a cup of a laundry detergent

Is Laundry Detergent Flammable? (All You Need to Know)

In Cleaning Products, Home Tips by Jamie

It is a long-known fact that gas is combustible and can cause a fire. But, did you know that in every home, some common ingredients and materials are also unknowingly flammable? There are a lot of things you would not expect to catch fire, like flour, starch, orange peels, and even ping-pong balls. It may set you to wonder, is laundry detergent flammable?

Laundry detergents are not necessarily flammable, but these products can burn when put on fire. Even powdered detergents are not at risk of catching fire unless they are dispersed near a source of ignition. But for the detergent powder to catch fire, the heat requirement needed is much higher for it to combust.

Single-use detergent pods may be more flammable than liquid and powder detergents. It is due to the ingredients added to them.

Is Liquid Laundry Detergent Flammable?

Generally, laundry detergents are not labeled flammable. Thus, they will not set fire even if you put them near a source of heat. However, when dispersed near the fire, some specks of dust in detergent powder can create a spark. But it is often insufficient to sustain the burning.

Is Laundry Powder Flammable?

Is Laundry Powder Flammable?

The chemical composition of powder laundry detergent is slightly different than liquid detergent. That’s because powder detergent contains fillers like sodium sulfate to create a free-flowing powder. A liquid detergent may contain ethyl alcohol or isopropanol. These substances are added to liquid detergent to act as a solvent to its other ingredients.

Is laundry detergent flammable in powder form? Generally, powder detergents are also not auto-flammable and non-explosive. In fact, some detergent powders may not burn at all except for their packaging. But its combustibility still depends on its ingredient and concentration.

Other powder detergents do support combustion at some point. Detergents and soaps are derived from fatty acids or triglycerides. Other synthetic detergents may have tetra-propylene that can make the product burn in fire.

Are Tide PODS Flammable?

PODS is a trademarked product of Tide, which is a single-use detergent in colorful candy-like packaging. Detergent pods like Tide are notorious for their toxicity and labeled as a health threat by the CDC. Thus, it needs to be stored properly and away from the reach of children.

Tide PODS’ safety data sheet does not have information available on its flammability. However, it indicates that the product should be kept away from open flames, hot surfaces, and other sources of ignition. You should also not use Tide PODS while smoking.

When putting its fire out, a solid water stream is not advisable on Tide PODS as it can scatter and spread the fire. Its fumes are also susceptible to catching fire.

But why is laundry detergent flammable in a pod or single-pack form? It is mainly due to its ingredients like polyvinyl alcohol and flammable surfactants. Basically, a Tide POD contains stain remover, brightener, and color protector along with the detergent. These concentrated components render the Tide POD flammable and toxic when ingested.

RELATED: Are Dryer Sheets Flammable? 

What Happens if You Light Laundry Detergent on Fire?

Laundry detergents are made of different ingredients and may react differently to fire. Although some of them may burn, others may not support combustion. As a non-flammable product, laundry detergents will not catch fire even when put near the ignition.

Burning any products, however, will release harmful fumes into the air. The smoke may cause irritations to humans when inhaled.

Why Doesn’t Laundry Detergent Catch on Fire?

Detergents are made of surfactants that are non-flammable, but they can oxidize or burn. It means that they need a very high temperature to ignite a fire. In our household, that high temperature is not often possible.

Flammable materials have a flashpoint range of less than 100°F. Flashpoint is the minimum temperature for any substance or material to ignite a fire. The lower the flashpoint, the higher the flammability of the product. But higher flash point also means that the product is combustible.

To clear the common confusion, flammable and combustible are different things. Flammability is the ability to catch fire. Combustibility, on the other hand, is the product’s ability to burn in temperatures that are above their working conditions.

Most laundry detergents have flash points ranging from 135°F up to 200°F. Thus, they may support combustion only at or above their flashpoints. Other laundry detergents rarely sustain combustion at all.

Is the Laundry Detergent Container Flammable?

The plastic container that laundry detergent comes with is not flammable. Individual pods, however, come in polyvinyl alcohol that will easily catch fire when exposed to a flame.

Will a Laundry Detergent Container Explode if Heated?

Detergent containers are not meant to burst if it contains detergent alone. When something else is added into the container it can react with the content when heat is applied. To prevent such mishaps from happening, avoid experimenting with your laundry detergents.

Will Laundry Detergent Explode if Left in the Sun?

When left in the sun or a hot car, laundry detergents are safe from explosion. They are still good for use and they will remain stable even in high temperatures.

Is it Safe to Heat Laundry Detergent?

During the cold weather, liquid laundry detergents may become gooey or freeze over entirely.

At a sudden temperature change, liquid laundry detergent in containers may explode. Also, some of the substances in the detergent are not meant to be heated. When heated, such substances will vaporize and irritate the throat when inhaled.

To safely thaw frozen liquid detergent, simply put it in a warm place for a while. It may take some time for the liquid to thaw completely, but it will. Alternatively, you can use pods and powders as these laundry detergent forms never freeze. Pods have little water in them, and all their contents don’t allow the pod to freeze over.

Is Burning Laundry Detergent Bad for the Environment?

Burning anything is bad for the environment as it releases harmful fumes into the atmosphere. The biggest environmental concern for laundry detergents is their synthetic surfactants that risk polluting the water.

Is it Dangerous to Inhale Burning Laundry Detergent Smoke?

Inhaling fumes from soap and detergent products can be dangerous to health. Its synthetic fragrances are toxic when burned and inhaled. It may cause difficulty breathing, headaches, flu-like symptoms, shortness of breath, or even death. Frequent exposure to laundry detergent fumes may even cause cancer.

How to Put Out Burning Laundry Detergent?

In all forms – liquid, powder, or pods – you can use many appropriate fire extinguishing materials for them. It includes carbon dioxide, appropriate foam, dry chemicals, or water spray. The exclusion is the solid water stream for the PODS as stipulated in the Tide Pods product safety.

Final Thoughts

Flammable things are those that can catch fire by themselves. It is determined by the flashpoint of the laundry product. Laundry detergents have a high flash point and are not considered flammable although, they may be combustible. Thus, they will burn in fire for a while but will not necessarily start a fire.

Still, laundry detergents are harmful when ingested. Flammable or not, they should be stored properly to avoid potential hazards, especially in children.

About the Author

Jamie

Jamie is the Founder of My Home Dwelling. He is a homeowner and enjoys sharing his homeowner tips with others. He has real estate experience working as a new home construction Realtor. Jamie has worked on numerous residential construction sites helping with interior and exterior renovations. He loves refinishing furniture, DIY home projects, and sharing his knowledge online.