If you clicked on this link, you may be, like me, a bit of a pyromaniac. Unfortunately for us, playing with fire is quite dangerous, so…
Disclaimer: The activity of breathing fire is extremely dangerous and should only be attempted under the strict supervision of a trained professional. The techniques and practices involved can result in serious injury or even death if not performed correctly. The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a guide for attempting the activity. The author, Charged Magazine, and the Georgia Institute of Technology do not endorse or encourage the practice of breathing fire and assume no liability for any actions taken by readers as a result of this article.
With all that out of the way, let’s talk about fire breathing. As awesome as it looks, fire breathing is undoubtedly dangerous. To lower the risk of injury, professional fire breathers use of fuels with a high flash point of at least 50° Celsius. In scientific terms, flash point is the lowest temperature that a substance will naturally evaporate into a flammable gas. One of the most popular fuels among professionals is paraffin oil, which is a highly purified lamp oil. Paraffin oil is ideal as it has a fairly high flash point of ~90° Celsius.
One should absolutely avoid using any fuel with a lower flash point. Especially dangerous fuels include:
- Ethanol – Ethanol can be absorbed into the bloodstream without ingestion, leading to unwanted intoxication (drunk + fire = bad!)
- Methanol – Methanol can be absorbed into your body via a variety of methods, and can lead to blindness and neurological disorders. Fun fact, methanol is often a natural byproduct of alcohol distillation, and a lot of care is usually taken to make sure none of it gets into the final product. It’s also why distilling alcohol is so dangerous!
- Fuels with very low flash points (e.g. butane, propane, etc.) – These fuels are prone to a build-up of flammable vapors in the oral cavity, which can combust inside your mouth (yikes!)
- Common fuels (e.g. gasoline, kerosene, etc.) – Fuels like gasoline and kerosene often contain carcinogens and additives which can lead to health complications, and are much easier to ignite (which is bad.)
Now that I’ve hopefully scared you into not trying this on your own, I’ll tell you about my preferred method of fire breathing. Unlike all of the examples outlined above, my favorite – instead, I like to use cornstarch. As crazy as it sounds, your typical supermarket cornstarch can be used to breathe fire! Although the flame isn’t quite as spectacular as a liquid-fuel flame, cornstarch is a (relatively) safe option as the powder doesn’t ignite unless it is suspended in air, so the flame has a hard time reaching your mouth after igniting.
The process is super simple:
Step 1: Safety. Make sure you are outside and away from anything flammable. Make sure it isn’t windy, as the wind can blow the fire back into your face (I’m speaking from experience here.) A fire extinguisher and a way to call 911 is a must. Water can be nice too (to rinse out your mouth.)
Step 2: Put a spoonful of cornstarch in your mouth.
Step 3: Light a lighter or torch.
Step 4: Blow!
If everything has gone to plan, congratulations! You are still alive, and your friends are probably mildly impressed with the small fireball that’s come out of your mouth.
So there you have it! Have fun not trying this at home!