Fire Prevention - Spontaneous Combustion of Oily Rags

One of the common types of spontaneous combustion is caused by the improper disposal of oily rags such as those soaked with oil-based paint, varnishes, paint thinners, and polyurethane. Through a chemical process of oxidation, oily rags can self-heat to their ignition temperature and a fire is the result.

That fire can spread to your home or other nearby combustibles.

Because of the potential for a fire, the Vancouver Fire Department recommends that you treat oily rags as "hazardous household waste".

Do not put oily rags in a trash can or recycle bin. A smoldering fire in your trash can, in a garbage truck, at the waste disposal site or at the waste transfer station is a preventable emergency.

Please take the following steps for disposal:

  1. Place the rags in a metal container with a tight fitting lid. Other types of air tight containers can be used if you add water to reduce the amount of oxygen in the container.
  2. Dispose of the rags in designated areas at one of the three transfer stations in Clark County on most Fridays and weekends for FREE. Residents can drop of household hazardous waste at the following locations and times (business-generated hazardous waste will not be accepted at these sites):

    Central Transfer Center Station
    11034 N.E. 117th Ave.
    (360) 256-8482
    Friday, Saturday, and Sunday: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    West Van Recovery Center
    6601 N.W. Old Lower River Road
    (360) 737-1727
    Friday and Saturday: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    Washougal Transfer Station
    4020 S. Grant St
    (360) 835-2500
    Third Saturdays: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

NOTE: Unused fireworks are not considered household hazardous waste. These can be taken to a Vancouver Police east or west precinct during business hours for free disposal.