Linseed oil is hands down the best oil finish for wood. The most popular item for applying boiled linscompeed oil to wood is lint-free rags or wiping cloths.

When planning to use this oil finish, you also need to plan how to dispose of linseed oil rags. You must pay special attention to the disposal of oil-soaked rags: it will help you avoid spontaneous combustion fires.

This post will tell you the trusted methods to safely discard these waste materials without exposing yourself to more hazards.

Read on. 

How To Store And Dispose Of Boiled Linseed Oil Rags

One of the safest ways to store boiled linseed oil rags for safe disposal later is to store them in commercial metal containers listed oily waste containers.

For as long as the metal can is tightly sealed, the rags can stay in the container for as long as you need them to. Should these rags burst out into flames, the fire will die out soon due to a lack of external supply of oxygen.

The Steps

Step 1: Find a clean and empty metal can

This could mean buying a metal trash can meant for storing oily rags. This metal can also contain any possible spontaneous combustion. Alternatively, find an empty metal paint container, make sure it’s clean and has a tight-fitting metal lid.

Step 2: Place the rags in the can

Place the rags in the empty metal container you chose.

Step 3: Seal the Container

Seal the metal can tightly with its lid. Next, place the flammable oily rags can in a place where nothing valuable would be destroyed if a fire decides to overpower the metal container.

Step 4: Dispose of the oily rags Container

You can arrange for a special hazardous waste drop-off or pick-up by the local garbage pickup service providers.

Alternatively, you can personally dispose of oily rags at the specific hazardous waste disposal center.

How To Dispose Of Linseed Oil Rags Soaked In Water

Water can help contain and prevent the possible heat and fire ignition amongst the oily rags. For this method, you will need a metal can with a tight-seal lid and water.

Sinking the rags in water allows you to keep them around safely before disposing of them properly.

The Steps

Step 1: Place the rags in the metal can.

The metal container could be empty paint thinner containers can or the specialized metal oily rags can.

Step 2: Fill the container with water

Make sure to put enough water to submerge the rags in water. If need be, use a stone or any reasonable weight to ensure the rags remain sunken. If the rags stay floating, they could spontaneously combust, and its effects could escalate beyond manageable amounts.

Step 3: Seal the lid tightly and dispose of the linseed oil rags.

Take the container to a hazardous waste disposal facility and dispose of it there. You can take the sealed metal container while it contains water. But, if you’re thinking about it, don’t pour oily water from the soaked rags down the drain: it will dry and block your pipes.

Related Article: How to Dispose of Wood Stain

How To Dry Excess Boiled Linseed Oil Rags For Disposal

Another option for disposing of linseed oil rags is to air dry them separately before getting rid of them.

The goal here is to let the oily product dry fully. Dry oily rags imply that the oxidation process is complete and no more heat is released.

The Steps

Step 1: Spread the Rags

Lay down or hang the oily rags individually in a well-ventilated area or outside in the shade away from direct sunlight.

You can spread them on the floor of your garage, on metal hangers, or the backrest of a chair. However, don’t lay them on your recently oiled deck.

In other words, stretch them flat on a surface that guarantees a free flow of air.

Step 2: Let the Rags Dry

Leave the rags to dry fully for at least48 hours or longer or until the oily rags have cured solid hard and no longer pose a fire threat.

Step 3: Dispose of the dry Rags

Dispose of the cured oil rags with your regular trash since it’s no longer such a threat. Or if you can and want to be extra cautious, dispose of it at the dangerous waste disposal unit.

See also: Deck care with linseed oil.

How Do Oily Rags Start Fire?

Certain oil-based products dry, or cure, through oxidation. This oxidation process uses oxygen and generates heat. This doesn’t apply only to linseed oil but also to other popular finishes like teak oil and tung oil.

All three are great wood finishes, but comparing linseed with teak and tung oils is important because each one brings a different effect to the appearance of wood. They are all applied with rags, and that’s where they may self-heat and burst into flames

When wood stain rags gather in a pile and create and trap heat, the temperatures can gradually rise and reach an ignition temperature. When it does, you can expect combustion.

It may appear spontaneous, but the pile of oily rags needs to have been sitting around for at least four to six hours before there’s enough heat that can burst into flames.

Remember, the oily rags and gas-soaked rags can catch fire without ignition from an external heat source or spark. But if there’s any, it can accelerate spontaneous combustion.

Can You Recycle Oily Rags?

You can, but it is more work to clean the oil off the rag than it is worth. In my opinion, you are better off buying more rags or using paper towels instead.

Oily rags are as toxic as the oil-based product it was used with. For you to clean them, you would use countless rounds of paint thinner and detergents. solvent soaked rags

Still, this isn’t the kind of stained fabrics you want to put in your washing machine or have the residues going down your pipes.

However, if you decide not to wash the old rags, most oil-based polishes contain resins that harden as the polish dries.

The combustible oil carrier may be gone, but the resin remains intact and leaves the rags stiff and impossible to reuse for any other project.

Read also: Can you polyurethane over boiled linseed oil?


What do you do with rags after linseed oil?

Dispose of the linseed oil rags in one of the following ways:  Lay them individually to air dry, then dispose of them with your regular trash. Or you can soak them in water in a metal container and seal them with a tight lid and then store them until you can safely dispose of them at the hazardous waste facility.

How to dispose of linseed oil paper towels

Spread the linseed oil paper towels on concrete or hangers for them to air dry. Ensure you lay down the individual paper and hold them down with some weight to keep them from floating away. When they are completely dry, they’re no longer a threat and can be safely disposed of in your regular trash bag.

Can linseed oil rags combust?

Yes, they can. Boiled Linseed Oil cures hard and produces heat in the process. When the oily materials contacted with oil are left in a pile, the heat gets trapped within the wood stain rags, and over time, the heat will reach its combustion temperature, something referred to as spontaneous combustion.

How do you dispose of oil soaked rags?

Oil-soaked rags should be air-dried outside on a dry area or flat on the ground with a weight placed on them. Each rag should lie separately, not in a heap. When they are dry, store them in a metal container until you dispose of them at a hazardous waste collection facility.

What is the difference between Boiled and Raw Linseed Oil?

Boiled Linseed Oil is treated with metallic driers that speed up its drying process. Raw Linseed oil (flax seed oil) doesn’t have any product added to it. Boiled Linseed Oil dries in approximately 24 hours, while Raw Linseed Oil dries after 3-4 days.

Related read: Can you use linseed oils on cutting boards?

Is linseed oil hazardous waste?

Yes, it is. This is mainly because linseed oil has the potential to break out into flames as solvents would. In which case, you can combine linseed oil with oil-based paints and solvents for proper disposal at the respective hazardous waste disposal unit.

Can you wash linseed oil rags?

You can wash linseed oil rags like you would any oily cloth. However, it’s practical you collect enough rags worth the trouble of washing. In reality, a few people bother to wash them because it’s a tedious process. 

Recommended read: Can I put wood in the recycle bin?


As we have seen above, linseed oil rags can burst into flames and cause irreversible damage. That’s why; it is valuable for you to know how to dispose of linseed oil rags. Like the saying goes, better safe than sorry!

Disposing linseed oil rags is the simplest. You can soak them in water inside a metal container with a tight lid. Or you can air dry them away from direct sunlight and then store them in a non-combustible container.

Still, you can organize a special pick up or drop off at the hazardous waste disposal facility. Whichever method you go for, the goal is to properly dispose of linseed oil rags.

Also, find out the methods of removing boiled Linseed oil from wood to effectively address any spills or excess application.

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