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Posted by on Jul 14, 2015 in Tell Me Why |

How Do Safety Matches Light?

How Do Safety Matches Light?

Safety matches can be lit only by striking them on the specially prepared surface on their package. The key to safety matches is that only parts of the fire-producing chemicals are in the match head.

The striking surface contains a mixture of phosphorus and sand. When the match head is rubbed against this surface, the phosphorous gives off tiny sparks which light the tip of the match.

The heads of wooden matches are also coated with fire-producing chemicals. They contain their own phosphorous, and can be lit by striking them against any rough surface. This is the design still in use today.

Johan Edvard Lundstrom of Sweden patented them in 1855 when he put the phosphorus on the sandpaper outside the box rather than combining it with the other chemicals on the match head.

As suggested by their name, the safety matches are designed to be safe because it requires both the match and the striking surface to light the match.

Safety matches are classified as dangerous goods, “U.N. 1944, Matches, safety”. They are not universally forbidden on aircraft; however, they must be declared as dangerous goods and individual airlines and/or countries may impose tighter restrictions.

Content for this question contributed by Betsy Moeller, resident of Forestville, Sonoma County, California, USA