Incense Safety Precautions

When done correctly and thoughtfully, Japanese incense is easy to safely enjoy. But what can easily be forgotten is that incense is indeed burning, and as such poses a fire hazard at all times it is in use. Also often overlooked, care must also be taken with incense ash as it is quite hot and can at worst pose a fire hazard and at the least is capable of discoloring any surface that is falls upon.

With this in mind, care must be employed when burning incense. The following is not an exhaustive list, but some basic precautions to keep in mind whenever incense is used.

Incense Safety Precautions:

    1. Always be aware that burning incense and incense ash is a fire hazard.

    • This sounds obvious, but it is easy to forget as there is no obvious flame.
    • Both burning incense AND the ash present a fire hazard.

    2. Once lit, never leave incense unattended.

    • Burning incense is a fire hazard and should be regularly monitored.
    • Lighting incense and then going to sleep is dangerous and should be avoided.

    3. Always remember - once lit, incense is indeed burning.

    • This sounds obvious, but is easy to forget as there is no obvious flame.
    • Be careful not to touch the lit end! This can cause burns and be quite painful!
    • Brushing up against or touching burning incense can start a fire, cause burns, ruin clothing, or discolor furniture.

    4. Incense should always be used with an appropriate incense burner/holder.

      • Only holders or burners designed specifically to safely hold burning incense should be used.
      • When using a simple holder, be sure to use a ceramic dish or plate under the holder to catch the ash produced.
      • Ensure that the ash is contained by the burner/holder plate as it is often be hot enough to discolor furniture or create a risk of fire.

      5. Be aware of the placement of burning incense.

        • A burning stick of incense should be kept away from places where children or pets might encounter it.
        • Keep lit incense away from where a breeze might blow a curtain into contact with it or knock over a lit stick.
        • Always make sure the incense burner/holder is placed on a stable surface out of the flow of traffic and away from flammable objects.

        6. Be sure to burn incense in spaces that are well ventilated.

          • Burning any incense will produce smoke -  even reduced smoke varieties.
          • Always ensure you have a source of fresh air when burning incense such as a window kept partially open.

          7. Incense smoke is not the incense fragrance.

          • Never place incense in close proximity to yourself.
          • Smoke is a byproduct of burning incense that is not healthy to inhale.
          • The fragrance from incense is produced just below the smoldering tip when the aromatic incense ingredients are heated, not from the smoke created from the smoldering tip burning these ingredients.

          8. Finally, speak with your medical professional prior to using incense if you have underlying health conditions that may be affected.

          • Incense produces smoke, even reduced smoke varieties, that may impact breathing issues or produce allergic reactions.
          • Incense is to be enjoyed for its fragrance and is not intended as a medical remedy.

          This page is part of Kikoh's Japanese Incense 101 series. This series of posts is intended to help provide greater information and understanding as you progress along this fragrant path. Learn more...

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