Is Paint Flammable? The Truth Behind Paints and Safety Precautions!

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Woodworking projects often involve using paints to enhance the aesthetics and protection of finished pieces. However, the safety considerations of paints must be considered, especially regarding flammability. Different types of paint exhibit varying flammability levels, which can pose potential hazards if not handled and stored correctly. 

In this guide, I’ll delve into the flammability characteristics of various paint types commonly employed in woodworking. Additionally, I’ll be sharing some key safety tips that I’ve learned over the years to ensure woodworkers can enjoy their craft while staying safe.

Understanding Flammable vs. Combustible

Before delving into the specifics of paint flammability, it is essential to distinguish between flammable and combustible materials according to the standards set by the US Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 

The classification is primarily based on the flashpoint temperatures of the substances. Flammable liquids are defined as those with a flashpoint temperature below 199.4°F (93°C), while non-flammable liquids have a flashpoint temperature above 199.4°F (93°C). 

Combustible liquids, on the other hand, have a flashpoint temperature above 100°F (37.8°C) and below 200°F (93.3°C).

painting wall

Flammability Classification

Flammability Classification

Flashpoint Temperature

Flammable Liquid

Flashpoint < 199.4°F (93°C)

Non-Flammable Liquid

Flashpoint > 199.4°F (93°C)

Combustible Liquid

Flashpoint > 100°F (37.8°C) and < 200°F (93.3°C)

Flammability of Different Paint Types

Water-based Paints (Acrylic Paint)

Water-based paints, such as acrylic paint, are widely used in woodworking for their ease of use, quick drying time, and versatility. While they are non-flammable when wet, they become combustible once dry, making it essential to handle and store them carefully.

painting furniture with acrylic paint

Flammability of Water-based Paints


Paint Type

Flammability When Wet

Flammability When Dry

Acrylic Paint



When handling acrylic paint, ensuring proper ventilation in the workspace is essential. Water-based paints release water vapor during the drying process, and adequate ventilation helps to prevent the accumulation of flammable vapors in the air.

Oil-based Paints

I’ve found that oil-based paints come with some unique flammability considerations. When these paints are in their wet state, they are indeed flammable. However, here’s an interesting twist: once they dry, they actually become non-flammable, which makes them much safer to work with. So, if you choose to use oil-based paints in your woodworking projects, just remember that the flammability risk subsides once the paint dries.

oil-based paint

Flammability of Oil-based Paints

Paint Type

Flammability When Wet

Flammability When Dry

Oil-based Paint



Due to their flammability when wet, proper precautions must be taken when using oil-based paints. Avoid open flames or other potential ignition sources near wet oil-based paint. It is crucial to store oil-based paints in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and heat sources to prevent fire risk.

Latex Paint

Latex paint, often used for interior walls and furniture, is non-flammable when wet but becomes combustible once dry. Proper storage and usage tips will be discussed to mitigate potential risks.

Diamond Brite Latex Paint

Flammability of Latex Paint

Paint Type

Flammability When Wet

Flammability When Dry

Latex Paint



Like acrylic paint, latex paint should be used in a well-ventilated area to prevent the accumulation of flammable vapors. Store latex paint containers with their lids tightly closed to avoid evaporation and reduce flammability risk.

Spray Paint

I’ve learned that spray paints are worth some extra caution due to their high flammability. These paints contain propellants that can make them quite prone to ignition. To ensure safety in your workshop, it’s crucial to pay special attention to the proper storage and handling of spray paints, as this can significantly reduce the risk of accidents.

spray painting metal table

Flammability of Spray Paint

Paint Type

Flammability When Wet

Flammability When Dry

Spray Paint



Spray paint cans should never be exposed to temperatures above 120°F (49°C), which can lead to the cans exploding. Additionally, store spray paints away from heat sources and avoid using them near open flames or hot surfaces.

Chalk Paint

Chalk paint, a popular choice for decorative finishes, is non-flammable and safe near heat sources, making it ideal for specific woodworking projects.

chalk paint

Flammability of Chalk Paint

Paint Type

Flammability When Wet

Flammability When Dry

Chalk Paint



Chalk paint is safe near heat sources because it contains no flammable solvents or propellants. It makes it suitable for painting wooden surfaces near stoves or fireplaces.

Other Paints and Mediums

Other paints and mediums containing solvents, spirits, or alcohol can be flammable, necessitating careful handling and proper disposal practices.

Dangers of Flammable Paints

As someone who values safety in woodworking, it’s not just about paint flammability. It’s equally crucial to grasp the potential health hazards linked to certain paint components. This broader understanding ensures that we take comprehensive precautions when working with paints in our woodworking projects.

pouring paint

Some paint products contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other toxic substances, which can lead to respiratory problems and allergic reactions when exposed to these chemicals.

