Devon And Somerset Fire And Rescue Service Logo
Commercial Services
Saves Lives slogan on appliance
Press Release - Towel fires lead to safety warning
Posted on 02/08/2011

Fire & Rescue Services in the south west are issuing warnings about the risk of fire breaking out in towels and linen that have absorbed essential oils.

In Wiltshire, a number of recent incidents in launderettes, salons and homes have been traced back to the same issue.

Group Manager Julian Parsons, from the Technical Fire Safety department of Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service, explained: “We’ve seen fires in tumble dryers, linen baskets and airing cupboards where towels that have had oil on them have caught alight. The problem only seems to arise when the wash cycle has been at a cool heat. It is now common to have washes at lower temperatures - sometimes as low as 15°C.  When the wash has been at 40°C or above, the oil residue is more likely to be safely broken down by the washing detergents.”

He added: “At lower temperatures, the oil isn’t removed from the fabric. When the material is then heated in the tumble dryer, the residue can self-combust either in the dryer or when the linen is stacked.”

A beauty therapy room at Swindon College was badly damaged in April after a blaze broke out in a pile of towels, and fire investigators have now identified at least half a dozen other incidents that appear to have been caused in the same way.

Group Manager Parsons said: “Our message is simple – if you use essential oils at home or in your business, make sure you use a wash temperature of at least 40°C to clean the affected towels and linen. It is hard to believe that fire can just break out in a pile of fabric, but we have seen a great deal of damage caused by this type of blaze.”

Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service is now liaising with other Fire & Rescue Services  across the country to ensure this safety message is spread as widely as possible.

Useful and informative article? Please share it!

Mindful EmployerStonewall LogoAchieving - Fire & Rescue Service Equality Framework Firemark LogoBQF Member Logo An image of the disability confident committed logo