Our dear old peppermint plant is actually a hybrid plant got by blending water mint and spearmint plants. The oil from these three plants (peppermint, water mint, and spearmint) are essential oil used for many things.
But despite their many uses, does peppermint oil (and other essential oils) catch on fire? Are they technically flammable? Let’s find out.
Is Peppermint Oil Flammable?
Peppermint essential oil is not flammable because its 150°F flash point is higher than the 100°F threshold for flammable liquids. But then, peppermint oil is highly combustible and can easily catch fire when ignited.
That said, you should also note that peppermint oil is a product of the peppermint plant. But while peppermint oil ignites easily, the peppermint plant itself is not flammable when wet. This is because it contains an exorbitant amount of water that makes it difficult to ignite.
When dried, however, the peppermint plant can catch fire like any other dry plant in the garden or in the wild. But even with that, the peppermint plant won’t be much of a fire hazard compared to peppermint oil, which with the right ignition can burn like fuel.
That is because peppermint oil contains an active ingredient called terpene alcohol, menthol or, sometimes, peppermint camphor.
This article noted just how flammable (or rather combustible) alcohols can be. The menthol in peppermint, with a flash point of 199°F, is not an exception.
For that reason, you should always store your peppermint oil in an air-tight container far away from open fire and electrical sparks. Although, many people should be safe because often, we don’t keep large quantities of peppermint oil at home.
Are Other Essential Oils Also Considered Flammable?
Yes, most essentials can catch fire with ease. But because their flashpoints often fall between 110°F and 200°F, we can’t say that they are flammable.
However, most essential oils are highly combustible and with little ignition, can burn with intense heat and smoky flame. In our other articles, we’ve explained why essential oils like castor oil, coconut oil, and olive oil burn with such ease.
Below, we will list some other essential oils and their flashpoints. To get more information, you can check here:
- Anise oil—200°F
- Basil oil – 164°F
- Cedarwood Oil—above 200°F
- Citronella Oil – 170°F
- Eucalyptus oil—118°F
However, note that the flash point of most essential oils depends on two things- their purity and water content.
When 100% pure, most people don’t use essential oils alone. So, in most cases, they mix the oils with other less subtle oils called carrier oils. Common carrier oils include jojoba oil and avocado oil.
So, the more the amount of carrier oil in essential oil (that is, the less pure it is) and the more dilute it is, the higher its flash point. When the flash point increases, the ease of the oil’s ignition drops and it catches fire less easily.
Peppermint Extract Vs Peppermint Oil: Which is More Combustible?
While they are both peppermint products, peppermint extract and its oil are two different things. In flammability terms, they have some unique properties as well. So, let’s explain briefly.
Peppermint oil is the pure oil we get from peppermint leaves. This is the essential oil we use for different purposes. But sometimes, some people or brands mix this essential peppermint oil with alcohol. The resulting mixture is what’s called peppermint extract.
So, we can conclude that a peppermint extract is an alcohol-diluted form of peppermint oil. Therefore, peppermint oil is stronger (four times) than peppermint extract, and it has other non-cooking purposes like aromatherapy.
For now, there’s no official record of the flash point of peppermint extract. But we can assume it inherits the same flammable property from its original peppermint parent. So, if the parent peppermint oil is pure, the peppermint extract should be combustible as well.
However, peppermint extract has more alcohol content than peppermint oil. If the alcohol used is flammable, then the resulting peppermint oil should be more combustible than ordinary peppermint oil. But this can depend on other factors like water content as well.
Can Water Extinguish Peppermint Oil Fire?
Water is not a suitable extinguishing media for oily materials. This is because most oils are less dense than water. So, they float on water rather than mix with it.
Like all essential oils, the following media works well to quench their fires:
- Carbon dioxide
- Dry powder Extinguisher
- Foam extinguisher
Also, remember to avoid spraying direct water jet on peppermint oil fires. This can cause the oil to splash and spread the fire to other places. So, kindly note this and the fact that peppermint oil can be toxic.
Therefore, you need to:
- Avoid inhaling it.
- Avoid smoking it.
- Keep bottles of peppermint oil far from a naked fire, and other ignition sources.
- Avoid direct contact with your eyes and skin
- Always wear protective apparatus when handling highly concentrated peppermint oil.
In this article, we stated that peppermint oil, whose flash point is about 150°F, is highly combustible. So, it catches fire easily and will continue to burn until none remains.
However, this intense combustibility is not applicable to peppermint oil alone. Most essential oils have flash points between 110°F and 200°F. So, they behave in the same combustible manner as well.
While extinguishing peppermint oil fires, avoid using direct water jets. Opt in for dry powder or foam extinguishers instead. They are more active against oil fires.
As a general safety rule, remember that peppermint oil can irritate the eyes and skin. Do the following in case of contact:
- Rinse the affected part immediately and wash with plenty of water for 15–20 minutes.
- Remove all affected clothing and wash with detergents and plenty of water.
- If irritation continues, visit a medical doctor.
That said, you can refer to the peppermint oil safety data sheet for more precautions. If you want to know more about other flammables, check out these articles.