It’s important to exercise caution when handling any type of paint. Inhaling paint fumes or allowing direct skin contact with paint can pose health risks. To mitigate these risks, I recommend working in a well-ventilated workspace and ensuring you have the right personal protective gear, including goggles and respirators. These precautions are essential to safeguard both your health and the quality of your woodworking projects.

Furthermore, improper storage and disposal of paints can contribute to environmental pollution. Woodworkers should follow safe handling and disposal practices to reduce their environmental impact.

Safety Tips for Working with Paints

To minimize the risks associated with paint flammability and other hazards, woodworkers should follow specific safety tips:

Proper Ventilation in the Workspace

As someone who values safety in woodworking, I’ve learned the importance of maintaining proper ventilation when dealing with paint. It’s not just about preventing fires; it’s also about minimizing exposure to harmful substances. Good airflow helps disperse flammable vapors, fumes, and volatile chemicals, making the workspace safer for both your projects and your health.

preparing work area

If working indoors, consider using exhaust fans, open windows, or portable air purifiers to improve air circulation. When painting enclosed spaces, use additional ventilation equipment and consider wearing a respirator with appropriate filters.

Use of Safety Gear, such as Goggles and Respirators

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is crucial when handling paints, especially those with volatile components. Goggles protect the eyes from splashes, and respirators help filter out harmful fumes and vapors, safeguarding the respiratory system.

Select PPE specifically designed for use with paints and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper usage and maintenance.

Avoidance of Flammable Materials and Sources of Ignition

Keep flammable materials away from the painting area, such as paper, rags, and other combustible substances. Avoid using electrical equipment that could generate sparks or open flames near paint storage or application areas.

painting wooden board

Disposal Methods for Different Types of Paint

Proper paint disposal is crucial for minimizing environmental impact and preventing potential hazards. When paint is no longer usable or needed, it should not be discarded with regular household waste. Instead, follow these guidelines for safe paint disposal:

Water-based Paints (Acrylic Paint and Latex Paint)

Oil-based Paints

oil-based paint

Spray Paint

Chalk Paint and Other Non-Flammable Paints

Non-Flammable Paint Options

While certain projects might necessitate flammable paints because of their unique properties, many situations can actually benefit from using non-flammable alternatives. For most woodworking applications where flammability is a concern, I highly recommend considering water-based acrylic paints. They offer a safe and effective alternative, ensuring both the quality of your work and your safety.

acrylic paint

Advantages of Water-based Acrylic Paints


Unlike solvent-based paints, water-based acrylic paints are non-flammable when wet and dry, making them safer to handle and store.

Low VOC content

Water-based acrylic paints typically have lower VOC [1] levels, reducing harmful emissions and promoting better indoor air quality.

Easy cleanup

Water-based acrylic paints can be easily cleaned with water, eliminating the need for harsh solvents and reducing the risk of accidental fires.

Before starting a woodworking project, consider the paint requirements carefully. Water-based acrylic paints are often a suitable and safe choice for furniture, toys, or indoor decor projects.


Can I use acrylic paint near a fireplace or wood stove?

Yes, acrylic paint is non-flammable when dry, making it safe to use near heat sources like fireplaces or wood stoves.

Is acrylic paint safe to use in a closed room without ventilation?

No, using any type of paint, including acrylic paint, in an enclosed space without proper ventilation is not recommended. Adequate airflow helps disperse harmful fumes and prevents a buildup of flammable vapors.

Can acrylic paint catch fire while drying?

Acrylic paint is non-flammable when wet. The fire risk only exists if the paint is exposed to an open flame or a high-heat source during drying.

What is the main difference between flammable and combustible paints?

The distinction lies in the flashpoint temperatures. Flammable liquids have a flashpoint below 199.4°F (93°C), while combustible liquids have a flashpoint between 100°F (37.8°C) and 200°F (93.3°C).

Can I store flammable paints in a shed or garage?

It is not advisable to store flammable paints in areas with high temperatures or direct sunlight, such as sheds or garages. Store them in a cool, dry, well-ventilated space away from potential ignition sources.

Are water-based acrylic paints better for the environment compared to oil-based paints?

Water-based acrylic paints generally have lower VOC emissions and are easier to clean up, making them more environmentally friendly than oil-based paints.


Understanding paint flammability is vital for woodworkers to ensure their safety and the successful completion of projects. Different paints exhibit varying flammability levels, and precautions must be taken accordingly. Water-based acrylic paints, being non-flammable when wet and dry, are often a safer choice for woodworking projects.

By following these guidelines and safety tips, woodworkers can confidently use paints to enhance the beauty and durability of their creations while minimizing risks to themselves and the environment. Responsible painting practices are critical to a successful and safe woodworking journey.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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