This review analyses and summarises the previous investigations on the oxidation of linseed oil and the self-heating of cotton and other materials impregnated with the oil. It discusses the composition and chemical structure of linseed oil, including its drying properties. The review describes several experimental methods used to test the propensity of the oil to induce spontaneous heating and ignition of lignocellulosic materials soaked with the oil. It covers the thermal ignition of the lignocellulosic substrates impregnated with the oil and it critically evaluates the analytical methods applied to investigate the oxidation reactions of linseed oil.Initiation of radical chains by singlet oxygen (1Deltag), and their propagation underpin the mechanism of oxidation of linseed oil, involving addition of singlet oxygen, formation of radical sites, addition of triplet (ground state) oxygen to the radicals, formation of hydroperoxides as important intermediates and decomposition of the peroxides leading to the self-heating and formation of volatile organic species and higher molecular weight compounds. The review also discusses the role of metal complexes of cobalt, iron and manganese in catalysing the oxidative drying of linseed oil, summarising some kinetic parameters such as the rate constants of the peroxidation reactions.With respect to fire safety, the classical theory of self-ignition does not account for radical and catalytic reactions and appears to offer limited insights into the autoignition of lignocellulosic materials soaked with linseed oil. New theoretical and numerical treatments of oxidation of such materials need to be developed. The self-ignition induced by linseed oil is predicated on the presence of both a metal catalyst and a lignocellulosic substrate, and the absence of any prior thermal treatment of the oil, which destroys both peroxy radicals and singlet O2 sensitisers. An overview of peroxyl chemistry included in the article will be useful to those working in areas of fire science, paint drying, indoor air quality, biofuels and lipid oxidation.