Women buying 'essential' oils blamed for rise in house fires

Andrew Hough

Women buying fashionable essential oil burners are being blamed for a growing number of house fires, authorities have warned.

Fire chiefs are investigating a spate of unexplained fires thought to have been sparked by towels and linen covered in scented oils.

Officials are linking at least half-a-dozen fires in recent months in homes, launderettes and beauty salons to the same cause.

The most recent fire broke out at a beauty salon after essential oils were not washed out of a pile of used towels properly and subsequently burst into flames.

The beauty therapy room was badly damaged by the fire and left an insurance bills totalling tens of thousands of pounds.

There has recently been a sharp increase in the sales of scented oils, which are often sprinkled on towels and face flannels and applied to pillows and bed sheets.

They are easily combustible and are increasingly used in aromatherapy and other complementary treatments.

But officials from Wiltshire Fire Service believe essential oils were the common thread with all of the fires.

"We've seen fires in tumble dryers, linen baskets and airing cupboards where towels that have had oil on them have caught alight,” Julian Parsons, from the service's technical fire safety department said on Friday.

"The problem seems to arise when the wash cycle has been at a cool temperature. It is now common to have washes sometimes as low as 15 degrees Celsius.

"When the wash has been at 40 degrees or above, the oil residue is more likely to be safely broken down by the washing detergents."

He warned that low-temperature washes do not fully clean towels of oils, meaning that residues can catch light in tumble dryers, linen baskets and airing cupboards.

He added: "It is hard to believe that fire can just break out in a pile of fabric, but we have seen a great deal of damage caused by this type of blaze."

© Telegraph.co.uk