Restaurant Fires: 5 Tips for Handling Greasy Rags (to Prevent Spontaneous Combustion)

Rags and towels are handy for cleaning up cooking oil and grease residue at restaurants and bars. However, their usefulness can also make them a severe fire hazard.

Spontaneous combustion occurs when heat generated through rapid oxidation causes matter to inexplicably catch fire. As grease and oil become trapped within the fabric fibers, the chance of spontaneous combustion builds. A study by the Consumer Product Safety Commission found that even oil residue as low as 3 percent in fabrics can lead to ignition.

Fortunately, by getting the details right on proper handling and care of greasy rags, you can snuff this risk out. These tips will help make a difference:

  1. Use only commercial-grade appliances and detergents designed to clean greasy rags. Standard washers, dryers and detergents are not strong enough to remove the chemicals.
  2. Pre-soak towels to remove as much oil as possible before washing.
  3. Remove materials from dryer as soon as the cycle is done. Refrain from leaving them in the dryer for long periods of time.
  4. Store clean and dirty linens separately in metal cabinets or containers with closing lids.
  5. Consider contacting an outside vendor who specializes in laundering greasy fabrics.

For more on identifying and eliminating fire hazards in your restaurant, read our white paper. You’ll find tips on putting together a fire prevention plan and how proper duct cleaning can help safeguard your kitchen. Cover your restaurant from more industry risks like outdoor property and crime with our restaurant coverage, built with the help of real restaurant owners like you. Get in touch with your local independent agent to learn what Society can do for your business.

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