Can Party Poppers Start a Fire?

Firing off party poppers is surprisingly thrilling.  The noticeable spark, loud bang, smoke aroma, and jolt of confetti are sure to turn heads within a few feet and keep you coming back for more. But it got me wondering, can party poppers start a fire? 

Party poppers, if improperly used, can start a fire.  Traditional party poppers contain a highly sensitive explosive known as Armstrong’s mixture, but the amount is usually less than .016 g, making it highly unlikely to start a fire as manufactured.   Other party poppers utilize compressed air and would not be a fire risk.

Keep in mind that party poppers are used both indoors and outdoors and great for landmark anniversaries like birthday parties, wedding receptions, the Fourth of July, and New Year’s Eve.

It is a commonplace that in these environments, there will be other fireworks present or open flames like lighters or candles, and potentially other ingredients—a recipe for fire.

Let’s dive into how party poppers work, so we can get a better understanding of how to properly use them in celebratory settings and know what could go wrong, or the risks and consequences if not used as directed.

What Is A Party Popper Made Of?

Party poppers, also called champagne poppers or confetti poppers.

Traditional party poppers are composed of the following materials (Source):

  • Plastic (bell shape structure)
  • Two disks – one to separate the confetti from the explosive | the other to enclose the structure
  • Assortment of confetti (hopefully flame-retardant)
  • Armstrong’s mixture (or gunpowder)
  • String

However, party poppers come in all different shapes and sizes. Other notable materials and structures may include:

  • Paper or cardboard tube (as opposed to plastic)
  • Tube size can range from several inches to several feet in length (officially going from “popper” to “cannon”)
  • A spring-loaded mechanism which aids the release of compressed air by turning two parts in the opposite direction

How Does A Party Popper Work?

When you pull the string from the nozzle (or twist on larger poppers), enough friction (heat) is created to cause a reaction with pyrotechnic chemicals, or what is often referred to as Armstrong’s mixture.

Armstrong’s Mixture consists of:

  • Red phosphorus or sulfur (helps to decrease sensitivity and cut costs)
  • A strong oxidizer like potassium chlorate and potassium perchlorate
  • Calcium carbonate

This mixture is also used in toy caps (the small, red revolver like ammo for toy guns) and reacts almost identical. 

The result?

BOOM!  KAPOW!  Or any other onomatopeia you would like to use here.

In addition, the reaction creates significant pressure against the first disk, pushing forward through the second cavity where the confetti is housed.

Due to the relatively small size, the force still has enough momentum to make it through the second disk, propelling the confetti into the air.  Streamers galore!

There is a noticeable flash and smoke is visible to the same effect of blowing out a lit match. Last, the aroma of smoke is present.

Proper Use vs. Improper Use

Because party poppers contain rather low levels of pyrotechnic chemicals, they are considered novelty fireworks.  That does not mean that they are not dangerous or shouldn’t be “used as directed.”

Please review our “Do’s” and “Dont’s” when it comes to using party poppers the right way, to mitigate risk.

Proper Use

What to DO and NOT DO when handling Party Poppers
Do not tamper with the internal contents of a party popper.
Do not try to disassemble or reassemble any “dud.” Discard.
Always point up in the air, away from your face and any other people nearby.
Never use the device near flammable objects or liquids.
Don’t pull it near someone’s ears, or around people who are hard of hearing.
Use proper ear and eye protection.
Don’t inhale the smoke.
Clean up your mess.
Have water or a fire extinguisher nearby for added safety.

Improper Use

Virtually the opposite of each one of these.  Please be responsible. Read the package instructions, caution label, and abide by them.

Dangers and Negatives of Party Poppers

The video below depicts some extreme scenarios of how party poppers could react in open flame environments or with flammable substances such as Cinnamon (feel free to fast forward to 6:05).

While the risk of fire and serious injury is extremely low (clearly not “used as directed” in the video), there are a few dangers to be aware of:

  • Some poppers can shoot confetti great distances (60 feet in the air), so be sure not to aim at someone’s face, even if they appear to be well out of reach.
  • They are loud and can cause hearing loss. So avoid shooting a popper near someone’s ear.
  • Certain disposable parts are small and considered a choking hazard for small children.
  • Known to stain certain areas like floors or walls if used indoors and these areas are wet. Usually comes out with more aggressive cleaners.

Related Questions

Are party poppers considered fireworks?
Due to the very small amount of explosive composition, party poppers are considered novelty items. Other examples are snakes, snappers, sparklers and tanks. Each state does vary with what they consider to be “consumer fireworks” vs. novelty items. “Display fireworks” are usually not for sale, restricted to professionals who require a permit.

Where can party poppers be found?
Party poppers can be found year-round at convenience shops, gas stations, big-box retailer stores like “Party City” and can be purchased online through places like Amazon.

What are some common uses of party poppers?
Outside of any special celebratory moments, party poppers are great for:

  • An alternative to celebrating bride and groom’s traditional tossed rice send-off.
  • Used as a party favor for young kids birthday
  • Gender reveals (pink or blue powder/confetti)
  • Nightclubs and dance halls

Mark Plevyak

Thanks for reading! Throwing events can be overwhelming but to me one of the most thrilling and rewarding experiences. Since we all grew up in different decades, we can't always relate to iconic time periods of the past. There is so much to celebrate so if you are thinking of planning an event, plan a Retro one. And, if you're attending a party, ensure you relive it to the fullest. Party Unique!

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