Fire! Flammable products you have at home that you didn't realise were dangerous


Here's a list of common household items to be mindful of, and avoid using near flames. Remember: safety first

Wong Tsui-kai |

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While throwing flour may seem like harmless fun, the powder can also burn very quickly.

Flour? Table tennis balls? Oranges?! Who knew these things could be so hazardous? As it turns out, our homes are full of flammable items, many of which you may not think of when you think, “fire”. Read on to find out more about what you need to be careful about.

In the kitchen

A lot of common ingredients are surprisingly dangerous. Organic powders like flour, starch, chill powder, sugar, milk powder and coffee creamer are all very flammable. When exposed to a certain mix of air and heat, dusty products like this - and dust itself - are susceptible to combustion. This is why explosions at places like flour mills, sawmills and coal mines happen from time to time, and why so much care is taken in such buildings.

The Formosa Fun Coast explosion in Taiwan in 2015 is an example of a dust explosion; it killed 15 people and injured nearly 500.

Fire at Baptist University leaves 12 students injured, with one in serious condition


Grooming products such as hairspray, anti-perspirants, and deodorants contain flammable chemicals such as alcohol. Always follow the instructions on the packaging to use these products safely and avoid combustion. Don’t use them near a naked flame or leave the cans under the sun.

Hand sanitiser and rubbing alcohol

Alcohol is flammable, and hand sanitisers often contain alcohol, meaning it can ignite easily. Never use too much and be careful where you use it. For example, if you’re out camping, don’t use these products close to the fire.

Fumes from nail polish can be set alight.
Photo: K. Y. Cheng/SCMP

Nail polish and nail polish remover
You know the strong smell from both these products? Thats the chemical acetone, which is also found in paint thinner and glue remover. The fumes and vapours from them can ignite very easily, even from something as small as static electricity sparks.

Laundry chemicals

Detergent pods, stain cleaners and fabric softeners are not only toxic when ingested, they are also flammable. Store them safety and follow the instructions when using them. 

How to prepare and cook food safely ... so you don't accidentally food poison yourself!

Cooking oil

You probably already know that when cooking, you should always be aware of the flames and never leave pans unattended, because the oil you cook with is flammable. Another thing to remember if that if something catches on fire, adding water to an oil fire will only make it worse. Cover the fire with the pan lid or wet towel to snuff it out. Fire can’t burn without oxygen.

Fruits on sale in a supermarket in Admiralty.
Photo: Felix Wong/SCMP

The juices of the fruit are surprisingly flammable, and while a pitcher of orange juice might not be easily set alight, the dried orange peels can be used as fire starters, because the oil in them contains a flammable substance called limonene.

Table tennis balls

The celluloid and hollow nature of ping pong balls makes them easy to set alight. Older ones, which are made of even more unstable acidified celluloid, could even explode or catch fire during a game. Yikes!