Special Care Needed Following Dry Chemical Fire Extinguisher Use

Grabbing a portable fire extinguisher to quench a small fire is a smart move that works most of the time. Research suggests that an astonishing 95 percent of fires can be successfully quenched if quick thinkers deploy these devices shortly after ignition. But as soon as the fire is out and calm settles over startled bystanders, the scene requires another type of quick attention: clean up that prevents further damage to affected items and surrounding areas.

That’s particularly true when deploying dry chemical fire extinguishers. Dry chemical fire extinguishers are common choices for many buildings because they’re multipurpose, handling different types of fuel sources from combustible solids such as wood and flammable liquids like gasoline to electrical fires. They work by blanketing the fire’s fuel with an inert solid that smothers it. Visible as a powdery substance that settles quickly on surfaces after the fire is out, that insert solid could be baking soda (sodium bicarbonate); potassium bicarbonate, which is very similar to baking soda; or monoammonium phosphate. Newer types of dry extinguishers may also include silicone additives.

No matter the manufacturer or model, every extinguisher sports a label listing its contents. Knowing the material that coats the fire scene guides the cleanup approach. Before beginning any method, put on goggles, a dust mask and gloves to prevent breathing in dust. Finish each clean up by thoroughly drying and sanitizing the area as needed.

Sodium bicarbonate and potassium bicarbonate: Vacuum residue thoroughly, making several passes over affected areas to remove all visible residue. Apply hot water mixed with a little vinegar, which neutralizes the pH of the powder. Allow to sit for a few minutes and rinse with warm water.

Silicone types: Vacuum residue thoroughly, making several passes to remove all visible residue. Spray the area with rubbing alcohol to break down the silicone. Allow the solution to penetrate for several minutes then rinse with warm water.

Monoammonium phosphate: Do not vacuum residue left by monoammonium phosphate. This residue must be cleaned by hand without delay; if it remains in contact with sensitive electronics and other equipment it can cause further damage. Begin by wiping the residue away with a clean cloth. On surfaces that can be wet-washed, clean with a mixture of warm water and baking soda. Thoroughly dry and sanitize the area as needed. 

Stymied about how best to clean up? Skilled Paul Davis professionals arrive promptly with the right equipment, products and experience to do the job correctly, every time.