Newbie painter here. Is it okay to throw rags and paper towels that soaked mineral spirits into a plastic bag and then into the trash can?

  • 1
    You should leave them out in the sun away from your home to let the volatile components evaporate first. Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 2:26
  • The problem is, if I left the paper towels outdoors, they would blow away.
    – Kyle
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 2:41
  • Mineral spirits alone will not "spontaneously combust". Oils, particularly unsaturated oils like those found in oil-based wood stains and finishes, will. Let them dry out in a safe outdoor area before tossing, they won't blow away because you are smart and will place a brick or stone on them. Or put them in a metal can with a lid, away from combustibles. Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 4:25
  • It's best to make it a habit that anything containing oil, resin or solvent is a fire hazard either through fume ignition or spontaneous combustion. Shove it in a tin can away from combustion sources and combustible materials till it dries or polymerizes, if it's that windy weigh the thing down with a rock. I've seen epoxy heat to the point it smoked, the term is exothermic. As my grandfather's Ready Kilowatt sticker said, "Think safety, work safely". Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 5:26
  • I am actually using Klean Strip Odorless Mineral Spirits (which smell far from being odorless) and Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane in this scenario. I'm not sure if the Urethane is oil-based, but I will dry everything out just to be sure.
    – Kyle
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 6:53

1 Answer 1


No it is not safe. The plastic bag will most likely make it worse. I have seen just an open pile of rags (not bagged) smoldering in a jobsite waste can at the end of a work day. I removed them and set the pile in the yard just to be safe, it was a pile of ashes in the morning.

  • Short of setting the paper towels on fire, how can I dispose of them?
    – Kyle
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 3:21
  • 2
    @Kyle do you have an ash can? I bought a mini galvanized can (maybe 3 gallon) many years ago. It never rusts, and I can put hot coals and other flammable things in it without worrying about setting my grass (or house) on fire.
    – user4302
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 3:34
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    What I do in these cases when I am staining with oil based products, I open the rags, drape them over the edge of my trash can, single layer, and other places if I don't care if the stain, or in your case, paint, doesn't matter if it gets around. Let them dry, then dispose of them.
    – Jack
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 4:06
  • I don't have an ash can @Snowman but maybe now's the time to buy one
    – Kyle
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 6:49
  • So just to be clear, as long as they are dried @Jack, the towels/rags are good to go in the trash then?
    – Kyle
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 6:49

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