What Are the Dangers of Gasoline Storage?

Most of us know someone who stores a can or two of gasoline in his garage for use in a lawn mower or other gasoline-powered engine around the house. What most of us probably don't know are the dangers associated with storing flammables in and around our homes. Each year, 500 deaths and thousands of injuries requiring hospitalization are attributed to the misuse and improper storage of gasoline.


The greatest risk factor from gasoline storage is not from the liquid itself but from the vapors it produces. These vapors are three to four times heavier than the air around us. This means that the fumes from gasoline hang lower, spread farther and are more heavily concentrated than the air we breathe, allowing them to spread easily to nearby sources of ignition. When mixed in the right proportion of gas to oxygen, the fumes from one cup of gasoline have the explosive power produced by 5 pounds of dynamite.

Ignition Sources

Any heat source can be a potential ignition source for a fire caused by gasoline vapors. The most common types of ignition sources that cause gasoline fires are cigarettes, pilot lights on household appliances, and sparks from appliance motors or power switches.

Improper Storage Containers

One of the most common reasons for gasoline leakage resulting in fire is an improper container. Gasoline should never be stored in thin plastic containers such as milk jugs. These plastics were not designed to withstand the corrosive properties of gasoline and will deteriorate over time. Glass containers should never be used because of the possibility that the gasoline vapors could expand, causing the glass to break.

An approved gasoline container should be bright red, have GASOLINE clearly printed on it, have two tight fitting caps and bear the seal of approval from a standardizing safety agency.


A large portion of gasoline-related fire injuries and deaths stems from the improper use of the product. Gasoline was created to power gasoline-powered engines. That is the only purpose it should be used for. Gasoline should never be used as a cleaning solvent, a weed killer or an accelerant for starting a larger fire. Doing so can lead to serious injury or even death.

Keep Away From Children

Many gasoline fires are accidentally started by children who are not aware of the dangers of gasoline and its flammable vapors. Children playing with or around gasoline cans can easily tip them over or get them too close to an ignition source, setting off a dangerous fire or explosion.

The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that 42,000 hospital emergency room visits by children each year are due to gasoline-related injuries. Burns and inhalation are not the only concerns. Many children are treated for and die from ingesting gasoline each year as well.

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