Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Termite Treatments, Solvents, and Their Flashpoints

Infini II 30 x 40” oil and pigment on canvas
© 1996 Katherine Kean

I didn’t get much done in the studio Monday – instead I had a termite treatment. After much research on the various methods - from orange oil to posion gases - I chose a direct heat treatment applied to the sub area, followed by electricity and borates. The “crawl space” right next to the studio was heated to 175 degrees to kill a recent termite infestation. The day before the treatment I gathered up all the solvents, many of which have low flashpoints*. There is some insulation between the crawlspace and the studio, but I thought better safe than sorry. The direct heat crew thought the same and proceeded to move paintings aside and tarp the studio off from the main part of the house.

The flammable qualities of solvents isn’t something I think about a lot, mainly because my studio is below the house and tends to stay a little bit cooler overall. It’s heaven on those occasional Santa Ana heat wave days in the summer. The rest of the house can easily get into the nineties on the worst days if I am not running the AC. I don’t have a lot of solvents, I’ve switched from using odorless mineral spirits to using Gamsol because it has a slower evaporation rate and I’ve stopped using turpentine altogether. I do still have some leftover in the studio and there was more than I had initially realized.

Below is a list of the flash points of the various solvents I have in the studio:

*Flash Point
The lowest temperature at which a solvent produces vapor in sufficient concentration to create a flammable mixture.

Turpentine 90 degrees Fahrenheit

Mineral Spirits 104 degrees Fahrenheit

Odorless Mineral Spirits 125 degrees Fahrenheit

Gamsol 145 degrees Fahrenheit

I also removed all of my encaustic supplies so that I wouldn’t run the risk of having all the colors fused together at the bottom of the container.

Now my house is termite free and my subarea is sanitized.


Melissa said...

Yay for Gamsol!

Jean Spitzer said...

And yay for staying away from turpentine. At the art materials seminar I went to, the instructor said that use was connected to bone marrow changes, very ominous.

Beautiful painting.

Katherine Kean said...

Melissa and Jean, Yay is right.

The connection of turpentine to bone marrow changes does sound ominous.

Beth said...

Hi Katherine,
I had a friend who lost her studio along with other artists in Austin several years ago. A pile of solvent rags in another studio were the cause. They look so inocuous.
Good information and reminder.
Thank you for the luck in the opening...

Katherine Kean said...


That's a scary story - I feel for your friend. It looks like the less solvent use the better all around.

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