Introduction: Grease Fire Safety Sticker

About: Openproducts' focus is on design of new products and on innovative approaches towards improving existing products. An example: the CountClock, a concept facilitating children to learn telling the time. Purpose…

Recently I crossed a friend with one hand in a bandage. “What happened?” I asked. My friend replied: “we've had a grease fire in our kitchen and I carried the burning pan outside, thereby receiving burns on my hand”. We discussed the incident for a while and then I asked: “why didn't you put the lid on the pan?” The answer was surprising: “indeed, others have asked me the same. But it went all so quickly that I didn't have time to reflect”.

After this encounter I realized two things:

  1. If this can happen to my friend it can happen to anyone, and
  2. It is important to develop a reflex: 'if grease fire then slide lid on pan'

I decided to design a warning sign on what to do in case of a grease fire. This Instructable presents the resulting visual in a series of pictograms what to do best in case of a grease fire.

Print your own sticker here or buy a set at Openproducts' webshop
Dutch/Nederlands: Print hier je eigen sticker of koop een setje in Openproducts' webwinkel
German/Deutsch: Drucken Sie hier Ihre eigenen Aufkleber oder kaufen Sie einen Set im Webshop
French/français: Imprimez votre propre autocollant ici ou achetez des autocollants au webshop

Obviously the sticker couldn't be very elaborate, so I needed to constrain myself to the basic message. Step 2 in this Instructable documents these design considerations, i.e. why I designed the pictogram as it is.

There is a lot more to be said on preventing and extinguishing a grease fire; in Step 1 some background has been documented, based on multiple sources.It is important to take note of this background in order to better understand grease fires.

The sticker is meant to be placed in a kitchen and it is available for purchase through Openproducts' shop at Etsy's. A high-resolution version of the sticker is also available through this Instructable.

This Instructable 'Grease Fire Sticker' was first published on 7 September 2015, see Step 6 where the Creative Commons 'Attribution' (CC BY 4.0) license of this Instructable is explained.

The sticker is made available in this Instructable in two file formats. Step 3 provides the source of the image in Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), an editable file type and Step 5 in Portable Network Graphics (PNG). Both files have a high resolution and may be printed for any purpose.

This Instructable 'Grease Fire Sticker' has been submitted to the Instructables 'Safety Challenge' (2015).

Back now to the story of my friend: recovery took quite a while and has been painful. I gave the first copy of the sticker as a present, which has made at least one kitchen now a safer place.

As mentioned above, the next Step in this Instructable gives some background to preventing and extinguishing a grease fire.

Step 1: Grease Fire Facts

References for the three images above are provided at the bottom of this Step 1.

The internet provides a lot of information on grease fires, what to do to prevent them and how to act if it happens. Openproducts does not have a background in fire fighting or disaster management; this Instructable Step 1 documents information from others, finished with some additional remarks and suggestions. In order to avoid misinterpretation, for example due to language, refer to your local fire department for additional information or corrections to this Instructable. Feedback to improve this Instructable is welcomed through the Comments.

References for the information presented in this step are provided at the bottom of this Step 1.

When cooking oil is getting too hot it results in spontaneous combustion. This can happen while you're standing at the stove, but in a lot of cases it appears to be a result of a frying pan being forgotten. For a grease fire to start three factors need to be present:

  1. Fuel (grease or oil);
  2. High temperature (from the stove), and;
  3. Oxygen (from the air).

To put out a grease fire at least one of the three requirements above needs to be taken away: putting a tight-fitting metal lid on the pot or pan cuts off the oxygen which will smother the fire.

The information on grease fires in this Instructable is presented in four different stages: preparation, cooking without a grease fire, what to do during a grease fire and what to do after a grease fire. Finally, some words are dedicated to things you shouldn't do.

Stage 1: Preparation

  • If you're going to cook oil or grease, be aware that there is always a risk of a grease fire.
  • Have a tight-fitting metal lid within reach. If you don't have one, buy or borrow it, alternatively use a different pot or pan for which you do have a lid. The reason why it should fit tightly lies in the air-tight seal you'll need to smother the grease fire. The reason why the lid should be metal is that glass might burst.
  • Have two oven mitts within reach.
  • Make sure you don't have long sleeves and/or inflammable fabric.
  • Stay around in the kitchen, don't leave grease, oil or food cooking unattended. Frequently this is the cause of home fires and injuries: the oil is quickly overheating, resulting in a fire.

