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Safe use of emollient skin creams

Emollient products including

  • creams
  • ointments
  • sprays
  • body washes

are products used to manage skin conditions, such as eczema. They may contain paraffin or other ingredients which can leave a flammable residue. These ingredients can include

  • shea or cocoa butter
  • lanolin
  • nut oil
  • mineral oils

Emollients are not flammable in themselves or when on the skin, but when they are dried onto fabric they act as a fire accelerant. When they are exposed to naked flames or other heat sources, this increases the speed of ignition and intensity of a fire.

This accelerant effect significantly reduces the time available to act to put out a clothing or bedding fire before serious and fatal burns are sustained.

Emollients can transfer from the skin onto clothing, bedding, dressings, and other fabric. Once there, they can dry onto the fabric and build up over time. In the presence of a naked flame, fabric with emollient dried on is easily ignited.

Repeated washing at any temperature does not remove the fire risk.


Avoid smoking

Do not smoke, use naked flames or get near to anything which may cause a fire whilst wearing clothing or a bandage that has been in contact with skin creams.

If this is not possible, you must take steps to ensure you are safe when you smoke or use naked flames. For example, by using a flameless lighter or e-cigarette, and removing long sleeved or baggy clothing before using a gas hob.

Change and wash clothes and bedding

Change and wash your clothes and bedding frequently to reduce the build-up of skin cream. However, remember that whilst washing your clothing and bedding even at high temperatures might reduce the build-up, it does not remove it completely and the danger may remain.

Keep cream off furniture

Be careful to make sure the skin cream does not get onto the fabric of armchairs or other furniture, cushions and blankets. Be aware that the cream can transfer from your skin onto the fabric of furniture when you are sitting or lying on it.

Tell relatives and carers

Tell your relatives or carers about your treatment and ask how they can help you to reduce the risk. Download the leaflet on this page for them.

Tell your healthcare professional

Tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you normally smoke. They will be able to offer you help and advice to stop smoking.

Further advice and resources

Register for a free home fire safety check

Emollients leaflet A5 (PDF, 1.43MB, 2 pages) - 2 page PDF leaflet

Paraffin-Based Skin Products - Fire Tests


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