Stacked Cotton or Linen Can Catch Fire

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The Mariners’ Alerting and Reporting Scheme (MARS), run by The Nautical Institute, records and reports vital information about accidents (and near misses).  MARS database serves as a valuable risk assessment, work planning, loss prevention tool and training aid for crew and management.

In a reported incident, 20 odd towels washed were tumble dried. They were pile stacked on a galley freezer.  A few hours later the towels scorched due to fire.  The report says that cotton or linen cloth material, lined with certain types of oil, can combust spontaneously in dry conditions.  Oils like linseed, rapeseed, safflower, peanut oil and fish oils are prone to spontaneous combustion.  An exothermic reaction is a slow process that generally takes a few hours before the fire starts.  Mineral/ lubricating oils, on the other hand, do not combust spontaneously.  The dried cloth that is stack piled in bins when still hot is found to combust to flames spontaneously.

It is therefore recommended that cotton or linen clothes may be spread to cool after mechanical drying.  Care should be taken not to stack in bins while it is still hot.

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