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No, shaking a gas cylinder won’t make it explode

Gas explosion is becoming a number one killer in the society,” warns a Facebook post shared more than 26,000 times. “Please, you don't have to shake the gas cylinder to know the level of its content.”

It then gives this advice: “What you should do is to wet a side of the cylinder with water.” After a while, the empty part of the cylinder – towards the top – will dry, “while the lower part with gas will remain wet. The wet portion tells you the amount of gas left.” 

Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is a safe, reliable and convenient alternative to electricity. It is often used in homes for warmth, cooking and lighting. It is also used in industries.

The post’s method of working out how much gas is left in a cylinder seems to be useful. But will a shaken gas cylinder really explode? We investigated. 


Experts agree: no explosion from shaking 

Africa Check asked the Gas Company, a gas installation and gas bottle exchange service in South Africa’s Gauteng province, about the post. They said shaking a gas cylinder would not make it explode.  

Afrox is a supplier of LPG gases in sub-Saharan Africa. Afrox LPG manager, Trevor Boshoff, referred us to the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Safety Association of Southern Africa (LPGSA). “They are the safety governing body at the moment on LPG” and could provide a factual response, he said.   

LPGSA told AFP Fact Check that shaking a gas cylinder to check its level was pointless.  But added, if bought from a legal dealer, "cylinders do not explode from mere shaking". 

How to safely check the gas level

But the post’s other advice seems to have some value.

The Gas Company told Africa Check that the method described in the Facebook post, which uses water, was the “best and most cost effective way”.

Home improvement, DIY and building materials retailer Builders Warehouse shares similar advice in a blog. “Pour hot water down one side of the bottle, and a line of condensation will appear indicating the level of the gas inside,” it says. 

“If you don’t get a condensation line, run your hand down the side of the bottle and you should feel a distinct change of temperature at the level of the gas. 

“The surface will be hotter where there is no gas, and cooler where there is gas. If you don’t feel a difference, the cylinder may be empty.” 

This method was confirmed by the LPGSA. They also advised that gas levels could be checked by weighing the gas cylinder and subtracting the figure from the gross mass figure stamped on the cylinder.

A shaken gas bottle will not explode.

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