Stage 2: During the cooking (no fire)

  • Do not leave a wooden spoon in the pot, it hinders when you want to cover the pan with the lid. The opening around the spoon allows fire to blow out and oxygen to be sucked into the pot.
  • If you feel like doing a dry run: imagine that the fire starts (or ask someone to signal for the (imaginary) ignition, alternatively use a kitchen timer) and see if you know what to do under artificial stress.

Stage 3: During a grease fire

  • Try not to panic.
  • Optional / personal preference: put on the oven mitts as a protection for the further steps. If you don't put on the mitts you'll be able to respond faster (but remember that a grease fire may be quite overwhelming, so don't skip the mitts in the preparation above too easily).
  • If you left a wooden spoon in the pot you'll have to remove it now, else the lid cannot create an airtight closing. Be prepared for handling a burning spoon and anticipate putting it down in a secure place.
  • Use the tight-fitting metal lid (see under 'Stage 1: Prepare' above) as a shield for your hand and arm and slide it across the top of the pan to cover the fire.
  • Turn off the stove. Electric cookers remain hot for a long time: consider moving the pot carefully if you judge it safe to do so. Gas and induction cookers cool down quick, don't move the pot in this case.
  • If the situation gets out of control call your local fire brigade.

Stage 4: After a grease fire

  • After having turned off the stove wait for the pan to cool down, leave the lid closed for at least 15 minutes in order to allow temperature to decrease, thus taking away one of the fire factors listed above.

Things not to do

  • Do not pour water: in contact with the hot oil the water will turn into steam instantly. The resulting steam-explosion spreads the oil and causes more fire.
  • Do not move the pan outside. Grease will spill resulting in serious hand-burns and possibly a trail of fire. This is what my friend (see intro above) should have known.

Other things

  • Grease fires can also occur on grills, fryers, and any open flame or heat source used for cooking.
  • According to the sources below, using baking soda was an old practice which is currently (2015) not advised anymore. This is why: in panic, it turned out to be difficult for people to decide which white substance in their kitchen to use: sugar (additional fuel!), flour (explodes!), salt or baking soda. To avoid this confusion it's now suggested (see references below) to apply the lid formula.
  • The amount of words above is considerable. For this Instructable Step 1 focus is on understanding the event of a grease fire, in order to be better able to anticipate.

A grease fire is a matter of seconds. Once it ignites, you'll not have time to look up this Instructable. The bare minimum to remind of this Instructable is: 'if grease fire then slide lid on pan'. For communicating this message to others the sticker in the Openproducts shop at Etsy's may come in handy. Or make a printout right away, see the next steps.


A good summary on grease fires is provided in one of the Fire & Safety Articles from the Excelsior Fire District in the United States (Minnesota, serving the cities of Deephaven, Excelsior, Greenwood, Shorewood and Tonka Bay): 'Put a Lid on Grease Fires' (version of 2011, sourced August 2015). Also, the article 'Cooking Safety' provides important information (sourced August 2015).

The three images at the beginning of Step 1 have been published by State Farm, Benjah-bmm27 and by the Pacific Air Forces respectively. Full references are provided below:

The first image is entitled 'Holiday fire safety - Unattended cooking on stove leads to a fire' by State Farm and is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (September 2007).

The second image (left side) of the grease fire above is entitled 'Chip-Pan-Fire' by Benjah-bmm27 and is in the public domain (July 2006).

The third image (right side) of the lid being slid over the top of a burning pan is a screengrab from the video 'Grease Fire PSA' by the Pacific Air Forces and is licensed under the Standard YouTube Licence (October 2013).

The next Step highlights the design considerations behind the sticker.

Step 2: Design Considerations

Purpose of the sticker is to remind people what to do in case of a grease fire. The goal is to make people aware of what can happen in certain cases, and what to do when your pan is on fire.

The following aspects I have considered in the design.

