Is Ink Flammable? (YES! But Not All)

We are all familiar with inks – the fluid substance that makes your pen write and your printer’s print. It’s a common stationery that we use in our day-to-day activities.

More so, it is accessible to almost all age groups as it is useful to them for various purposes. The more reason we should be aware of its capability level to ignite and sustain fire at various levels.

Is Ink Flammable? There is no straightforward answer to this question. The safety data sheet for VT411C printing ink categorically states that this product is flammable. This, however, doesn’t apply to all kinds of inks. Water-based inks are not flammable due to their high water content.

Now, let’s read on to further differentiate between combustible and flammable, and as well find out what makes ink flammable or not.

Is Ink Flammable?

Some inks are flammable while others are not, and this largely depends on the ink base.

Water-based inks cannot ignite and sustain fire, while inks with alcohol and hydrocarbons as their base will most likely burn when exposed to fire or explode.

Some non-water-based ink uses some flammable chemicals as its base. These chemicals, such as alcohols, ketones (acetone), pentane, Naphtha, mineral oil, hexane, benzene, toluene, esters (ethyl acetate), etc., are volatile will ignite easily depending on the amount used.

Is Ink Flammable or Combustible?

Is Ink Flammable

We often use the words ‘flammable’ and ‘combustible’ interchangeably in our sentences. However, they don’t mean the same thing.

In an attempt to find out the difference between the two, people have suggested that any substance that can catch and spread fire is flammable, while the substance that can explode when ignited is combustible.

Well, this is only half right and not completely true.

According to OSHA ( Occupational Safety and Health Administration) on the subject of flammable liquids, there are certain criteria set to describe flammable liquids in a standard manner.

Flammable Liquids: Any liquid with its lowest temperature at which adequate fume is given off to ignite or catch fire below 199.4 degrees Fahrenheit (93 Celsius).

However, it is important to note that solids and liquids give off vapor at a temperature enough to ignite them rather than burning.

Therefore, both flammable and non-flammable liquids can ignite. It all depends on how flammable it is and at what temperature would vapor be given off enough to ignite.

What Makes the Ink Flammable?

We have different types of ink for different applications and uses. For instance, the ink used for tattoo drawings differs from that used in ball-point and fountain pens, as well as printer inks.

Due to the differences in their uses, these inks are formulated with different components to match with its purpose.

Majorly, inks could be either water-based or non-water-based.  Water-based inks, as the name suggests, use water as the solvent that carries the dye or coloring.

Non-water-based ink uses other chemicals as the solvent, such as alcohols, ketones (acetone), MEK, Naphtha, pentane, hexane, mineral oil, benzene, toluene, esters (ethyl acetate), and others.

Are Water-Based Inks Flammable?

Most water-based Inks are not flammable; this is because when water is solved as the solvent, it prevents the substance from getting ignited, except other flammable additives are added to the ink.

Are Non-Water-Based Inks Flammable?

Many non-water-based inks are volatile, so, therefore, they can ignite and catch fire easily.

Most of them are extremely flammable due to Hydrocarbons in them, that is, hydrogen and carbon.  These are the two commonest substances, and they are explosive.

Are Pen/Printer Inks Flammable?

Well, this is dependent on the listings of the components of the ink on its body. If you can see water as one of the components, then it’s safe to assume that it is not flammable. 

Otherwise, there might just be a possibility of other flammable additives as a base.

In general, most of the inks used are not flammable.

Is Oil-Based Ink Flammable?

Some time ago, petroleum ink was introduced into the market because it was inexpensive and did not dry out quickly.

But even more dangerous is the fact that it releases toxic and volatile compounds, and it’s a toxic and flammable liquid.

Is Printing Ink Hazardous?

These modern-day ink cartridges contain mostly non-toxic inks that are seen as posing a threat to human health.

If exposed to liquid, it would have no effect or pose any health risk. Most printer inks are a combination of water, alcohol, and ethylene, which is a harmless mixture.

However, some printing inks can have some side effects when exposed to the skin, eyes, and nose.

Side effects may include serious eyes damage when exposed to the eyes, respiratory irritation when inhaled, and skin dryness and cracking when in contact with the skin.

Is Ink Volatile?

Previously, ink was volatile and evaporated easily when floating in the air. However, modern dye-based inks are non-volatile.

These ink dyes are unaffected by alcohol, water, and other solvents. They use cellulose to leave a permanent imprint on paper. Therefore, ink dyes are non-volatile.