Is Shellac Flammable?

Shellac is a polymeric material used for centuries in various applications, from woodworking to metalworking. It’s widely known for its glossy finish and resistance to water and chemicals, but many people don’t know whether shellac is flammable.

In this blog, we’ll explore the answer to this question and look at other important safety considerations for working with shellac.

No, shellac is not flammable. Shellac is a non-flammable, natural resin derived from the secretion of the female lac bug. It has excellent heat resistance and fire retardant properties, making it an ideal coating for a variety of surfaces.

What Is Shellac?

Shellac is a resin-based finish used in many ways to protect and enhance surfaces. This unique type of finish provides a glossy, durable, and long-lasting look prized by many professional woodworkers. Shellac is derived from the lac bug’s secretions, native to India, Southeast Asia, and parts of China.

It has been used for centuries as a natural wood finish that provides a beautiful and protective coating for furniture, woodwork, and other items.

Shellac is a natural product made from the lac bug’s dried and processed secretions.

These secretions are then dissolved in a solvent (ethanol or denatured alcohol) to create a liquid that can be used as a finish.

When applying shellac, a thin layer is spread over the surface and left to dry. The thin layer of shellac protects the wood from scratches, stains, and other damage.

It also adds a glossy and durable finish to the surface.

What is shellac Used for?

Shellac is a resin-based product used for centuries in many different applications. It is a natural, non-toxic product that is made from the secretions of the female lac bug.

Shellac has many uses and has been employed in various industries, including woodworking, furniture, and jewelry.

Wood Finishing: Shellac has been used for centuries to seal and protect wood furniture, cabinetry, and trim.

The natural resin creates a tough, durable film on the wood that resists abrasion and water, yellowing, and fading.

Shellac also provides an excellent staining base and a beautiful, high-gloss finish.

Metal Finishing: Shellac has been used for years to protect and finish metal surfaces.

It’s highly corrosion-resistant and will not yellow, fade, or crack over time. It will also create a protective barrier against rust, oxidation, and tarnishing.

Inks: Shellac is also used in the production of inks for printing. The resin helps create a glossy finish and a uniform color on the printed page.

Cosmetics: Shellac produces many cosmetics, such as nail polish, eye shadow, and lip gloss.

The natural resin provides a glossy finish, acting as a preservative and helping to bind the ingredients together.

Adhesives: Shellac can also be used in the production of adhesives. The natural resin provides a strong bond that resists water, humidity, and heat, making it an ideal choice for many adhesive products.

Is Shellac Flammable?

Shellac is a resin secreted by the female lac bug in India and Thailand. It is a natural, eco-friendly product used for centuries in woodworking, furniture making, and other applications. But is shellac flammable?

The answer is: yes and no. Shellac is not highly flammable, and the resin will not ignite easily. However, shellac can be a fire hazard if mixed with other flammable materials, such as solvents. This is especially true if the shellac is used as a sealant for electrical wiring.

In its raw form, shellac is not particularly explosive. It has an over 600 degrees Fahrenheit flashpoint and will not ignite easily. It is also non-toxic and does not produce any hazardous fumes when heated.

However, when shellac is mixed with other flammable materials, its flashpoint can drop dramatically. This can make it highly flammable and potentially dangerous in certain situations.

Is Shellac Flammable?

Is Shellac Flakes Flammable?

The answer is no. Shellac flakes are not flammable. Shellac is derived from the excretion of the Lac beetle, which is found in India and Thailand.

The excretion is collected and processed into small pieces or flakes. Shellac flakes are then melted down and used as a finish for wood surfaces.

Even though the shellac flakes are not flammable, the solvent used to dissolve them can be.

Shellac flakes are usually dissolved in a mixture of ethanol and another solvent, such as denatured alcohol, lacquer thinner, or mineral spirits.

All these solvents are flammable, so you must be cautious when handling and storing them.

It’s also important to remember that shellac flakes are combustible. If you ignite them, they will burn, producing a flame and smoke.

Since shellac flakes are often used as a wood finish, you should ensure the area is well-ventilated while working with them.

Is Shellac Flammable After It Dries?

The short answer is no. Shellac is not flammable after it has dried, so there is no need to worry about accidentally starting a fire if you use it to protect your furniture.

This is because shellac is derived from plant-based resins combined with alcohol. When the shellac dries, the alcohol evaporates, leaving behind a waterproof, non-flammable layer.

How Long Does Shellac Take To Dry?

The answer depends on the shellac you’re using and how thick it’s been applied. Generally, shellac dries in about 10 to 15 minutes. If you’re using a thin coat of shellac, it may be dry to the touch in as little as 5 minutes. But if you’re using a thicker coat, it may take up to 20 minutes to fully dry.

It’s important to note that shellac must be cured before completely drying. This process is done with a special UV light, which takes about 2 minutes per coat. So if you have 2 coats of shellac, it’ll take about 4 minutes of curing time.

Is Shellac Toxic To The Body?

