Now that the end of summer is near, here are some tips for safely storing your charcoal.

As summertime is coming to an end, what do you do with your leftover charcoal?  If charcoal is not properly stored, it may not light the next time you want to use it.

What is charcoal?

Charcoal is a source of fuel used to cook or grill food.  The most common type many use for outdoor cooking is the charcoal briquette.  Wood-by-products such as sawdust are compressed to form charcoal.  The charcoal contains additives used during the making process.  These additives help to ignite the charcoal and make it burn easier.

Does charcoal go bad?

It is not easy for charcoal to go bad unless you fail to store it properly.  For example, charcoal briquettes and water do not go together.  Leaving charcoal out in the rain or even outside and exposed to fog, high humidity or dew means the briquettes will not light efficiently if at all.  To avoid this, always store your briquettes in a cool, dry place.  Just grab that bag and bring it back into the garage with you, or roll the top of the bag shut and place it in an empty metal trash can with the lid on it to protect the contents from the elements.  A metal container with a lid is fireproof and a safer choice than a plastic container which is more porous and can tend to attract moisture much more easily.

Seal the bag

According to Kingsford®, a leading brand of charcoal briquettes, some are treated with lighter fluid to help them get started faster.  However, if the bag is torn or left open for long periods of time, the solvent will evaporate.  This prevents the briquettes from lighting properly.  So to keep them fresh and easy to light the next time you are ready to ready to use them, roll the top of the bag to seal it tightly and store it in a well-ventilated, cool and dry place away from heat sources and open flames.

Shelf life

The shelf life of charcoal is usually listed on the bag (an average or 1 – 2 years if stored properly, the bag is unopened, free of tears or tightly sealed).  Store the charcoal container out of direct sunlight and in an area that is cool but not wet.  If you store charcoal in the basement, make sure you use a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air.

Disposal of hot coals

Never place hot coals in a plastic garbage can or a can full of trash inside your garage or next to your home.  Charcoal burns at approximately 500 degrees Fahrenheit and the ashes can retain their heat for up to 48 hours.  Always let your ashes cool for a full 48 hours before handling them.  When the ashes have completely cooled, go ahead and wrap them in aluminum foil and throw them in the garbage can.  Wrapping the ashes in aluminum foil is necessary because it prevents the ashes from potentially melting your plastic trash can or mixing with other trash that might cause a fire or explosion.

Safety first

Unattended cooking is the number one cause of home fires, so equip your kitchen and grilling area with a fire extinguisher or the EZ Fire Spray from First Alert® to be prepared!  The EZ Fire Spray’s small size is ideal to use and is smaller than a traditional fire extinguisher.  It discharges four times longer than a regular fire extinguisher, making it effective against common household fires including grilling and grease fires.  The portable size and aerosol spray nozzle makes using it fast and simple for use on incipient-stage fires at home, on boats, RVs, near the grill, and while traveling.  The biodegradable formula is easy to clean up by simply wiping with a damp cloth so you don’t have to worry about making a mess.  In case of a fire, always make sure occupants evacuate the building and have someone call 911 before using a fire extinguisher.  For more tips on how and when to use a fire extinguisher, visit the United States Fire Administration’s website.


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