SOME moisturisers and creams may cause clothing to set alight quicker than others, it has been found.

An academic report commissioned by Anglia Ruskin University and supported by Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, found paraffin-based products often used by elderly and vulnerable people may present a fire hazard.

Tests have found that, when the water within the products evaporates, the moisturisers and creams leave behind a deposit of flammable chemicals on the skin or materials they come into contact with – such as clothing, towelling and bedding.

Andre Turner from the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service Technical Fire Safety team, said: “This important research has found many of our communities’ most vulnerable people – including the disabled and elderly – may be putting themselves at risk of fire without even realising it.

“Most of us have used moisturisers and creams at some point to reduce the dryness of our skin, but until now it has never been clear exactly how dangerous they can be.

“Here in Essex we have been called to several serious incidents where we believe these products have played a significant part in the spread and severity of the fire.

"This is a genuine issue and I would urge people to follow our advice to ensure they stay safe.”

What to look for on products

Within the ingredients that make up the cream or moisturiser you should look out for paraffin-based chemicals.

This may be called paraffinum liquidum (liquid paraffin) or even petrolatum (petroleum jelly).

Some other products also include warnings about flammability in their instructions.

Always read the packaging carefully before applying the product.


These products – whether they come in the format of a cream, spray, liquid or gel are safe to use and can be vital for various skin conditions. The danger exists when residue from these products gets onto fabrics, bedding, clothing and bandages.

The residue is what makes the clothing more flammable.

If you are using these products, avoid naked flames including smoking materials, fireplaces, cookers and heaters.

If there is any risk of the emollient residue being in your clothing, bedding, bandaging or other fabrics, keep them away from other people who smoke.

Washing materials at the highest temperature recommended on the fabric care label will reduce the emollient residue, but may not totally remove it. Always remain cautious and stay well away from fire.

If you are a doctor or GP, you should highlight the risk of fire to the patients you are prescribing the products to.

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