Is Incense Ash Flammable? (A Complete Review)

In this article, we will answer the following question: “Is Incense Ash Flammable?”, and also introduce other important matters regarding incense ashes and flammability issues.

Is Incense Ash Flammable?

The fluffy material that remains in an incense holder is not flammable because it had already burned. Some incenses may present incomplete combustion, so they might be still able to be litten. Recent ashes may contain ember, becoming a fire hazard.

What is incense?

Incense is an aromatic and combustible material. It is litten for many purposes around the world, often for religious and spiritual reasons, but also because it delivers a good smell.

Incenses can come in a variety of shapes and sizes

Some incenses are burned once, and then a glowing ember left in the top slowly burns along the stick. Others require direct flames constantly to stay lit.

The oldest mention of incense use ever documented was around 2000 years ago in the Rig Veda, one of the sacred canonical Hindu texts.

Incenses were one of the luxury goods negotiated in the Incense Trade Route, one of the most important trading activities of the ancient and medieval world, that happened between 2700 and 1800 years ago.

Incenses had acquired different purposes over the millennia, across the globe. Their flavors and smells are as rich as the history behind them.

What are incenses made of?

Many materials can be used to craft incenses. Normally, they are made of bark, coal, or wood powder, with a flavoring compound and binder added to them.

The combustible base to which flavored compounds are added can be made of natural plants or fuel mixtures. Charcoal and wood powder are the most common. Oxidizer mixtures are also added to sustain the burning of the stick as a whole.

Natural plant-based binders are often made of Gum Arabica and  Gum Tragacanth are used to make the flammable and flavoring part stick together.

Here’s a list of commonly used raw materials:

  • Makko powder
  • Borneol camphor
  • Sumatra Benzoin
  • Omani frankincense
  • Guggul
  • Golden Frankincense
  • Tolu balsam
  • Somali myrrh 
  • Opoponax
  • Sandalwood powder

Is incense smoke toxic?

It can be. Like any other burnings, toxic and pollutant gases may arise from incense smoke. Although, incenses are small and the toxicity of the smoke depends on many things. The health risks are not acute.

The only major risk in the short term, besides being a fire hazard, is if many incenses were lighted in a small room with poor ventilation. This could lead to death by asphyxiation with carbon monoxide, but all ancient cultures are aware of that. Incenses must always be burned in a well-ventilated area.

Inhaling fumes is never a good thing, especially in the long term.

Incense safety measures

Safety is never enough when we are dealing with hot and flammable things in our homes.

Incense holders may always be placed on fire-resistant surfaces. There’s no guarantee that the ashes will fall exactly in place, and they could fall down with ember attached. Besides, the holder itself must be fire-proof.

The incenses must be kept away from any source of light, heat, and sparks before use. Since they are flammable, you must treat them like any other source of fuel, and never let them unattended.

We must always anticipate what incense might be in contact with. It must never get in contact with anything flammable like furniture, curtains, clothes, food, perfume, deodorants, aerosols, and any other possible source of fuel.

If you have a kid, no matter how educated he or she is, or how much trust you put in them, curiosity will always be a double-edged sword when it comes to fire. We can’t let kids and pets anywhere near any source of fire.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire

Where there is smoke, there’s fire. But why?

Fire is the result of a chemical reaction, one that produces mainly carbon dioxide, water, and energy as byproducts, while consuming fuel and oxygen. 

But smoke is not on this short list. This is because there’s more to this story.

Water and carbon dioxide themselves don’t have any color. Even if we heat them really hard (let’s say, until 800ºC) they would still present no colors. So where does the color of a fire comes from?

Whenever we see a fire in a candle or fireplace, for example, we are actually seeing a series of chemical reactions where the fuel is being broken into smaller pieces (fuel is often a long carbon-based chain).

Fire “layers” seeing in a lit candle.


The fire colors depend on what’s being burned, but the proprieties are the same.

Fire has a column, which is where chemical reactions happen. Right on the wick, where the fire starts, it actually has no colors. The fire heat makes volatile organic compounds evaporate, turning them more combustible. 

The series of chemical reactions start in the yellow zone of the fire. The molecules partially break (are oxidized by the air) and then fly to the top, where the temperature is higher. Some molecules are completely turned into carbon dioxide right in the beginning.

Higher temperatures allow molecules that couldn’t burn to finally do it. The highest temperature is at the top end of the flame. 

But what happens if the temperature is not enough, or if the molecule simply didn’t have enough time to react?

Then we have the smoke.

Smoke is the byproduct of an incomplete combustion reaction. It has some not-readily burnable compounds, but also things that really can’t burn and are carried together. 

Depending on what’s being burned, many toxic vapors, gases, and bigger particles can arise as well.

Incenses also burn, but they don’t have a big fire on them. Incenses are made for slow-burning, so the fire doesn’t present itself in a column, but it is there. The smoke that comes out of a lit incense is a consequence of incomplete combustion.

It’s important to say that “incomplete” is not a synonym for “bad” in this case. The smoke is what brings flavored particles to a room, and incense is built for this purpose.

But how about incense ashes?

Incense ashes can be labeled into two groups: non-flammable and kinda flammable. We are considering that there’s no ember on it.

Other ashes like wood or coal present no flammability because they are the remainings of a (considerably) big combustion, where the fuel had had enough time and chances to burn.

Whatever remains in such ashes is therefore not combustible, because it is everything but the combustible part (as long as it’s cold).

When it comes to incenses, there’s no guarantee that everything has burned, but it probably has if the material is white and fluffy. At the same time, we can assume that the material is less flammable than before the burning starts.

But there’s also another problem: ember.

Combustible incenses have a glowing ember in the tip, which can fall and initiate a burning. Normally, ember remains on incense, but there are many varieties of materials worldwide, and each one can behave a certain way.


Lit Incenses can start a fire. Incense ashes are not likely to start a fire if they are cold, but they might still be combustible. Incense ashes recently fallen may contain ember, which can act like a naked flame and become a big fire hazard.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS): Is Incense Ash Flammable?

Is incense ash good for plants?

Well, it might be. Considering you are not using much of it because incenses are generally small, they can be a good fertilizer for secondary nutrients most plants require.

But the biggest problem is in manufacturing. If you are sure that your incenses are natural, go for it. Synthetic compounds like certain plastics may be added to some products, which is almost never good for the soil.

But even though the incense is entirely natural, we still can’t be sure about all the compounds that are on it. Some nutrients may be disheveled in your soil, some may not. It’s hard to assess the total nutritional value of incense ash to plants.

Is incense ash good for your skin?

Incense ash is mainly made of inorganic compounds, like most ashes from the burning of a fuel.

It doesn’t present any relevant physical properties (e.g exfoliation), or chemical ones. The constituents of incense ash are not exactly good for your skin but are not bad as well as long as they were cooled.

is incense ash bad for cats?

Incense ash is not particularly harmful to cats, but it’s not good either. It irritates the pet’s respiratory system and stomach, which could evolve into bigger problems. 

Prolonged contact with ashes of any kind is not good for cats, but they do not present any high acute risk that could threaten their lives. 


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