Acrylic Paint Flammable?

Yes. At high temperatures, dried acrylic paints are highly combustible and flammable when put close to an open flame or fireplace.

Can spray paint catch fire after drying?

Spray paint is less toxic once it dries; however, it remains flammable if there remain toxic fumes in the air. That’s why it’s recommended that you do spray painting tasks outdoors or in a well-ventilated area and exercise utmost caution.

Summary – Is Spray Paint Flammable?

Spray paint is a vital tool when doing DIY projects.  However, working with it can be frustrating if you don’t understand how flammable it is and what ingredients it’s made of. 

Fortunately, this article can help you determine which spray paints are highly flammable and which ones are not. Yet safety precautions should always be addressed when carrying out paint tasks as this helps minimize or mitigate the risks associated with the paint’s flammability. 

There are many health risks, as there is a risk of a fire or explosion. So if you need to become more familiar with how spray paints work or the safety precautions you need to take, it’s best to work with nonflammable paints or have the job done by professional painters. 

Regardless of which project you’re working on, having professionals do the job can save you time, energy, and possible health risks.

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