House fires are one of the single worst events that could possibly happen to you. In a matter of minutes, your house and pretty much all of your possessions can burn down, leaving you and your family with nothing but the clothes on your back and your lives if you are lucky.
Because of this, it’s critical do you understand the flammability of various things in your home and understand how to control them in case there is a fire.
Let’s look at milk. Is it possible that milk is flammable?
No, milk is not flammable. Milk is just water and fat, and it has entirely too much water to possibly catch fire. However, powdered milk is highly flammable and also highly combustible.
Chances are your instincts on milk were correct: milk is too wet to catch fire, so you don’t need to worry about that, but powdered milk is an entirely different subject.
Keep reading and I’ll tell you everything you need to know about potential fire hazards associated with milk and whether or not you need to do anything to prep for them.
Is Milk Combustible?
No, milk is not combustible. Liquid milk isn’t combustible, rather. Milk is neither flammable nor combustible, with the difference being that combustible materials simply have a higher flashpoint compared to ones that are scientifically flammable.
Powdered milk, on the other hand, is extremely combustible, but we’ll talk about that in a minute.
Does Milk Ignite at Any Temperature?
No, milk basically will not ignite at any temperature, with the water and fat content both evaporating away when subjected to elevated temps.
I should note that it isn’t completely out of the question that the water content of milk could be evaporated off leaving flammable fats behind, but this is almost completely arbitrary and unlikely to happen in any cooking situation or other scenario around your house.
That’s an academic concern, not a practical one!
Does Milk React with High Temperatures?
Yes, milk will react with high temperatures by steaming, boiling, and evaporating. If you get it really hot and leave it that way for too long, the fats in the milk can start to break down and burn
Is Skim Milk Flammable?
No, skim milk isn’t flammable. Even though it has less fat content compared to regular milk, it still isn’t flammable.
Is Whole Milk Flammable?
No, whole milk is not flammable. Whole milk contains considerably more milk fat compared to skim and other varieties, and fats can be flammable in some circumstances.
But whole milk still contains way too much water to possibly catch fire, even when intense heat or open flame is applied to it.
Is Powdered Milk Flammable?
Yes, powdered milk is highly flammable and also combustible and must be handled with care to prevent accidents in the kitchen!
Since it is basically super dehydrated particles of fat and protein, powdered milk will readily ignite and burn well.
Warning: Powdered Milk Can Be Extremely Combustible!
You need to be incredibly cautious with powdered milk if it is fine enough to get into the air as dust. When this happens, the risk of a sudden and incredibly destructive dust combustion is on the table.
Dust clouds can suddenly catch fire because they form an ideal ratio of fuel and oxygen, that combined with their smaller overall surface area compared to their volume makes it extremely easy for a single particle to ignite and then ignite the rest of the cloud almost instantaneously.
The result can very literally level a building, and incidents involving sudden dust combustion have been a chronic problem for the better part of two centuries now, and that includes powdered milk!
As innocuous and harmless as the stuff seems, you need to treat it with a bit of care if you have open flames or any other ignition sources in the kitchen, especially if you drop a large quantity and create a cloud of dust. Remediate it immediately before there is an accident!
Will Milk Make a Fire Worse?
No, milk will not make a fire worse assuming you’re talking about liquid milk. If anything, milk can easily put out a fire on dry goods.
Is Milk Reactive with Other Substances?
No, or at least it is not reactive in any way with common materials or chemicals to produce a health hazard or an increased fire hazard. You don’t need to worry about milk contributing to your overall fire risk.
But again, that’s liquid milk. It isn’t out of the question that powdered milk could auto ignite if exposed to certain oxidizers or any other substance that could react with its protein or fat content to generate heat.
Likewise, be very, very careful if you’re disposing of powdered milk in any receptacle that contains a chemicals that produce exothermic reactions, as they might get hot enough to ignite the powdered milk which can then start a raging trash fire!
How Should You Deal with Milk Exposed to Fire?
You don’t need to worry about the milk particularly if a fire is getting near it. It isn’t going to make things any worse, and assuming it breaches the container the milk is in the milk might help to put it out.
However, powdered milk is an entirely different story as I’ve said throughout this article. A small quantity of powdered milk can definitely fuel an existing fire and potentially spread it.
A large quantity is going to turn a small blaze into a raging inferno. And if that large amount is in the air as dust, you had better reach minimum safe distance quickly.
When dealing with powdered milk, you can put it out with water and should definitely try to wet down the powdered milk ahead of time to prevent it from combusting.
But you can also use any common fire extinguishing agent to do the same thing. Do take care of blowing powdered milk into the air as dust, however.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.