  • Size of the sticker is kept quite small: the pictogram is meant as a reminder, not really as a warning sign. The idea is to increase awareness rather than to provide directions in the heat of the battle. The dimensions are: width of 10.6 cm (= 4.2 in), height of 5.3 cm (= 2.1 in) but it can be easily scaled.
  • The outstretched format creates a natural direction for reading (from left to right in this case).
  • The main message ('Grease Fire? Slide lid on Pan!') has been displayed clearly, with a clear reference to the background information in this Instructable.
  • With additional text more information could have been transferred, like for example 'use metal lid', 'take off sleeves of inflammable fabric' or 'call emergency services at telephone number …'. This has not been done however, mainly for two reasons: a) to keep the picture simple and clear and b) to reach an international audience.
  • The series of small arrows above the lid in the middle picture is to indicate that the lid is to be slid over the top of the pan.
  • The Grease Fire Sticker has been designed in scalable vector graphics (SVG), the flames in the image were created using Bezier curves and postprocessing of nodes. The software used was Inkscape, a cross-platform and open source vector graphics editor. See Step 4 in this Instructable for more info on the software.

  • License: by opting for a Creative Commons BY license the pictogram can be used by others with the sole restriction that the designer ('') is mentioned. This ensures that the barriers for communicating the sticker to the audience are kept low. See also Step 6.

  • Instead of listing what not to do in case of a grease fire (the story with the water, don't do that, see Step 1 in this Instructable) the idea is to focus on positive action.
  • The sticker clearly mentions the CC BY 4.0 license and the fact that the sticker is 'As-Is' and 'As-Available'.
  • In order to develop the reflex mentioned at the start of this Instructable the idea is that the sticker every now and then receives attention from the people using the stove (for the sticker intends to improve prior knowledge). To this end, it is not needed to put the sticker on the stove; alternatively stick it to a place that the kitchen users see often, such as the drawer containing the cutlery, or inside the fridge.
  • By opting for an open sourced sticker it should be facilitated that others make changes and publish the changed versions (Freedoms 1 and 3 as defined in the Free Software Definition as presented by the Free Software Foundation's Licensing and Compliance Lab at Accessibility of source files is a necessary condition, reason for which the source file of the sticker is provided in the next Step as a scalable vector image (and not solely as a raster image).

The resulting sticker is available for purchase through Openproducts' shop at Etsy's. It is printed on water-repellent material to increase lifetime in the kitchen. Polyethylene was chosen for its lower environmental impacts compared to vinyl.

The next Step presents the source file of the sticker as a scalable vector image.

Step 3: Grease Fire Sticker in SVG

Here the sticker is presented in Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG). For reproducing the Grease Fire Sticker please refer to Step 6 on licensing.

The Grease Fire Sticker source file is also available in a paid version (100% identical to the free version available here) through Openproducts' shop at Etsy's. Downloading the paid version of the SVG file is considered a sign of appreciation for the work of openproducts.

The SVG logo in this Step is copyrighted by the World Wide Web Consortium (MIT, ERCIM, Keio, Beihang). All Rights Reserved.

The sticker was created in the open source software Inkscape, on which a few words are dedicated in the next Step.

Step 4: Inkscape, Open Source Vector Graphics Editor

Inkscape is a cross-platform and open source vector graphics editor. One of the great features of the software, among many others, is its keyboard shortcuts and also the useful and well-written manuals included in the software.

The flames in the Grease Fire Sticker were created using Bezier curves and postprocessing of nodes. Read through the first three tutorials to get familiar: Help > Tutorials > Basic + Shapes + Advanced.

The following Steps show the Grease Fire Sticker in printable PNG format.

Step 5: Grease Fire Sticker in PNG

Portable Network Graphics (PNG) is a raster graphics file format supporting lossless data compression. It is an open format and widely used. The PNG picture of the Grease Fire Sticker has been rastered at 600 dots per inch (dpi) and can be downloaded through the zip-file below.

Feel free to print the image for your own use or to give it away but make sure to leave all text and the copyright notice in place.

The Grease Fire Sticker is also available for purchase through Openproducts' shop at Etsy's (printed on water-repellent polyethylene).

For reproducing the Grease Fire Sticker please refer to Step 6 on licensing, the next Step.

Step 6: License

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