A chemist’s advice: Don’t Dry-Burn your coil


To dry-burn or not to dry-burn?

The Hamlet’s choice of burning dry or not is rather a safety question than of any other concern. As recalled by the chemist, a dry burn consists in applying a lot of power to a bare coil in order to heat it and “clean it up” from manufacturing residuals. It is also used for alignment and spacing.

Such practice, according to the specialists, affects the structure of the alloy or the metal that the coil is made of in surface, and may lead to the production of some particles that will stick to the aerosol and be ingested by the user.

Why is a dry-burn dangerous?

A dry-burn is dangerous for 3 reasons:

  1. The coating of oxidized material that is formed in surface can peal off during vaping and be transferred to the lungs at the same time as the aerosol, in the form of microscopic particles, or particulate matter.
  2. The particulate matter can cause allergies. Nickel, for example, is recognized for causing skin rash, itching, redness. Ni is also a carcinogenic compound when combined to carbon monoxide (CO), a product of incomplete carbohydrate combustion. Hence, this type of toxicity is probably less relevant in the case of e-cigarettes than for combustible tobacco products.
  3. The particulate matter can also be toxic for the organisms. It is, for example well described in the case of welders exposed to Mn oxides.

For the chemist, a dry burn may amplify the normal corrosion process on the surface of the coil and prematurely deteriorate the quality of the heating element. Toxic (for Mn) or carcinogenic effects (for the Cr(VI), a more oxidized form compared to Cr(III)) are improbable since the dose is very small.

Unintentional dry burn

An unintentional dry burn may also happen when the e-liquid got short in the tank and the cotton is not wet enough. Our advice if it happens, is to get rid of the burnt coil and to mount a brand new one.

Similarly, it is not a good idea to re-use old coils since corrosion has probably developed and already fragilized the surface of the metal. Exchanges of used coils between users is not recommended either.

Let’s relativize

There is no reason to think that a dry-burn would make vaping worse than smoking. Nevertheless, it increases the risk of releasing potentially harmful compounds that may be inhaled by the user. In order to check the consistency of a home-made coil and to clean it from manufacturing residuals, a moderate heating of the wire may appear useful, from the experience of vapers.

Those users generally advise building non-touching coils so that they don’t have hot spots. Using a coiler also helps building coils in a reproducible way.