I smelled smoke in my shop tonight the source was a glowing red roll of Lee Valley 0000 steel wool. I put it in a bucket and filled it with water. After doing some googleing I found this.

Lee Valley: "Because this steel wool is particularly fine, long fibered and free of oil, it will easily ignite. Under the right conditions, there is even a possibility of spontaneous combustion. It is always a good idea to store steel wool in an airtight container, away from any heat source."
I've never had anything like this happen before steel wool has been hanging on my pegboard for over 20 yrs. 

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Indeed, it burns like crazy.  We had a roll of it hanging above an electric outlet in the shop, and after ten years of good behavior a few strands of it decided to fall down into the tiny crack between the belt sander plug and the outlet cover, touching off the roll in grand fashion.  I unhooked it and stomped it to death on the concrete floor - glad to have seen it happen while I was standing nearby rather than getting a late night phone call from the fire department. . .


Just to add to another danger of steel wool is a 9 volt battery. Be careful when throwing steel wool in to your trash container then disposing of a 9 volt battery. If the batteries + and - touch the steel wool, FIRE. I always wrap the 9 volt in duct tape before deposing of it. Unfortunately my town has no recycling for batteries. Just a thought.


Good advice and thanks for the safety reminder. As an aside, I carry a fairly well-stocked emergency kit in my truck ... and one of the items is a "fire starter" kit, consisting of 0000 steel wool, a can of Zippo lighter fluid and a 9v battery... (yes, all in separate containers:)  Never had to use it, but there she sits. 

..."one of the items is a "fire starter" kit, consisting of 0000 steel wool, a can of Zippo lighter fluid and a 9v battery"...


I am intrigued, Mike ....a simple cigarette lighter and a couple of newspapers wouldn't achieve the same objective ?

probably so, but it's not nearly as James Bond-ish! 

Had it catch from stray sparks when grinding. I now keep a fire blanket and extinguisher in the shed.

I am a volunteer on a tall ship.  If you put a piece of steel wool in a cannon when you fire it, you get a spectacular display of sparks.

..thanks for this info, I'll change how I store mine..Tom

All very good info! Its a good reminder. Something we don't think about....until disaster strikes, unfortunately.

 Murray, this is  a staple at cabins in places that can go wayyyy down in temperatures. The stuff is usually sitting with kindling already in the fireplace, and steel wool and a 9volt on either side of it. These things have saved lives in the North many times. 

I used to work at Manny's music in the 90's, one day we were closing up and I noticed the guitar repair closet smoking.

Steel wool + 9 volt battery = bad. Since then whenever I throw out 9 volt batteries I tape over the contacts with strong tape to make sure it does not happen in my shop. Glad I looked back when we were locking up that night!


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