Cork and Fire

Cork comes from the Quercus Suber, otherwise known as the cork oak, that grows primarily in southwest Europe and northwest Africa and it is an impermeable, buoyant, elastic, and fire retardant wood. It’s also environmentally sustainable and if you’re like me you stay up all night wondering “is cork flammable?”

It’s a valid question, especially if you have a mountain sized collection of wine corks or you find yourself wanting to use it to insulate your home.

Cork, the Better Burn

The answer to your question is yes, cork is flammable even though it has fire retardant qualities, cork does burn and since it’s a slow combustion material it doesn’t produce a flame and the smoke it produces is non-toxic, making it a perfect barrier against fire. The waste, or cork powder that is generated when producing other cork products is actually burned to produce the energy to fuel the factories that make cork products. It’s environmentally sustainable, non-toxic nature and ability to burn without producing a flame, make cork the better burn material in comparison to traditional fuel woods like oak.

Uncorking the Mystery

You might be wondering how hot does cork need to get before it will combust? Studies have shown that cork will burn at temperatures above 200 Celsius, that’s 392 degrees Fahrenheit. This explains why cork is often used as the material to make gaskets for car engines, which reach an average temperature of 220 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also used as a thermal insulator in housing floors, ceilings, and facades because of it’s high combustion temperature and slow burning nature.

Your Flaming Cork

Now that it’s obvious that cork will burn, why it burns, and how, you probably want to know if it will benefit you in some way. Firstly, you can use old corks to start a campfire by wrapping them in old newsprint, making into a cork ball, surround with twigs, kindling, and light on fire. Since the corks are essentially dried-out wood they make a great source of fire that will burn slow and hot providing you comfort and heat on that chilly campout.

Secondly, your old corks can also make great candles. Just soak your corks in a mason jar full of acetone alcohol for a week, let them fully dry, and put them in a fire-safe jar or glass and ignite. Lastly, the fact that cork is flammable makes it a perfect medium for wood-burning projects. You can purchase cork coasters and boards in a variety of shapes and sizes and use a wood-burning tool to burn designs and lettering into the surface to create unique, beautiful gifts and artwork.

Cork is one of the most sustainable, versatile wood products on the market. It’s used as a building material, a fuel source, and even to create art. It seems obvious that it would be flammable because it’s wood, however, its dense nature and chemical compounds give it a fire retardant nature that will only combust at very high temperatures, producing no flame and burning slowly. Now that you have a better understanding of of this special wood, you may want to start saving those used corks!