Hoteliers have been warned of ‘self-combusting’ tea towels after a recent spate of fires in hotels, pubs and restaurants.

Commercial insurer, NFU Mutual, claim the self-combusting tea towel phenomenon occurs when the remains of oil and fat combine with stain remover thus contaminating fabrics made of natural fibres and causing the towel to self-combust.

The reaction is believed to be even more likely when combined with heat such as that from tumble drying.

Darren Seward, hospitality specialist at NFU, said: “Although tea towels may appear clean once washed, they may still have the remains of cooking oils and fats or chemicals on them that are invisible to the eye.

“If they are then put into a tumble dryer, the combination of heat, cooking fats and oxygenating chemicals from stain removing detergent products can create a chemical reaction and cause the towel to self-heat, smoulder and eventually catch fire.”