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How to Store Combustible Liquids

flammable liquids

A combustible liquid is one with a flash point of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with the flash point being the lowest temperature at which the vapors from a material will ignite. Liquids with a flash point of less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit are technically considered “flammable.” This post will cover both combustible and flammable liquids.

The National Fire Protection Agency sets forth rules in NFPA 30: Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code (“NFPA 30”) to reduce the hazards associated with the storage, handling, and use of combustible and flammable liquids . For an in-depth understanding of how to store combustible liquids, NFPA 30 provides detailed explanations and over 200 photographs. Below is a quick breakdown of tips to safely store your combustible materials at home. Always take caution when using and storing combustible and flammable liquids.

What liquids are considered flammable/combustible?

Nearly every building contains a liquid that is combustible or flammable. Common items that are flammable and should be handled with care include paints, polishes, solvents, cleaners, alcohols, acetone, adhesives, diesel fuel, motor oil, and gasoline. If any of these products are present in your home, especially in large quantities, take care to properly store them.

Storage Cabinets

If you have more than 10 gallons of a combustible or flammable liquids at your home, it should be kept in an approved storage cabinet. The NFPA sets standards for storage cabinets that contain flammable and combustible liquids in the NFPA 30 codebook, and there are many companies that manufacture and sell flammable storage cabinets specifically created to house these liquids.

Low, Sturdy Shelves

Do not store containers with combustible or flammable liquids in high places.  Storing these liquids up high increases the likelihood of liquids spilling onto someone or on the surfaces below and creating a fire hazard.

Instead, store them on lower shelves whenever possible. A good rule of thumb to make them easily accessible and decrease risk is to store flammable and combustible liquids no higher than shoulder height of the shortest person in the residence.

You should also ensure that shelves on which these liquids are stored are not overloaded as a broken shelf will spill the liquids become an immediate fire hazard.

Moderate temperature

Do not store these liquids in refrigerators, direct sunlight, or green houses. The extreme temperatures of these areas can cause negative reactions in the combustible liquids, resulting in a fire hazard.

Detached Room

It is preferable to store flammable liquids in a room that is detached from the main home. Having a detached storage area provides a buffer zone that reduces the threat of fire affecting the main structure.

Well-ventilated rooms

Vapors from combustible and flammable liquids can ignite fires and also cause health problems for people inhaling them, so a properly ventilated room is important to prevent these vapors from building up in one spot.

Characteristics of a good storage area for combustible and flammable liquids

Ideally, a storage area for combustible and flammable liquids should have the following:

  • Cool temperature and dry (not humid)
  • No ignition sources
  • Well-ventilated
  • Accessible by firefighters
  • Equipment to fight fires and materials to clean up spills nearby
  • Signage stating the presence of combustible and flammable liquids, as well as “No Smoking” signs
  • A location well removed from exits, exit paths, elevators and staircases
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