Is Wood Stain Flammable? (All You Need to Know)

Wood stain is one of the best ways to color and protect wooden fixtures, but could you be creating a fire hazard by using it incorrectly? You may not realize it but certain types of wood stain can be very flammable and if you don’t store and apply them in the right way, you are putting yourself in danger. This guide will tell you everything you need to know so you can use wood stains safely and avoid fires.

Is Oil-Based Wood Stain Flammable?

Yes, oil-based wood stains are incredibly flammable. Most wood stains contain ingredients like linseed oil and petroleum distillates, and the varnish often contains a substance called benzene. All of these ingredients are incredibly flammable and will easily catch fire. 

The exact flammability of oil-based wood stain varies because each product has a different formulation. However, they all have a low flash point. The flash point is the temperature at which a substance will catch on fire when exposed to a spark or flame. Paintmaster Oil Based Wood Stain, for example, has a flash point below 23 degrees Celsius. This is much lower than the threshold to be considered flammable (93 degrees Celsius), so it will catch fire at room temperature without any trouble.

Is Water-Based Wood Stain Flammable?

Water-based wood stain is not considered flammable and is much safer than oil-based products. It does not contain the same oils, so it is far less likely to set on fire. This is one of the reasons that water-based products are becoming more popular, especially as the formulations improve and they can offer the same level of protection as an oil-based stain. 

Will Wood Stain Catch on Fire when Exposed to a Flame?

Yes, oil-based wood stain will instantly set alight when exposed to a flame and it will burn very quickly. Water-based stain, on the other hand, is less flammable. That doesn’t mean that it won’t burn, but it needs prolonged exposure to a large flame before it will set alight.

Can Wood Stain Catch on Fire from a Spark?

Yes, oil-based wood stains can catch on fire from a spark. The flash point is less than 23 degrees Celsius, so it is already primed to set on fire at room temperature. A small spark will be enough to set it ablaze.

Water-based stains, on the other hand, are very unlikely to catch on fire from a spark. It needs to be heated up a lot before it is ready to ignite and, under normal conditions, it will never reach those high temperatures.

Can Wood Stain Catch Fire from High Temperatures?

Oil-based wood stain often contains linseed oil, which has an auto ignition temperature of 343 degrees Celsius. If it reaches this temperature, it will ignite without a flame or spark. It may seem impossible for it to reach that temperature, but it is technically possible under certain circumstances. If the stain starts to oxidate, it generates heat. So, if stain is stored somewhere very hot and it comes into contact with oxygen, heat can build up over time and cause spontaneous combustion.

If I Leave Wood Stain in the Sun Can it Catch on Fire?

Leaving wood stain out in the sun isn’t a great idea because it won’t do it any good. However, it is unlikely that it will catch on fire. Although it will increase the temperature and vapors can build up, it will not make it hot enough to spontaneously combust.

What is the Flash Point of Wood Stain?

There is no simple answer here because every stain has a slightly different formulation. To give an idea of the flash point of wood stain, I have gathered information on the flash points of a few different products: 


  • Ronseal 10 Year Wood Stain – 93.3 degrees Celsius
  • Paintmaster Oil Based Wood Stain – 23 degrees Celsius
  • ZAR Oil Based Wood Stain – 40 degrees CelsiusZAR 11344 Wood Stain, QT, Fruitwood

Is Wood Stain Flammable when Dry?

When wood stain dries, a lot of the thinners and mineral spirits that are added will evaporate. These are often the most flammable ingredients, so it is less of a danger once dry. The stain will soak into the wood and disperse too, so it does not pose a fire risk after it has dried and cured. You still need to take the same precautions to stop wood from igniting, but applying a stain shouldn’t make it any more susceptible to fires.

What’s the Safest Way to Dispose of Wood Stain?

The safest way to dispose of wood stain is to dry it before you throw it out. Once it has cured, the risk of fire is eliminated. So, if you have any excess stain, leave it open to the air somewhere safe and let it dry and harden. You can then safely throw it away. Alternatively, take it to a local recycling center or even donate it. Oil-based stain will be good for a year, and water-based stain can be used for a year or two after opening, so you can give it to somebody else that will finish the rest of it.

Are Rags or Brushes with Wood Stain on them Flammable?

Disposing of your rags and brushes properly is so important when using oil-based stains. Rags especially can lead to fires because, when they are scrunched up in a pile, a lot of heat is generated in a concentrated area and it can set on fire easily. To avoid this, make sure that rags are dried out separately so the heat can dissipate easily. Once they are fully dried, you can then throw them away. They can also be put into a sealed container with water before you throw them in the trash. 

How Should You Store Wood Stain?

Storing wood stain in a cool environment out of direct sunlight will keep it in better condition. You should also try to store it in almost full containers, if possible. If there is a lot of space above the stain, there is a lot of oxygen and that will cause the stain to harden and form a skin, eventually making it unusable. Putting it into a smaller container will help to prevent this. You can also put a thin layer of mineral spirits over the top to protect it. 

How Do You Safely Put Out a Wood Stain Fire?

If wood stain sets on fire, alcohol resistant foam fire extinguishers are the best way to put it out. Avoid using water jets at all costs because they will only spread the flames instead of extinguishing them. The fumes from wood stain are very dangerous too, so keep your distance and always call the fire department when things get out of hand.

Final Thoughts

Water-based wood stains are a much safer option than oil-based products because they are nowhere near as flammable. But if you do want to use oil-based products for whatever reason, always ensure you take the right precautions and, most importantly, clean up and dispose of it properly to avoid fires. 

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