Many cosmetic products like makeup, fragrances, and nail polishes are considered flammable. Owe it to the oils or paraffin and acids in their ingredients. While most of them are safe for the skin, we cannot say the same about their hazard when exposed to heat. Hearing about petroleum jelly, you may deduce that it is already flammable – because well, the word petroleum. Knowing that it is of this type, you may ask if Vaseline is flammable or not. If so, should you be cautious applying it to your skin and exposing yourself to heat?
Is Vaseline Flammable?
Vaseline, contrary to unfounded doubts, is a non-flammable cosmetic product. It is petroleum jelly, or petrolatum, that is made of a gooey mixture of wax and oils. In fact, Vaseline is a 100% petroleum jelly and is the original brand name of the product. Although it contains petroleum and paraffin, it has a different viscosity and a higher flashpoint than other cosmetic waxes and creams.
Chemistry plays a role in the non-flammability of Vaseline. It is made of a mix of long-chain hydrocarbons that needs a high temperature to burn. Its non-polar molecules remain stable under heat. Its jelly form is also necessary to overrule the flammability of petroleum. In liquid form, Vaseline will release flammable fumes into the air. These fumes are the things that support burning, but not the liquid Vaseline itself.
Simply saying, Vaseline jelly is designed for use and storage that will not ignite and spread a fire. It has a flashpoint of about 182 to 221°C, which is the minimum temperature that will release sufficient flammable vapor.
What Happens If You Light Vaseline on Fire?
Vaseline is a stable product that will not catch fire even if you hold it up to a flame under normal conditions. Lighting it on fire will simply melt the product and not even cause it to catch a spark. At extreme temperatures above its working condition, however, petroleum jelly will liquefy and boil. As it does, it will release flammable vapors into the air that will burn for a short while.
Interestingly, the plastic container that the Vaseline comes with may start a fire faster than the product inside it.
Why Is Vaseline Flammable With Cotton Balls?
For some reason, campers swore by the effectiveness of cotton balls saturated in Vaseline as a tinder. This must be what prompted most people to doubt that Vaseline is actually non-flammable. Vaseline and cotton balls, when combined, are similar to candle wax and a wick. The jelly turns into liquid and releases a gas that generates a controlled form of flame as it boils. It is not the cotton ball that renders the Vaseline flammable. Rather, it is the boiling gas that sustains the flame, while the Vaseline only prevents the cotton ball from burning over.
What Happens If You Leave Vaseline In The Sun?
Vaseline will not undergo much change even if you leave it in a hot car or under the sun. In a too hot environment, the jelly may melt. Vaseline will only give off flammable vapors at extremely high temperatures at more or less 450°F (221°C). Still, it is recommended to store it properly and away from direct heat. You would not want to encounter a gooey and messy wax if Vaseline leaks out from its container.
Is Burning Vaseline Bad For The Environment?
When Vaseline is involved in a massive fire, it will release flammable vapors and substances like carbon and nitrogen oxides. It may pose a potential global warming threat. But in small amounts, Vaseline fume is almost negligible and without ill effect on the environment.
Is It Safe To Heat Vaseline?
Vaseline is perfectly safe for heating for whatever purpose you may be using it for. Petroleum jelly is a non-polar substance that will only melt. It is not also susceptible to microwaves and will not pose a potential fire threat if you put it in the microwave oven.
But, heating Vaseline with its container is a different story. The plastic container may melt along with the product and could render it vulnerable to fire.
Is It Dangerous To Inhale Burning Vaseline Smoke?
Acrid fumes released from the Vaseline in extreme temperatures can cause lung irritation.
Is Vaseline explosive?
Vaseline, by nature, is a non-flammable and non-combustible substance. But, it is used as an ingredient in homemade explosive bombs mainly as a fuel source and plasticizer.
At what temperature will Vaseline melt?
The melting point of Vaseline is dependent on the mix of hydrocarbons in its particular batch. But, it may start to melt when exposed to a temperature around 40°C (105°F).
Is Vaseline flammable with oxygen?
Oxygen and petroleum jelly do pose a fire hazard when exposed to a naked flame. Oxygen can cause things to ignite faster. When combined with petroleum jelly as a fuel source, it can react to a heat source. If you are in oxygen therapy, it will be best to avoid using Vaseline and other petroleum-based wax. Open flame like a stove, other heat sources, and smoking should be at least 3 meters away to prevent fire accidents.
The non-flammability of Vaseline boils down to its chemistry. Although it contains flammable substances like petroleum, it is designed to remain stable under a certain temperature. When exposed to temperatures over its flashpoint, Vaseline may liquefy and boil. In this form, Vaseline releases fumes that are susceptible to fire and will burn until all of it is exhausted.
Read our Related Flammable Product Articles:
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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.