Fire extinguishers are one of the most important safety tools for any kind of industrial, commercial, or personal space. We often face small or big fire accidents, but using these potable fire extinguishers would be one way to control the fire. However after using it, we face a problem and that is fire extinguisher residue.
After controlling the fire there remains some fire extinguisher residue that we need to clean up as soon as possible. Many of us have no idea about how to clean up fire extinguisher powder. Today in this article, I will discuss this topic elaborately. So, let’s get started.
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Know about the extinguisher residue type
Most of us have no idea about fire extinguishers and what type of components are used to quench fire around us through a fire extinguisher?
So when we use a fire extinguisher to control any small fire, we become worried about how we clean up the residues. That’s why we need to know what type of residue we are working with.
Even though fire extinguishers can look similar, they use different components and are very different in their performance. There are different types of fire extinguishers, and each contains a different chemical to extinguish that type of fire.
Depending on the fire extinguisher’s extinguishing agent, you need to know about different cleanup standards and safety precautions.
Several extinguishing agents are available, such as dry or wet chemicals and cleaning agents. A fire extinguisher must have a sticker or tag attached to it so that everyone can understand and identify what type of extinguisher it is and what kind of extinguishing agent is inside.
Cleaning Methods of Different Fire Extinguisher Powders
Cleaning Methods of Dry Chemical Fire Extinguisher Residue
We commonly see dry chemical fire extinguishers in commercial buildings and industrial places. These fire extinguishers spray a dry chemical covering the fire like a blanket and extinguish the fire. Because it works like a blanket, there remains some residue that you need to clean up properly.
These dry chemicals are commonly mono ammonium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate, and potassium bicarbonate. These can cause corrosion to metals and damage other tools in the room if you don’t clean them quickly.
If any of your electrical equipment gets into contact with extinguisher powders, you need to clean them up with an electric contact cleaner. An electric contact cleaner is a canister with compressed air and a cleaning agent like isopropyl alcohol that evaporates quickly.
So before cleaning, you may shut down the windows so that the powders will not go outside the room.
Cleaning Procedure of Mono-Ammonium Phosphate Powder
Mono-Ammonium Phosphate is used to extinguish class A, B, and C fires. You need to clean them with your hands because if it enters your eye or makes contact with your skin, they can irritate your skin and eyes.
So before you start cleaning up, please wear the face mask recommended above, safety goggles, and hand gloves.
You can wipe the powders away with a dry cloth or brush. Soot erasers are also an excellent option to clean them up properly. Because it is one kind of sponge made of natural rubber, it helps clean up very well.
You can also take baking soda and hot water, mix them up properly, and then apply them to where you see powders. Leave it for a few minutes, and then wipe it up with a dry cloth. If the powders become hardened, mix warm water and isopropyl alcohol 1:1 and then clean it up.
Cleaning Procedure of Wet Chemical Residues
Commercial kitchens usually use Class K wet chemical fire extinguishers to extinguish any fire while cooking. Potassium carbonate, potassium citrate, and potassium acetate are used as extinguishers in these fire extinguishers. They are wet chemicals and turn into foam to isolate the fire from oxygen.
Turning all electricity off to any equipment is crucial before cleaning this type of extinguisher residue since it is primarily used in commercial kitchens and around cooking appliances. Before turning on an appliance, make sure you have entirely dried everything.
With hot water and soap, you will be able to clean most Class K extinguisher residues. If you spray water on the foam, it will only expand and create a bigger mess.
To clean the foam, you should use a vacuum or pump, or you can use absorbent materials. You should collect the vacuumed foam into a bag to dispose of it easily. It is essential to need bag absorbent materials for disposal as well. You can clean up any residue left behind with soap and water after removing most of the foam.
After removing fire extinguisher residue, it’s a must to sanitize the whole area. Ensure to wash all dishes, cookware, and utensils exposed to fire extinguisher residue and throw away all the foods immediately. If your clothes are also affected, don’t worry, you can wash them in a normal process.
