Cleaning Technology Updates
When an organic solvent or oil comes in direct contact with natural cotton or paper fibers the phenomena known as spontaneous combustion can occur. Spontaneous combustion is an oxidation reaction that needs no external ignition source to produce enough heat to cause burning.
Spontaneous combustion usually occurs when several saturated used cotton rags or paper towels are packed in an air-tight container that is stored in direct sunlight or a warm area.
The conditions that cause this phenomenon to occur are very unpredictable. Extreme caution must be taken in order to prevent a fire that could injure employees or destroy a facility.
Bio T products are organic in nature and are used to clean oils and greases. Therefore, used cotton rags or paper towels must be disposed of properly to prevent spontaneous combustion.
The following techniques can prevent spontaneous combustion of used cotton rags or towels:
Wetting: Spontaneous combustion can be avoided by wetting rags or towels with water. Water will absorb heat and prevent rags from igniting.
Cooling: Lowering the overall storage temperature of the used materials can control spontaneous combustion.
Drying: Open air drying of rags or towels will also effectively prevent spontaneous combustion through the process of evaporation of solvents. This does not include equipment drying.
BioChem Systems, Inc. recommends putting used rags or towels into an OSHA approved container while misting the rags with water. Each time a new layer of rags is placed in the container they should be re-wetted.
After wetting the rags or towels the containers should be stored in a cool, temperature controlled area away from direct sunlight.
A combination of wetting the used rags or towels and controlling the environment they are stored in will prevent any type of spontaneous combustion from occurring.
The methods above apply to storage of rags or towels prior to having them disposed of by a licensed waste hauler as a non-hazardous solid waste.