Aerosol Flamethrower

"You can't hurt me, Baby Bowler. 'Cause I'm protected. By the God of Haircare."

Subtrope of Improvised Weapon. A character uses an aerosol can, such as hairspray, with a match or lighter as a makeshift flamethrower. A serious case of Don't Try This at Home, because there's a very real risk that the flames will heat the canister up enough for it to rupture and explode. Also, it smells terrible. You can accidentally poison yourself if you keep doing it, thanks to the fumes. See also Farts on Fire for a smaller, more comedic version of this.

See also Booze Flamethrower, Molotov Cocktail, and Arrows on Fire. If a gas canister itself becomes a weapon, that's a Gas Cylinder Rocket.

Interestingly but for probably obvious reasons, the BBFC (the British censorship board) doesn't allow this trope to be shown in films or home video rated below "18", as they are pretty strict in banning what they deem is "imitable" and likely to cause injury and/or death if some dumb kid decided to copy an obviously dangerous action in a movie or TV show.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga  
  • Kagome of Inuyasha used a candle and a can of hairspray on a demon weak to heat.
  • Mousse of Ranma Ĺ did this to a deaged Ranma and Ryoga once in the manga while trying to learn fire breathing.
  • Pretty much the weapon of choice for the Action Survivors of Biomeat.
  • Saburo draws one in the episode of Keroro Gunsou where he was introduced to the Reality Pen.

     Comic Books  

  • Done by Rorschach in Watchmen.
  • Other Beth threatens Yorick with this when they first meet in Y: The Last Man.
    Yorick (entering a church): Hello? [...] I need to make a confession.
    Beth (pointing aerosol at him): Well, you know the drill... repent or burn.
    • Yorick, being a nerd, warns Beth that the flame will come back at her. It doesn't.
  • Bob claims to have improvised one to drive off a feral dog (or possibly a coyote) in the Knights of the Dinner Table strip "A Fish Story".

    Film 

    Literature 
  • Done in The Mist, by Stephen King, in both the book and the movie.
  • The Tango Briefing by Adam Hall. British spy Quiller is being held at gunpoint by Egyptian intelligence mooks, waiting for their Big Bad to arrive. He's next to his car, so he removes the fuelcap (hidden behind his back) and drops a lit match into the petrol tank, turning it into an impromptu flamethrower.
  • Smith of The Red And The Rest uses a can of spray paint and a cigarette to light a couch on fire, creating a heavy, flaming blockade.

     Live Action TV  

  • Used by a naked Nikita when her house is invaded.
  • Used in Lost by Locke to kill a polar bear in a season three episode.
  • Edgar Hansen, deck boss on the crab boat Northwestern, likes to torment other crew members with these.
  • Frances' daughters make one out of Dawn's deodorant in a flashback in The Librarians.
  • Burn Notice's Fiona Glenanne has pulled this trick a number of times, but in "Fast Friends", she combines this with a trashcan full of nail polish remover (which is largely made of acetate and extremely flammable) for a quick - and diversionary - bomb.
  • My Name Is Earl, Joy threatens to torch a childhood enemy with this and Earl mentions that she tried to cook a Thanksgiving turkey that way.
    • The can of hairspray she was using, combined with Earl trying to light a cigarette, had explosive results, too.
  • Nate creates one in the Leverage episode "The Zanzibar Marketplace Job".
  • Faith made one using a stove lighter and a can of kitchen oil in Angel in order to torture Wesley, which led to the relevant episode being the only one in the whole series to be rated "18" for home video release in Britain.
  • In the dutch reality TV series Oh Oh Tirol (basically a dutch Jersey Shore) Tatjana uses this to light a cigarette when she can't find a lighter. video at 0:24
  • Victoria plans to use a can of hairspray and a lighter on an ex-boyfriend in an episode of Mike And Molly. Mike manages to talk her down and take the can and lighter away from her.
  • Sam and Dean of Supernatural have been known to fall back on this tactic when their guns and other weapons don't do the job. Not very often (they've only done it twice), but when the situation calls for fire, they do what they have to.
    • It's notable that the first time they did this, it was improvisation on Dean's part, using a can of insecticide and a lighter to fight off invading bugs. In the later episodes where fire was the weapon of choice, the brothers can be seen constructing their own temporary flamethrowers out of gas bottles and copper piping.
  • The MythBusters did this with pepper spray. While testing if a pepper spray covered shirt was flammable, they tested different brands to see if the pepper spray itself was flammable; of five types they tried, two were non-flammable, one created a stream of fire, and the other two gave large flames typical of this trope.
    • The test was inspired by an episode of CSI in which tasering a pepper-sprayed suspect set them on fire. (The Mythbusters themselves even get to make a cameo appearance in the expository scene where it's explained why the poor man went up in flames.)
  • In the British remake of The Day of the Triffids, the main character uses one of these to fend off a triffid.

    Music 

  • In the music video for Bon Jovi's "Always," the jealous boyfriend torches the artist's studio with the help of one. The version of the video that is most easily found online (such as on the band's official YouTube channel) has this part cut out for some reason, which results in the place going up in flames for no apparent reason.

