Safety Tips Office safety

Take extra care when using canned air

Canned air
Image: ronstik/iStockphoto

Have you ever used a canned air product to clean off your computer keyboard? Despite its name, canned air is not the air you breathe. That means it can be hazardous if not used correctly.

“Canned air products contain a gas that is mostly compressed into a liquid,” the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries states, adding that “a variety of gases are used in these products and some are highly flammable.”

Because canned air can be flammable, it needs to be used properly. Keep canned air products in an upright position during spraying. This allows for only the gas layer above the liquid to be released.

“Unsafe use occurs when the can is tilted, allowing the liquefied gas to be released from the nozzle and saturate the air and any surfaces it contacts,” Washington L&I cautions.

Canned air should never be used in small or poorly ventilated areas – the gas is much more likely to become concentrated and create a flammable atmosphere. In addition, ignition sources – including electrical switches, flames and sparks – should be kept clear of the work area to help prevent fires.

Another potential hazard of using canned air: frostbite. That’s right – frostbite indoors. When used, gas expansion in the can makes the liquid inside very cold. “Exposure to a steady stream of this liquid can cause serious frostbite with physical injury such as deep cracking and damage to muscles, nerves, and blood vessels,” Washington L&I notes. Prevent frostbite by reading all labels and following instructions carefully, and never tilt or shake the can.

For more information about canned air safety, visit

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