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The potential fire safety risks of using common moisturising creams

Emollient skin creams. What are they?

Emollients are moisturising treatments applied directly to the skin to soothe and hydrate it. They cover the skin with a protective film to trap in moisture. Products such as creams, ointments, sprays, body wash and moisturisers are used by millions of people every day to manage dry skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and ichthyosis. These creams may be used by people of all ages.

Are emollient skin creams safe to use?

They are safe to use however, they may contain paraffin or other ingredients such as shea or cocoa butter, beeswax, lanolin, nut oil or mineral oils which can leave a flammable residue when absorbed into fabrics.

Why are emollient skin creams a fire hazard?

Some skin creams can leave a flammable residue when they are absorbed into fabrics such as bedsheets and clothing. This flammable residue is not removed by washing at any temperature, so even freshly laundered items can still be a risk when near to any heat source. It is also possible that if contaminated items are washed with other clothing, these items can also become contaminated with the cream residue. Therefore, we advise you to wash them separately so that clothing belonging to other members of the household does not also become contaminated.

Should I be concerned?

There have been 56 deaths confirmed as involving emollient creams in England since 2010. In addition, six of the 44 fire deaths reported in Scotland in 2018/19 involved emollient products.

What can I do to make sure I am safe?

If you use these creams on yourself, your child or someone you care for, it is important to think about your increased fire risk through flammable clothing and bedsheets.

Make sure you:

  • Don't wash contaminated items with other clothes, to avoid other items becoming contaminated.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Do not sit too close to open fires or heaters, or candles.
  • Avoid cooking whilst wearing contaminated clothing as being too close to a hob or grill will increase the risk.

What can I do to make sure my friends and family are safe?

Share this information with them so they are also aware of the potential risks. If you care for someone who uses emollient creams, think about how you can keep them safe from the risks.

Do you know someone who may be vulnerable to the risk of fire?

We offer free home safety visits, where we come to the home at a convenient time to see what we can do together to make you or the person you care for safer.

To request a free home safety visit, please call 0800 05 02 999 or book using our online referral form.


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