     Tabletop Games  

  • They show up in GURPS: High-Tech but are unreliable, lack range and get five seconds of firing time at best. They're still better than most improvised weapons, scarier too.
  • Stories have gone around of Vampire: The Masquerade players doing this. Based on standard game mechanics, this should be a brutally effective tactic against all but the most powerful vampires — if it doesn't outright kill your opponent, it will hurt them a lot worse than it would hurt a human, and will likely scare the living daylights out of them. However, the Game Master may have other ideas.
    • In the New World of Darkness setting, Hunter: The Vigil actually has rather in-depth rules for finding the supplies for and utilizing an aerosol flamethrower. Even against creatures who aren't particularly vulnerable to flames, a lucky Hunter can set them on fire which is one of the most effective ways to kill almost anything.
    • Building one of these as a vampire stalks the house is the example used for a time-limited extended action in Innocents.

    Theatre 

  • Link broke Tracey out of prison in the stage musical of Hairspray using this method.

     Video Games  

  • In Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, you have to do this against the final boss. You have to macgyver the weapon out of bits and pieces lying around, all the while being hunted by a machine-gun wielding enemy... whom you then have to burn to death with your jury-rigged flamethrower. An early Crowning Moment of Awesome in Snake's career, at least for the player - in-universe, having to do that is part of what causes Snake's Heroic BSOD that he ends up retiring over between this and the next game.
  • This is one of the many weapons you can find in Blood. You can either use the traditional method, or light it and toss it like a grenade. The bug spray weapon in Blood 2 works on the same principle, substituting a Cartoon Bug-Sprayer filled with extremely acidic and flammable bug spray for a can of aerosol.
  • Of the many weapons in the Die Hard arcade game, the lighter and especially the spray can seem all but useless at first. Then you put them together...
  • You can do this with cans of hair spray in Kingdom of Loathing.
  • One of the new weapons featured in Army Men II happens to be this.
  • The game Arachnophobia had this as one of your most useful weapons against the spider menace. Getting both the matches and the aerosol can in the same level would make you extremely dangerous.
  • In Daxter, Daxter wields a spray gun that can paralyze metal bugs. Partway through the game, he gets an upgrade that lights the spray and makes it function as a flamethrower.
  • Resident Evil Outbreak allows you to fashion a hairspray flamethrower together as a weapon.
  • One of the weapons in Alone In The Dark 2008.
  • In Police Quest IV: Open Season, you take out the serial killer this way after you were knocked out and stripped of your inventory.
  • Postal 2 gets one with the A Week in Paradise mod. The effect looks more like slow-moving clouds of flame rather than a stream, which actually makes it useful for short-term area denial.
    • Postal 3 also gets one as the pepper spray's alt fire.
  • Toy Soldiers: Cold War, Levels 2 and 3 of the makeshift unit are different versions of these.
  • In the Mercenaries Reunion mode of Resident Evil 5, Rebecca Chambers uses an aerosol can flamethrower as her special attack when an enemy is shot in the head. Especially hilarious because she is depicted as a small, weak and fragile girl.
  • Downplayed Trope in Team Fortress Two, The Pyro does not use actual aerosol cans for any of his/her/its flamethrowers, but they appear to be garden and garage tools hooked up to a tank of propane. In any case, they're implicitly stated to be home-made and most likely horribly dangerous to the user. It's most notable on the Degreaser and the Stock Flamethrower. Completely averted by the Phlogstinator, however, as it is powered by 'alchemy'.
  • Just one of many improvised weapons in Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure Under Pressure.

     Web Comic  

     Web Original  

  • A Web series called Hyperboy did this with the title character's evil twin. And it was Badass.
  • In Worm, Skitter creates one of these in Monarch 16.11 by hitting a soldier who was trying to light a Molotov Cocktail with her pepper spray.

     Western Animation  

  • In Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Nana uses this technique to light a campfire in the African bush.
  • The South Park episode, The Ungroundable, ends with the goths torching down a Hot Topic in this manner.
  • In Home Movies, Melissa puts a can of hairy spray in a microwave to explode the kitchen to make a daring escape.
  • The Simpsons: In "Pranks and Greens", Homer attempts to put out a burning pile of snack foods by spraying it with Kool Wip. The topping catches fire and burns back up the stream to the can, which explodes.

     Real Life  

  • Torches / power lighters based on cans (normally lighter refill, not aerosol). The one most advanced so far was featured on BoingBoing. Safe only if both made and used with care, of course. But aside of overkilling pesky insects, these things are powerful enough to dry up wet firewood and thus good at starting campfires.
  • Flamethrowers that use gas instead of liquid fuel are basically this, but more controlled and intentional.
  • Silly String is prone to this— which people don't always realize. Watch out around birthday candles.
  • This trope gets tested a lot in real life, mostly by young teenage boys with deodorant. Luckily for parents everywhere, most of them have enough sense to keep the can far from their face and to use really short bursts.
    • A few videos on YouTube of people using this to get rid of wasp nests. This gets mixed results, since even though the nest is made of what is basically paper, not all the wasps will be killed every time.


Alternative Title(s):

Hair Spray Flamethrower