Shellac and its components are generally recognized as safe for food use. However, there is some evidence to suggest that certain components of shellac may be toxic to humans. In particular, shellac can contain small amounts of lead and other heavy metals, which can be toxic if consumed in large enough quantities.

It can also release formaldehyde, a known carcinogen when burned.

In addition, shellac is not considered a skin irritant, but it can cause contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction, in some individuals. If you have sensitive skin, avoiding products containing shellac is best.

Is Shellac Harmful To Humans?

Shellac is not harmful to humans. It’s been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a safe coating for food packaging and is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for use as a food additive.

Shellac is made from the secretions of an insect called a lac bug, native to India and Thailand. These bugs feed on the sap of trees and produce a resin, which then hardens into a protective shell. The shellac is then harvested and processed into flakes or powder.

Is Shellac Toxic To Breathe?

The short answer is yes. When shellac is applied in its liquid form, the fumes can be potent and toxic. The fumes can cause respiratory irritation, leading to headaches, dizziness, and even nausea.

The good news is that once the shellac has dried, the fumes dissipate and become much less hazardous. However, it’s still important to ensure you’re working in a well-ventilated area when working with shellac, as the fumes can still be present.

The best way to protect yourself from shellac fumes is to wear a dust mask or respirator when working with shellac. This will help ensure that you’re not breathing in any of the fumes, and it will help to protect your lungs from any possible irritation.

Is shellac a fire hazard?

The short answer is yes. Shellac is considered a fire-resistant material and is generally considered safe to use in areas with a potential fire risk. Shellac is a mixture of lac resin and alcohol, forming a hard and durable coating that is not easily flammable.

Shellac also has a high melting point, which makes it resistant to heat. As a result, shellac protects wood and other materials from fire and heat damage.

However, taking the necessary precautions when using shellac in areas with a potential fire risk is still important. If shellac is used in a room with a fireplace or any other open flame, it is best to take extra precautions to ensure the material does not catch fire.

It is also important to consider the type of shellac being used, as some types may be more flammable than others.

Does Shellac Melt With Heat?

The degree of heat required to melt shellac depends on the type of shellac being melted. All grades of shellac melt at different temperatures and will become more fluid as the temperature rises. The temperature range for melting shellac depends on the composition of the particular shellac, but most shellac will begin to melt at about 175°F.

This means that when working with shellac and heat, it’s important to be aware of the temperature it is exposed to and not to exceed the material’s melting point.

Care must be taken to ensure that the temperature does not exceed the melting point of the shellac, since doing so can cause the shellac to become brittle and break.

Why is shellac so heat resistant? This is due to the composition of the resin. Shellac is composed of esters, fatty acids, and alcohols. The esters and fatty acids are responsible for the heat resistance of shellac, as they form a barrier that helps to protect the resin from the heat. The alcohols also play a role, as they help to prevent the resin from evaporating too quickly.

Safety Precuations Using Shellac

When working with Shellac, it is important to take appropriate fire safety precautions to reduce fire risk. Here are some tips to follow:

Work in a well-ventilated area: Good ventilation can help reduce the concentration of flammable vapors in the air. Open windows and doors, use fans or exhaust systems to keep the air moving.

Wear gloves: Wear gloves properly that are specifically designed for working with chemicals. Nitrile gloves are a good option as they resist many chemicals and provide good protection.

Wear a mask: Wear a mask to protect your respiratory system from inhaling any vapors or fumes that may be released when working with Shellac. A particulate respirator or a half-face mask with organic vapor filters can be effective.

Don’t touch your face or eyes: When wearing gloves and a mask, avoid touching your face or eyes, as the chemicals in shellac can irritate your skin and eyes.

Avoid smoking or using open flames: Never smoke or use open flames near shellac. This includes candles, matches, lighters, stovetops, or other heat sources.

Use proper lighting: Use lighting that is not too bright or hot. Incandescent light bulbs are better than fluorescent bulbs as they emit less heat.

Use appropriate containers: Store shellac in tightly sealed metal containers for flammable liquids.

Keep a fire extinguisher nearby: Make sure to have a fire extinguisher nearby in case of a fire emergency.

Use appropriate personal protective equipment: Wear appropriate personal protective equipment such as gloves, eye protection, and respiratory protection when working with shellac.


The answer to whether shellac is flammable is a bit complicated. While shellac is not flammable, it is combustible when exposed to an open flame.

This means that when heated to a certain temperature, shellac will burn, release heat, and potentially smoke.

Though shellac is not flammable, it is important to remember that the application of shellac can present a fire hazard.

If shellac is applied to an already combustible surface, such as wood, the heat from the open flame can cause the surface to ignite. This is why ensuring the surface is dust or debris-free before applying shellac is important.

In conclusion, shellac is not flammable but is combustible when exposed to an open flame. Therefore, proper safety precautions should always be taken when applying shellac to any surface, as the fire hazard could be increased.

As long as the proper safety measures are taken and the surface is free of dust or debris, applying shellac should not present any fire hazards.