Oily rags - what now?

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Forum topic by KnickKnack posted 768 days ago 1574 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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972 posts in 2197 days

768 days ago

Topic tags/keywords: safety oily rags linseed oil blo tung oil oil

So I’ve been a good boy, and I now have a small bucket of water full of oily (linseed and tung) rags and steel wool. Everything I’ve ever read says this is the right thing to do to avoid spontaneous combustion, but I don’t recall anywhere seeing what you do with them afterwards.

So, my question … what do I do with them now?

Thanks in advance.

-- "Do not speak โ€“ unless it improves on silence." --- "Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope."

15 replies so far

View GregD's profile


612 posts in 1767 days

#1 posted 768 days ago

I’m not a good boy. I spread out my finish-filled rags on the cement outside until they get hard and throw them in the trash. I never understood the logic of adding water to the mix.

-- Greg D.

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 1700 days

#2 posted 768 days ago

My approach is to avoid accumulating much oily waste in the first place. When I’m working with oil based materials, I leave the rags, etc in a shaded, dry, place while they dry out. Then, they go into the garbage can. At most I have some odor to deal with, but I’ve never had anything catch fire.

If you really want to keep it green, get one of the metal cans with a lid that’s designed for oily rags. They’re designed to eliminate (or at least safely contain) combustion. Your local garbage collector can tell you where you can dispose of the waste.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

7681 posts in 2683 days

#3 posted 768 days ago

I do pretty much like Greg does…

I spread them out and just hang them on something… side of a box, edge of bench, etc. ...
... when dry & hard, just throw them into the trash!

All gone!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

3409 posts in 2591 days

#4 posted 768 days ago

Yep. Dry ‘em and pitch ‘em.


View jusfine's profile


2280 posts in 1557 days

#5 posted 768 days ago

I have one of those yellow metal lidded cans (about twice the size of a 5 gallon pail), never have found a place to dispose of rags other than directly in the trash. And we are big on recycling here.

They do dry out in the can as well after some time. Don’t know how, as it is supposed to be airtight.

I also have never had or heard of any catching fire.

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View Earlextech's profile


961 posts in 1322 days

#6 posted 767 days ago

About 6 years ago I was installing custom cabinetry throughout a very big house. I had all the cabinetry in place and was working on the trim, my contract alone was $200,000 not to mention the wood floors, massive crown and all the other details.
The floor refinishers left their oily rags in a pile on a peice of cardboard. Overnight they ignited and the entire house was gone in the morning. So, now you have proof that it happens. Forget the water, hang each rag individually until it’s dry. Then throw it away.

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "finished"!

View Oldelm's profile


75 posts in 806 days

#7 posted 767 days ago

More 2 cents. Put rags with Danish oil outside hanging on a stick spread out to dry. In the shade in the early AM. About 2 in the afternoon the sun got to them and the rags and the stick went up in a blaze. Lessoned learned for me. I soak them in water for a day ring them out dry them out outside and then throw them away. I don’t keep anything with wet finish, cardboard etc. inside ever!

-- Jim, Missouri

View dbhost's profile


5378 posts in 1863 days

#8 posted 767 days ago

I use disposable rags, those “Shop Rags In A Box”. I simply spread them out to dry on the racks in my smoker, and burn them when dry.

-- My workshop blog can be found at

View willie's profile


463 posts in 1085 days

#9 posted 767 days ago

Whenever I’m done with any oily rags or paper towels that have had ANY flammable liquids on them, I throw them in my woodburner immediately. If there should be a fire, the only things that get burned are the rags. About once a week I’ll burn them.

-- Every day above ground is a good day!!!

View Doss's profile


779 posts in 895 days

#10 posted 767 days ago

I’d put them in an airtight container like a paint can (with lid) and wait until your community has a hazardous waste pick up day. If they don’t have one of those, usually the city or county will have instructions on where to bring this type of waste.

-- "Well, at least we can still use it as firewood... maybe." - Doss

View Fred Hargis's profile (online now)

Fred Hargis

1728 posts in 1124 days

#11 posted 767 days ago

As mentioned (more than once) now you let them dry and dispose of them. It does strike me that the water is an extra unneeded step, but certainly doesn’t hurt anything.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, we sent 'em to Washington.

View Knothead62's profile


2364 posts in 1592 days

#12 posted 767 days ago

Hang them up and let them dry. Check with your local authorities as to the proper way to dispose of them.
I worked in sales for a cabinet business- factory and custom. The custom shop had to pay so much per pound of rags for disposal.

View Loren's profile


7422 posts in 2279 days

#13 posted 767 days ago

I hang them on a fence of spread them out to dry on
a non-flammable surface. You can put a rock on each one
if you want. Usually on a fence they stay put where you
drape them because they stiffen and hold on pretty
well on their own, but if you get a lot of wind, clamp

Don’t make the mistake I once did of using a piece of
mattress foam (or an old sponge) to apply oil based
stain… even if you squeeze them out they will heat
up and turn black… and may burst into flame outright.


View Dallas's profile


2869 posts in 1118 days

#14 posted 767 days ago

I use mine to help start our burn pile or just add to the flames and mayhem.

Mixing oil based with water isn’t gonna do much good because they don’t mix.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View whitewulf's profile


442 posts in 1568 days

#15 posted 767 days ago

Seal them in metal paint cans still wet, and take to Hazardous Waste Disposal.

I burn’ em, but I am trained in HWD!

-- "ButI'mMuchBetterNow"

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