I love my little butane stove because it’s compact, super easy to use and I can easily carry the lightweight canisters on hikes and when camping.
Butane canisters are pressurized and I've always worried whether or not they can explode. The last thing I want is for something to go wrong with these and experience an explosion in my garage, car or in the stove.
So can it happen and if so what causes it and how can you avoid it?
Butane canisters can explode if you don’t store or use them correctly. Butane is heavier than air, highly flammable and pressure can build up if they’re stored on the side or upside down. When exposed to heat over 122°F (50°C), pressure can build up causing it to explode and ignite if near a flame.
If you use a pot that sits over the butane canister putting downwards weight/pressure on it then pressure can also build up and the canister can explode.
Butane canisters are usually safe and easy to use but it’s vital to know how to store and use them correctly.
What Happens If A Butane Canister Explodes?
Below you can see exactly what the explosion is like if a butane canister manages to explode and catch on fire:
As you can see the explosion is very fast and quite big. This could be extremely dangerous if you are close by when it happens.
What Causes Butane Canisters To Explode?
Butane canisters can explode if excess pressure builds up inside them AND they are exposed to a spark or flame.
A buildup of pressure is usually NOT enough to cause butane canisters to explode as most of them have built in safety mechanisms to release pressure in the case of it building up to excessive levels.
For example, my butane canisters which are the Gasmate brand feature an RVR over pressure safety device.
If too much pressure builds up then the can itself deforms and holes form in it which releases pressure and stops an all out explosion from happening.
This release of gas is not to dissimilar from how you should puncture your butane canister before you dispose of it.
A buildup of pressure causing this backup release to happen can be due to the following:
- Not storing them upright. Butane is heavier than air and storing canisters upright ensures that the gas is distributed evenly. When stored on the side or upside down, the heavy butane can cause too much pressure in the can and eventually an explosion.
- Using a pot that overlaps the canister. In butane stoves, the canister is usually to the side of the cooking trivet. Using a pot that sits over the canister can cause the canister to get extremely hot and from pressure to build up quickly. Given the canister is near an open flame (your stove) this can cause the canister to explode, making the butane stove dangerous.
- Exposure to excess direct or indirect heat. When butane is exposed to temperatures over 122°F (50°C), pressure can build up in the canister and it can eventually explode. For example, accidentally placing a butane canister in or close to a fire could cause it to explode violently.
- Using a damaged canister. A damaged canister can cause butane to leak, potentially ignite and explode when exposed to high temperatures.
How To Prevent Butane Canisters from Exploding
Here’s how to prevent your butane canisters from exploding:
Buy Canisters With The CRV or RVR Logo
Buying butane canisters with the CRV (or countersink release vent) logo greatly decreases the risk of explosion.
CRV butane canisters have a safety vent that releases pressure if it builds up too much. They also have a blue line around the rim, making them easily identifiable.
Jo Chef Butane Canisters from Amazon come with the CRV logo and a notched collar to make fitting them in your stove easy.
The YouTube video below explains more about the CRV logo and how this safety feature helps prevent explosions:
Store Butane Canisters Upright and in a Cool Place
Butane is heavier than air and storing your canisters on their sides or upside down can result in the gas accumulating along the walls, building pressure.
Always store your canisters upright and in a well-ventilated and cool place.
Use The Correct Size Pots with Your Stove
To prevent excess pressure from building up in your butane canister when using your stove, only use pot sizes as recommended in the instruction manual and ones that don’t cover the canister.
Don’t Use Damaged Butane Canisters
Always inspect your canister before using it – especially if it's old and look for signs of rust or damage.
If your butane canister is damaged, don’t use it and take it to a hazardous waste disposal facility. The damage can cause butane to leak from the canister which can easily ignite (even with only a spark) and then explode.