We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Caused New Zealand’s Exploding Trousers Incident?

By Kevin Hellyer
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Jacobaea vulgaris is a devious weed known in agricultural circles as ragwort. When mature, ragwort resembles a tall dandelion, with a bright yellow flower featuring long thin petals. Farmers have been trying to eradicate ragwort for years, and at one point in 1930s New Zealand, the war on ragwort became dangerous -- to the dairy farmers trying to spray it away.

New Zealand’s Department of Agriculture had recommended using a herbicide called sodium chlorate, and it was effective against ragwort. The downside was that when dry, the chemical became highly caustic. Many farmers found this out the hard way when their pants began to explode, sometimes leading to injuries.

Scientists eventually discovered that the herbicide -- sodium chlorate powder mixed with water -- became flammable when the water evaporated, leaving tiny crystals embedded in the fibers of the farmers’ denim jeans,.

The curious case of the exploding trousers:

  • One farmer made the local news after his pants exploded. He’d hung up the wet trousers next to the fire to dry, and before long the pants burst into flames.

  • Other farmers suffered severe burns when their pants literally ignited -- while they were still wearing them.

  • Ragwort is poisonous to horses and cows, making it unacceptable ground cover in grazing pastures. The stomachs of sheep and goats can tolerate ragwort, and those animals are now used to try to keep the weed from growing out of control.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.