Is Acrylic Paint Flammable? (2021)


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Water-based acrylic paint is not flammable. I review how the paint is made and what makes it fire resistant.

Most acrylic paints are made of pigment particles dispersed in an acrylic polymer emulsion. Water is one of the main ingredients for making these paints. The paint is not flammable, since water cannot burn.  However, other kinds of paint contain highly flammable liquid that holds the paint pigments in suspension. Those can be highly flammable.

Let’s review acrylic paint in more detail to understand how it works and what makes it inflammable.

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What Is Acrylic Paint?

Generally, there are three primary components that make up acrylic paints. These include the pigment, binder and the vehicle.

Pigment

This is the component that creates the color. Pigments are made from granular solids and grounded into tiny, powder-like substances.  Certainly, the more expensive pigments are made of rare minerals.

These particles do not dissolve in liquids and remain suspended in the paint.  These are the particles that are left on your wall or crafts, giving it the desired color when the paint dries up. Pigments can be made from organic, inorganic, natural and synthetic materials.

Binder

The binder is the main element that keeps the color pigments bound together. It helps the paint stick to the surface you are painting after the paint has dried.

In most acrylic paints, there is a polymer binder that creates a thin film over the paint after the water evaporates. This helps protect the pigments from rubbing off.

Vehicle

The vehicle consists of the carrying element in all paints. It is generally a liquid that keeps the pigments and binder together. Moreover, the vehicle makes it easier to apply the paint to different surfaces.

Polymer is used for most water-based acrylic paints. When you pour water into the mixture, it creates a polymer emulsion.

After the paint has been applied, water molecules evaporate or get absorbed through the surface, leaving the pigment held in place by a polymer film.

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Just a few brands of my acrylic artist paints

You may be interested in reading some of my other acrylic articles.  For information on the relative toxicity of acrylic paint, check out this article!

In addition, acrylics dry at different rates, depending on any additives you include to manipulate the paint. This article will give you the scoop. How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take To Dry?

Is Acrylic Paint Flammable When Dry?

We have already noted that acrylic paints are not flammable because they consist of water. But what about acrylic paints that are dried up and no longer have water components? Are they flammable?

The answer is still no. The paint is not flammable. However, it can burn. When exposed to fire for some time, it begins to melt, creating carbon fumes.

Most dried acrylic paints have a variety of polymer plastic that can burn and creates fumes.

The effect is similar to when you burn plastic. The fumes can be highly toxic to breathing and it is advised to keep dried paints in a non-flammable place.

Differentiating Between Flammable and Combustible

All objects can be divided into two categories: flammable and combustible. Flammable substances have a flashpoint below 37.8 degrees Celsius while combustible substances have a flashpoint above 37.8 degrees Celsius.

What Are Flash Points?

A flashpoint is the lowest temperature at which a volatile material can ignite when given a source of ignition.

Common examples of flammable materials include paper, gas, dried wood etc. These materials can ignite and burn at normal working temperatures. They have a relatively lower flashpoint.

In comparison, combustible materials have a high flash point and they can only burn when the temperature is high. Some good examples of combustible materials include coal, aluminum foils and plastics.

Acrylic paint can be considered a combustible substance but it is not flammable.

Flammability Rating of Acrylic Paints

The Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) identifies objects based on a flammability scale of 0 to 4 with 0 being non-flammable and 4 being substances that can spontaneously combust at room temperature.

The lowest level of flammability for acrylic paint is 1. Substances at this rating have a flashpoint of over 200°F. Liquids with a flammability rating of 1 would require preheating before they catch a flame.

Components of Acrylic Paint

Acrylic Resin

Acrylic resin is an important ingredient in acrylic paint that works as a binder and sticks the pigment of the paint to the desired surface.

It’s a chemical compound that contains the acryloyl group. It is made from acrylic acid which has a flashpoint of 124°F (51.11°C). The acid can auto-ignite at a temperature of 820°F (437.78°C).

Acrylic is not considered flammable by either the OSHA or WHMIS  even though it will burn.

Plexiglas

Plexiglas is a transparent, petroleum-based thermoplastic. It is used in many acrylic paints. Plexiglas becomes pliable at 260°F (126.67°C) and burns at 560°F.

The autoignition temperature of plexiglass is the same as acrylic acid at 820°F. Given its high flashpoint, Plexiglas can be considered non-flammable.

Acrylic Latex

Acrylic latex paint was originally developed during the Second World War. It was manufactured by a private company that was producing Plexiglas and other acrylic products. Acrylic latex came about as a byproduct in the manufacturing process.

This paint was further developed during the housing boom of the 1950s when the demand for paints grew. It had low flammability and milder fumes compared to ordinary oil-based paints of the time.

It became a favorite for many homeowners that continues today.

Benefits of Acrylic Paints

Apart from being non-flammable, acrylic paint is also popular with users for other reasons.

  • Water is the main carrying vehicle in acrylic paints. Water dries up quickly, usually within a couple of hours. If the painted surface will be in contact soon or you cannot wait for days to let the paint dry, acrylic paint would be the better choice.
  • Acrylic paint is quite versatile and you can use it on surfaces that are wax or oil-free.
  • It is easier to use than oil-based paints. You can use it from a bucket or tube, mix it with water and it is good to go.
  • The paint can be cleaned up with water while it is wet.
  • Once the color has dried up completely, it becomes permanent. It is very durable and water-resistant.
  • Acrylic paint comes in a range of consistencies and formats for different projects to suit what you need.
  • Water-based acrylic paints are very durable and they will stick to almost any metallic or non-metallic surface.
  • Acrylic paints are suitable for different styles and techniques – from clay-based artwork to 3D prints.
  • Acrylic paints are non-toxic compared to oil paints. They create with a low odor, with no fumes and are non-flammable.
  • You can apply different mediums to change the character of acrylic paints.

Final Thoughts

Flammability should not be a concern whether you are using acrylic paints for clay arts, crafts, 3D prints or for bigger home projects. Most importantly, acrylic paints are water-based and have an HMIS flammability rating of 0.

Some brands of acrylic paints used in arts may have a negligible rating of 1.  By contrast, a few varieties of acrylic enamels and lacquers used for painting homes can have a score as high as 3 or 4.

For an informative acrylic tutorial, check out my demonstration in landscape acrylic painting here.

If you have more questions or want to add something let us know!

Anita HC

I hope you are enjoying this article! I love helping creators learn. My goal is to help you find the knowledge and inspiration you need. Check out our library of articles and visit often...I'm adding articles every week! Thank you again for reading!

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