You may wonder why something that smells so delightful can be potentially dangerous.
One of the primary ingredients in perfume is ethyl alcohol – a flammable solvent. You might notice that your perfume bottle or packaging has a symbol on it indicating that the liquid is flammable. When properly handled, perfume’s flammability won’t pose much of a problem to you on a personal level.
But keep reading to understand the nuances of perfume and its flammable nature so that you can stay safe.
If Perfume is Flammable, How Safe is it?
Overall, perfume is safe to use. If it’s stored and used properly, you will probably not experience any problems with it.
The amount of alcohol in any given perfume varies, so this alters its flammability. And when wearing perfume, your body temperature can cause the alcohol to evaporate pretty quickly. If you are close to an open fire, like sitting next to a campfire, you don’t have to worry.
But if there’s an unfortunate incident where the perfume is in direct contact with fire, then it will begin to burn.
You never want to intentionally expose your perfume to fire!
The video above is somewhat of a controlled experiment (That you SHOULD NOT try at home, BTW).
But you can see that lighting a match and placing it into a pool of perfume produces a large flame that’s really hot. When he adds more perfume to the flame, it intensifies.
Here’s another one:
But it’s videos like these that intrigued three little boys who were too curious not to try out this experiment.
This news report describes what happened when they sprayed perfume on a boy’s clothes and then used a lighter to create a flash fire as shown in this and many other YouTube videos. In this incident, enough perfume was used to cause one of the children to be covered with second-degree burns.
It was an unfortunate incident that resulted in very serious consequences. Educating yourself and your children about the dangers of flammable liquids can prevent catastrophes such as these.
So please just take our word for it instead of trying it for yourself. Perfume is highly flammable and can pose a danger to your safety if you intentionally set fire to it.
Takeaway: If handled properly, perfume is safe. If you mishandle it and choose to set a blaze to it, then you will create a dangerous situation for yourself and/or others.
Since it’s Flammable, Can I Take Perfume Onto a Plane?
Although shipping larger quantities by air isn’t permitted under most circumstances, small quantities of perfume for personal use are permitted on airplanes.
So long as you don’t exceed the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) travel limits, you can travel by air with perfume.
Under these circumstances, perfume would be treated as any other liquid. Carry-on bags can only have 3.4 oz (100 mL) total of liquid. While you are permitted to transport larger quantities of liquid in the bags you check in, there are still quantity limits.
If you are flying in from overseas, the total amount of liquids in your checked luggage can’t exceed 70 oz (2 kg). Each container can be no larger than 18 oz (0.5 kg) each.
Within the United States, you can check in up to 68 oz (2 L) of liquids. Container sizes are restricted to 17 oz (500 mL).
These restrictions prevent larger, more hazardous quantities of flammable liquids to be transported by plane where they could more readily ignite. If you’re a business owner and need to transport larger quantities by air, then you should follow the procedure written in the section below.
Is Transporting Perfume Hazardous?
Transporting perfume is most hazardous when it’s shipped in large quantities, as with businesses and distribution companies. And this is why ground transportation is primarily used.
The flashpoint of ethanol mixed with another liquid, like water, depends on the amount of ethanol that’s in the mixture. But since perfumes are mostly made of alcohol, there’s good reason to be cautious.
Ethyl alcohol is also referred to as ethanol. It’s clear and has a very light odor, which makes it one of the best solvents to use in perfumes. In the United States, ethanol is a class 1-B flammable liquid. Internationally, ethanol is also categorized in hazard class 3 because it’s a flammable liquid that can easily catch fire.
This is why cargo ships are another method used to transport hazardous materials internationally.
Although standards vary by country, all of them offer some sort of precaution when transporting barrels of perfume.
Shipping Perfume through the United States Postal Service
What if you want to send perfume as a gift or decant larger perfume bottles and ship them off to buyers? Would it be illegal to ship perfume?
When shipping perfume, ground transportation is used because air transport is prohibited. Whether the perfume is being shipped domestically or internationally, the United States Postal Service (USPS) prohibits air transportation of any perfume containing alcohol.
There are some perfumes on the market that are not made with alcohol, but that doesn’t meant that there aren’t other flammable ingredients used in the formula. So for the sake of keeping everyone safe from the transport staff, to the mail carrier, and you, always assume that there’s flammable liquid material in your perfume.
In some cases, it might be possible to ship perfumes containing ethyl alcohol domestically by air if there’s prior written consent. But there are a lot of guidelines to follow.
Initially, the request letter must specify what’s being mailed, indicate all potentially hazardous materials via a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), where the item(s) will ship from, and shipping frequency.
Approval is reserved for only the item(s) in the request letter. After a year, you’d have to resubmit the request. Determination for approval is based on the prior year’s performance. Reapproval only occurs in short increments of one to three years.
There are also weight, quantity, and container requirements. Hazardous warning verbiage must be included on the packaging. And purchasers must be instructed not to ship the item using the air transportation method.
Without meeting these federal guidelines, it is unsafe to transport perfumes by air.
Shipping Perfume through UK’s Royal Mail
The UK’s Royal Mail also lists perfume as a hazardous liquid that should not be sent through post by the typical consumer.
Similar to the United States, business customers in the United Kingdom can post hazardous items under restricted conditions.
Safely Handle Your Perfume
Perfume is highly flammable but safe when used properly. Intentionally igniting perfume is a really bad idea that can result in injury.
Never store perfume near an open flame or in any place where sparks are flying. As you saw in the videos, it only takes a second for a spark or flame to ignite perfume.
If you mistakenly spill perfume on fabric, your apparel, or any surface, clean it up right away. If a flame comes in contact with textiles that are soaked in perfume or a tabletop with a pool of perfume on it, they can go up in flames, posing a hazard.
Using perfume doesn’t have to invoke fear. Alcohol is a necessary ingredient. Not only does alcohol help blend fragrance notes, it helps to extend those notes so that you can smell the perfume for hours. But in order to enjoy the scent, you have to use it responsibly.
Mistakes can happen. But staying informed and taking precautions can help you and your loved ones stay safe.