Skip to main content

Warning over the fire risk of emollients

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS), has partnered with Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Pharmacies, Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council Public Health, and Anglia Ruskin University, to launch a joint campaign to raise awareness of the fire risk of emollients.

In Cambridgeshire, the use of emollients was noted as a contributing factor in a fire fatality following a house fire in Cambridge, as well as linked to a number of fire deaths across England.

Emollients are moisturising treatments applied directly to the skin to soothe and hydrate it. They are used by people of all ages, from babies to the elderly, and can be used to prevent or treat dry skin conditions like eczema, ulcers, psoriasis and nappy rash. Emollients come in a variety of forms, including lotions, sprays, creams, ointments, bath oils and shower products as well as soap substitutes are an important and effective treatment for dry skin conditions.

From Monday October 7, partners across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough will be raising awareness of the fire risk of emollients in our communities.

All residents who receive a Stay Well pack will be informed about the risks, and local pharmacies, GP practices, care homes and local hospitals will have information to hand on what people can do to stay safe. This will include information leaflets for patients and those who care for people using emollients.

Head of Community Safety, Group Commander Paul Clarke, commented:

“It’s really important that those who use emollients, those who care for people who do, and healthcare professionals are aware of the potential fire risks involved.

“While emollients are safe to use and a very effective treatment for many conditions, it’s really important those who use these products take particular care near naked flames, especially smoking materials, cookers and heaters.

“The risk of fire is greater when emollients are applied to large areas of the body or when dressings, clothing and soft furnishings become saturated with emollient which leaves a flammable residue on the fabric, that can then be easily ignited.”

Anglia Ruskin University researcher Dr Sarah Hall, said: “Our initial research focused on the range of paraffin-based creams, as this seemed the most obvious reason for flammability, but testing has now found even creams with no paraffin at all can build up in fabrics and make them quicker to burn in a fire.

“We are now carrying out further research to try and identify any common ingredients as well as the best ways of removing the residue from clothing and bedding, for example the ideal washing temperature.”

Dr Mark Sanderson, medical director at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG, said: “Emollients are a very effective treatment for common skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.  However, it’s key patients are aware of the potential fire risks and follow guidelines so they continue to use them safely. If you have any concerns please talk to your GP or pharmacist.”

For further information or to download resources including a patient information leaflet and posters visit:


Advice on using emollients safely

If you use emollients, it is very important that people follow this guidance to ensure you are kept safe whilst using these products:

  • Keep away from fire, flames and cigarettes when using any type of emollients (both paraffin-based and paraffin-free)
  • Change clothing and bedding regularly (preferably daily). Emollients soak into fabric and residues build-up which can increase the fire risk.
  • Wash fabrics at high temperatures. It will reduce the build-up of emollients but does not remove it entirely.
  • When applying emollients, take care to ensure that it does not soak into seating, soft furnishings and bedding. This is especially important if you spend extended periods in a bed or armchair due to illness or impaired mobility.
  • Tell your relatives or carers about your treatment. Make sure they are aware of the fire risks. Those who care for you can help to keep you safe by understanding and reducing the related risks. The outer packaging and product containers of your emollients should include a warning about the fire hazard.
  • Tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you normally smoke. They will be able to offer you help and advice to stop smoking.

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service is committed to supporting the safety and well being of residents in all of the communities that we serve. For more information on keeping safe around the home, or to book a Safe and Well visit, please go to, or call 0800 917 9994.

- Ends -