For those of you who have had a birthday party, family gathering, or are commemorating an event, it is possible that you encountered Silly String at one point or another. Silly String, a colorful plastic string that exits in a liquid-type foam (we’ll get into that below), is not only very fun - it’s also very flammable. Let’s dive into why, below.
Why is Silly String Flammable?
In order to fully understand Silly String, it is important to understand the science behind it first.
Let’s take a look at what’s holding the Silly String: an aerosol can. Aerosol cans (or spray) are cans that use a type of propellant to force materials out. The propellant itself may be flammable, as it can be composed of liquefied gas or another mixture.
Second, let’s take a look at the actual Silly String. The string consists of a formula, “polyisobutyl methacrylate”, that forms the basis for the string. This is mixed with another ingredient that turns the otherwise liquid into foam, “sorbitan trioleate”.
Now that we know what’s inside and outside of Silly String, we can see that the chemicals inside the string and the aerosol components, when coming into contact with fire, can be very dangerous.
Let’s take a look at a couple of situations where Silly String can be a hazard:
- Birthday Parties As mentioned earlier, birthday parties can inadvertently hold a danger when Silly String is exposed to birthday cake candles and other decorations that hold fire. For this reason, it is advised for Silly String to be used at a distance from candles, matches, and other sources of fires. Silly String itself may not be dangerous; it’s the exposure of the Silly String to the fire that can be dangerous.
- Grilling Events Similarly, exposing Silly String to an outdoor cooking grille can be equally dangerous. Furthermore, due to the nature of grilling that requires strong fuel agents (such as coal or gas), a Silly String exposure can create an unwanted ball of fire - literally.
- Fireplaces: Especially during holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving where a fireplace may be on, it is important to keep Silly String and other flammable objects away from fire. Due to the fact that fireplaces have a continuous source of gas fueling the fire (such as natural gas or propane), an out of control fire can be very dangerous to a living space.
> Fun fact: did you know Silly String is used by the military to detect tripwires for explosive traps? This was the case in 2006, where it was used by American troops in the Iraq War.
What Other Fun Products Are Dangerous?
Silly String is something that many don’t consider to be a safety hazard. However, as mentioned here, there are products that exist that can be a danger. For this reason, it is important to read the safety and hazard warnings that are on products’ labels to avoid an unwanted situation, such as a ball of fire occurring after Silly String is launched.
Let us know in the comments below what other fun products can be a safety hazard.