Monday, May 9, 2016

Steel wool can spontaneously combust - here's the reason

Remember when I posted that I was filling possible critter entrance holes in the cab of the truck?



I had no idea how they were getting in.



I was using fine steel wool, which was working just great fitting into any small spaces.  Then it started smoking and seemed to spontaneously start on fire.  Scared the heck out of me!  I thought at first it was a live wire that the steel wool touched.

This is what I wrote on March 16, 2016:  "Oh, yeah, and I've caught six mice.  Some in The Palms, some in the engine.   I've pretty much spread snap and glue traps across the inside of the engine and in front of and under my driver's seat.  They get in through the engine into the driver's foot well, but I can't find the hole they are using.  I got some fine steel wool and stuffed it into areas that looked like they might be openings, but the steel wool caught fire and I threw it outside quickly.  Luckily nothing ignited except for the steel wool.   I don't see any exposed wires up there, so I don't know what caused it to ignite.  Spontaneous combustion?   Scared the heck out of me, though, and I won't be doing that again."



Shortly after that post I received an e-mail from Andy Baird with the answer to why my fine (#0000) steel wool started on fire. This is what he said:

"Barbara--steel wool can spontaneously combust, especially if it gets even slightly damp. The finer it is (e.g. #0000), the more likely this is to occur.

http://fretsnet.ning.com/forum/topics/spontaneous-steel-wool-combustion

The reason: rusting, which is oxidation, gives off heat, like any oxidation reaction. Normally you don't have to worry about this--your RV frame isn't going to catch fire, because the amount of heat generated is small compared to the mass of metal. But rusting occurs at the surface of a piece of steel or iron, and thanks to its fine filaments, steel wool has a huge amount of surface area in a small volume. Heat can build up as it rusts, and you've seen the result. Please warn your readers to use copper "mouse mesh," not steel wool."

I clicked on the above link which he also provided and promptly put my #0000 Fine steel wool outside, ready to take to the dumpster.  I didn't want it in The Palms.  But I do have some #3 Coarse steel wool which I'm keeping.

Thanks, Andy!

I meant to post this right after I got that e-mail from Andy, and started a post that turned into a draft, and I forgot about it. I just found it, and wanted to be sure to pass along this info.  So, if you have that super fine steel wool around somewhere, be advised that it can be dangerous and can actually start a fire.  Handle and store it with care.

My plans for the summer have changed and I'm working on some photos now that I'll post soon.

In the meantime, have a wonderful day, everyone!  Be right back















26 comments:

  1. Who would have ever guessed steel wool could catch on fire? I sure didn't and will toss ours out too. Thanks!

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  2. Thanks for the heads up. I too have used steel wool to keep mice out. I've now taken it out and will replace it very soon. Love your blog,

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  3. Remember, steel wool is okay, just get rid of the very fine steel wool. Or store it properly. I still have some filling holes, but it's the coarser stuff. :)

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  4. Thanks for the reminder. I se stainless steel pot scrubbers in various places will not rust.

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  5. Good info. But I want to know what your summer plans are.

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  6. Good info. But I want to know what your summer plans are.

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  7. Didn't know that could happen. That Andy is a wealth of information!

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  8. Thanks for posting that info. You may save the life and property of a lot of your readers.

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    1. BTW, use to carry fine steel wool on camping trips to be used as fire starters in damp weather.

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  9. Somehow I missed the post about the steel wool. How scary that must have been. Even though I have no small steel wool, I'll be careful not to keep it around if I get some in the future. Also going to pass it on to the son and DIL who do all kinds of chores. Thanks for sharing.

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  10. I knever knew about the fine steel wool here. If this helps any go to the pet store where they have Ferrett's and get some of the droppings that get thrown out anyway. That should get arid of the mice quick.

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    1. Well, that's a new one - thanks! I guess I'll be visiting pet stores and collecting ferret droppings long the way! :)

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  11. CRIKEY!!!! That's scary, aye?? lucky for the mousy he didn't come a visitin'. You might have had ready cooked mousy for supper, aye?? Mum's looking forward to seeing the photos you are working on.

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  12. Great information, thanks for the share! Love your blog!
    Jules

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  13. Great information, thanks for the share! Love your blog!
    Jules

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  14. Good info. When I was lol I Used steel wool and a nine volt battery to start fires. Looking forward to your summer plans.

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  15. So will you be trying the copper? I'd be interested to know how it works.

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  16. Well crap! I know Al has stuffed steel wool into cracks in the house and previous rv's. I hope there is none in the one we have now. Good info. Thanks for sharing!

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  17. Karen, he probably used a coarser grade steel wool - I think only the very fine stuff is a problem. I've got steel wool stuffed in some holes that I had already done, but no issues with it. It's the courses, regular stuff, but when I bought the newest steel wool, I was thinking - Hey, super fine grade would be EVEN BETTER! Hummm, I guess not. :(

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  18. YIKES!! Someone told me the 0000 was good to clean windshields of build-up, so I bought an entire package of it, and have been carrying it in my back bay. I am throwing it out tomorrow! Thanks for excellent tip!

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  19. Wow! That's scary!

    Looking forward to finding out your summer plans!

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  20. Yes, I agree with everyone, scary info.... But thank you!
    You didn't say if your dealing with the mice in a different way.
    Could the makers of your c class rig give you some clues as to
    areas the critters are coming in ?
    Your a brave women! Lol

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  21. You are buying the wrong product, don't buy that standard kind of steel wool be it coarse or fine as it will always be prone to rusting. Remember those voids are generally open to the underside of your RV where there is lots of moisture from spray on wet roads.

    What you need to purchase is STAINLESS steel scrubbing pads. No rust issues with and it is coarse. You can find it in the grocery stores and hardware stores. Only use the STAINLESS steel version. Then on the underside of your RV where the hole you are blocking was add r a coating of good caulk to keep moisture and cold air from coming into your RV. It also keeps the food odors of cooking and trash from going out through the opening and attracting mice into that opening. You should also add caulk over it on the inside for the same reason, keeping the cold and wet out and keeping the odors from coming through the opening. The stainless steel wool gives the caulk something to grip onto when you spread it over that surface. It might not look pretty when you are done but it will solve the issues.

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