How to Cleanup After Using a Fire Extinguisher
A fire starts in your home. Being well prepared and acting quickly, you grab your fire extinguisher and use it to appropriately put out the blaze before it becomes a conflagration. The fire’s gone, but now you’re left with quite the cleanup. How do you proceed?
Unfortunately, a fire outbreak isn’t the end of your troubles. Even when you deal with it successfully, you’re going to be facing a bit of a cleanup. And, because there are many different kinds of fire extinguishers, there are different preparations you’re going to want to make.
The first thing to consider is the different types of fire extinguishers there are, and the different cleanup required for each kind. Additionally, while most fire extinguishers don’t contain dangerous chemicals, it’s always best to take full precautions and use proper safety equipment.
What to Wear When Cleaning Up
While there are many different types of fire extinguishers, designed to deal with different types of fires, practically speaking there are only two kinds you need to consider when gearing yourself for a cleanup.
Powder fire extinguishers use dry chemicals powders to snuff flames. While the powder isn’t inherently toxic, it can certainly be an irritant if inhaled or it gets in your eyes.
When using a powder extinguisher, it’s important to protect these two areas. Gloves are an excellent first barrier against getting dust on your hands, minimizing potential skin irritation.
A breathing apparatus is great, but a simple dust mask like you’d use working with drywall is sufficient. Goggles that have a decent seal (like swimming goggles) or simply fully-coverage safety glasses will help protect your eyes from irritation.
Wet chemical extinguishers require a bit more specific gear. While nothing in the chemicals used is inherently toxic, some ingredients may be carcinogenic. Impermeable gloves are a must, as well as protective goggles in case of splashes.
Cleaning Up After Using a Fire Extinguisher
For powder extinguishers:
If you’ve got a vacuum cleaner, now’s the time to use it — the powder from fire extinguishers is very fine and can be difficult to sweep effectively. In fact, even with a vacuum cleaner you may want to make a few passes to ensure the vast majority of the powder gets removed. That said, if you don’t have a vacuum handy a broom will do in a pinch.
Once you’ve sucked (or swept) up the residue as best you’re able, it’s important to dispose of it properly. Transfer it to a tightly closed bag so none escapes, and then you may throw it away like any other garbage.
When that’s done, take a wet cloth and clean up any remaining powder. There’s a potential the powder could damage cloth like curtains, so anything the fire extinguisher came into contact with should also be washed.
For wet extinguishers:
Using the protective equipment mentioned, soak up the extinguisher fluid with disposable towels (the paper variety is fine.) After you’ve got most of it sponged, dispose of the towels and wash the area down with hot soapy water.
Mop that up with dry towels, and then give the exposed are one more rinse for good measure before a final drying. Make sure to bag up all towels used and throw them away when you’re done.
Once you’ve beat the fire, there’s still work to be done. Unfortunately, most fire extinguishers require a bit of cleanup after being used. Thankfully, it’s usually pretty straightforward, provided you have the proper gear handy.
Make sure to wear all the protective clothing when dealing with fire extinguisher residue. While not terribly dangerous, it could definitely save you from irritation and exposure to potential carcinogens.
After a quick tidy, you’ll be able to sit back and marvel at your fire protection abilities. But don’t marvel too long — your next step is getting your fire extinguisher recharged or replaced!