Whenever possible, you should consult the MSDS or SDS of fire extinguishing agents to determine whether the chemicals in the residue are known to have adverse effects on your health.
Several foam agents can damage the nervous system or your vital organs, even at low levels of exposure. You will need to wear an air-purifying respirator when working with agents that carry such a risk.
As a precaution against inhaling fumes or mist while you’re cleaning, ensure that the area is well-ventilated regardless of the wet agent you’re using.
Cleaning Procedure for Sodium and Potassium Bicarbonate Residues
Sodium and Potassium Bicarbonates are usually known as baking soda fire extinguishers, and we use them to extinguish Class B and Class C fires.
These residues don’t require any complex cleaning methods. You can easily clean them up with a vacuum cleaner with a high-quality air filter. Because they are powder and not harmful to our skin, you don’t need to worry if they get in contact with your body. But don’t forget to take safety precautions before starting the cleaning procedure.
You can also use a liquid mixture to clean them up quickly. Make the mixture with around 100 ml vinegar and 1 gallon of hot water and wipe the residue.
Class D Dry Powder Residue Cleaning Methods
Class D fire extinguishers are used in industrial, laboratory, or manufacturing areas where inflammable metals can be found. This fire extinguisher uses different types of extinguishing agents based on the metals of the site. Basically, they use Sodium Chloride, Sodium Carbonate, Graphite, or Copper as extinguishing agents.
Some of these residues are easy to clean up, but they can cause hazards as they are sensitive to static charge. If you plan to use a vacuum cleaner to clean the entire area quickly, please don’t do that before consulting any expert. First, know which extinguishing agent is used to control the fire and then take steps accordingly.
Clean Agent Fire Extinguishers
If you notice no residue after extinguishing the fire in any place, then you can be sure that the fire extinguisher that is used contains a clean agent for extinguishing the fire.
They are usually non-volatile, non-conductive, and leave zero residues. People prefer these types of fire extinguishers because, after the work has been done, no such cleaning is needed at all.
Generally, CO2- Carbon Dioxide and an agent that contains Halotron are used in this type of fire extinguisher. So these gases dissipate into the air after quenching the fire. But, as happened with a fire, there must be particles or ashes around everywhere. You can follow any of the above procedures to clean them up and make the place look like before.
Safety concerns and precautions
When you clean up after using a portable fire extinguisher, the residue left behind is generally non-toxic. Some types of fire extinguishers can irritate the skin, so you should take some general precautions regardless of their kind.
Wear latex or rubber gloves on your hands and a cloth covering your arms and legs to avoid direct contact with any residue.
It is not necessary to wear expensive personal protective equipment (PPE) when cleaning up fire extinguisher residue. However, you can notice irritation in the mucous membranes of your nose and mouth if somehow the residue enters your mouth or nose.
Also, it can irritate your eyes as well because some of the residues contain harmful comical for us. You should always wear a dust mask and never forget to wear safety goggles when cleaning this type of debris.
You can consider wearing NIOSH N95 or N100-rated dust masks because they filter out 95 to 100 percent of the tiny particles found in fire extinguishers.
Whenever cleaning begins, consult the MSDS- Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), which are now called SDS- Safety Data Sheets. They provide updated and detailed information regarding the chemicals present in the residue and which cleaning precautions you should take before starting the cleaning.
You will also find information about safety risks and what type of first aid you will need if you face any hazards.
Cleaning up fire extinguisher residue is not that hard. In this article, I tried to focus on all the parts about how to clean fire extinguisher powder.
Whenever you are cleaning up your home, office, or industrial space after a big fire has occurred, always make sure you know about the chemical used to extinguish the fire.
Follow each step with care and be careful when you’re doing the cleanup. If you experience any difficulties, contact an expert immediately.
I’m Bobby Taylor, a tech lover, writer, and editor for Smart Home Protector. I am also a customer relationship officer of a well established electronics manufacturer company in the United States.