A friend dropped in to see me this week with a horrific story of near disaster. She had been carrying out some maintenance around the home and had given her wooden veranda its annual oiling.
One morning, before the breeze got up, Helen went out and brushed a generous coat of decking oil onto the exposed boards of her stoep and followed up by wiping the surplus off with rags per the instructions on the tin. However, what she omitted to read were the safety instructions pertaining to the safe disposal of oily rags. She discarded the rags near the kitchen door.
Helen then made a sandwich for her lunch and took it to a room at the other end of the house. The breeze was blowing steadily by this stage and she began hearing odd noises from outside. Thinking the long-handled oil applicator had simply blown over, Helen continued with her lunch. Further unusual noises ensued so Helen decided to investigate and as she walked down the corridor towards the kitchen, there were several loud bangs.
Helen walked into the kitchen to see broken glass all over the floor, the fly wires melted and the curtains on fire! Then another glass door shattered.
The rags Helen had discarded in a pile on the stoep were saturated with linseed (or some other polymerising oil) and no doubt, fanned by the rising breeze, dried rapidly; causing an exothermic reaction to the point they ignited.
The burning rags further ignited the stoep, a coir doormat and several pairs of shoes and wellington boots, all of which produced sufficient heat to shatter the safety glass doors.
Oily rags should be disposed of safely, preferably by submersion in water, or by careful incineration.