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Fire imageRags to Ashes
Spontaneous ignition among fastest growing cause of fires at restaurants

Neatly folding and stacking still-warm rags fresh out of the dryer might be the most dangerous thing your employees do all day.

As shocking as it might be that a seemingly responsible practice is so unsafe, one of the fastest growing causes of fires at foodservice businesses across the country is spontaneous ignition, which is all too often triggered by residual grease in rags and high temperatures after washing and drying.

It’s understandable that most people don’t understand the danger — after all, how can clean rags just suddenly catch on fire?!?

The problem is that far too many businesses aren’t actually cleaning their grease-soaked rags: Off-the-shelf detergents and standard washers and dryers just don’t cut it, as they leave residual grease in each rag. Then, these essentially still-dirty rags are left to sit overnight, either in a neatly folded stack or just in the dryer itself. Heat then builds in the pile, which can eventually start a fire.

To avoid the potential of losing your business in the middle of the night, here are some quick tips to minimize the risk of spontaneous ignition:

  • Use a professional laundry service: These services use special chemicals and procedures to ensure that spontaneous ignition does not occur. They are the best solution to this problem.

  • If you do launder your own items, use only commercial-grade detergents and machines rated for greasy material. Remove items from the dryer promptly: Again, off-the-shelf detergents and standard washers and dryers just don’t do the job. Do not risk it.

  • Store any rag exposed to grease in a covered metal, noncombustible container: Keep two containers if you launder your own items — one for dirty items and another for items that have been laundered.

  • Perform routine maintenance on appliances: Develop a preventive maintenance schedule and keep a log of periodic inspections and daily vent/lint trap cleaning. Poorly maintained dryers are another leading cause of these fires.

Questions? Contact the Hotline Team at 800-589-3211

Information provided by Society Insurance, WRA’s endorsed provider of property/casualty and workers compensation insurance. Special discounts on Society’s products are available to eligible WRA members.

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Wisconsin Restaurant Association • 2801 Fish Hatchery Rd. • Madison, WI 53713 • Tel: 608.270.9950 • Toll Free: 800.589.3211 • FAX: 608.270.9960