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How to Clean Fire Extinguisher Residue

Fire extinguishers are life-saving tools and often the safest and most effective way to get small fires under control before they spread. But once the fire is out, you could be faced with a tricky cleanup situation.

Not all fire extinguishers utilize the same ingredients, and depending on which type was used to put out a fire, cleanup may look a little different. Importantly, some older fire extinguishers use halons as the fire extinguishing agent and need to be cleaned in a particular way that’s different from the method appropriate for newer types of extinguishers.

Jon-Don experts have put together a helpful guide for each type of fire extinguisher residue: Halotron, dry chemical, and wet chemical. 

How to Clean Fire Extinguisher Residue: Step-by-Step

Before cleaning fire extinguisher residue, you’ll first need to determine what type of fire suppressant was used. Talk to the property owner or read the label on the fire extinguisher to know for sure.

Halon/Halotron Fire Extinguisher Residue Cleanup

Halon-based extinguishers are treated differently than wet or dry chemical fire extinguishers. Here are a few quick facts to help you understand why:

  • Halon can be a health risk. The substance, while not considered highly toxic or a carcinogen, can still cause health problems at high concentrations. In extreme cases, halon may even cause a heart attack or suffocation. Coming into contact with halon liquid may also cause frostbite.

  • Halon is bad for the environment. This type of portable fire extinguisher presents an extremely high potential for ozone depletion. As a result, Congress passed bills in the late 80s calling for hefty taxes and a total ban on halon production by 1997.

Halon or Halotron fire extinguishers, though rare, are most likely to be found in aviation environments, such as the cockpits of planes and other aircraft. Halotron fire extinguishers may also be found on military compounds or used near computer servers or data centers.

Halon fire extinguishers leave no visible residue; however, every surface needs to be cleaned — even surfaces that have a minuscule chance of being contacted (contents in drawers, closets, etc.). When cleaning halon or Halotron residue, always wear personal protective equipment such as rubber gloves and a face mask.

  1. Dilute Unsmoke Degrease-All at 14 oz per gallon of warm water. Apply it with a sponge, or use a sprayer for larger areas.
  2. Neutralize all cleaned areas using Unitex® Daily Clean diluted at 2 oz per gallon of water. Allow surfaces to dry.

Dry Chemical Fire Extinguisher Residue Cleanup

Dry chemical fire extinguishers include those that use mono ammonium phosphate (multipurpose dry chemical), sodium-bicarbonate (regular dry chemical), or potassium bicarbonate (Purple K dry chemical) as the main ingredient.

  1. Install a HEPA air scrubber to remove all airborne particles.
  2. Use a HEPA vacuum to clean all surfaces and contents inside cabinets and drawers.
  3. Because dry chemical fire extinguishers are very corrosive to metal surfaces, those should be cleaned first.
  4. Clean all hard nonporous surfaces using Unsmoke Degrease-All diluted at 14 oz per gallon of warm water.
  5. Clean and neutralize all surfaces using Unitex Daily Clean
  6. For carpets, rinse and extract the area with Matrix® All Fiber Rinse diluted at 4-6 oz per gallon of water.
  7. Kitchen plates and cookware can be washed in the dishwasher or by hand with standard dishwashing soap.
  8. Clothing can be washed as normal in the washing machine.

Wet Chemical Fire Extinguisher Residue Cleanup

Cleaning up residue or foam from a wet chemical extinguisher is a little more straightforward. All you’ll need is warm, soapy water and a cloth or sponge.

  1. Make sure all cooking equipment is shut off.
  2. Using a cloth soaked in warm water, wipe away residue.
  3. Rinse all surfaces with clean water after wiping them down and allow them to air dry completely.

Fire Extinguisher Residue Cleanup FAQs

Here are a few quick FAQs about fire extinguishers, residue, cleanup, and what to do if dry powder comes in contact with your face.

How Do You Clean Up After Using a Carbon Dioxide Extinguisher?

Carbon Dioxide fire extinguishers, sometimes called clean agent fire extinguishers, don’t leave a residue behind and require no cleanup — which is their principal advantage. As such, this type of extinguisher is often used in places with delicate equipment, like server rooms, or in food preparation areas.

What Should You Do if Dry Powder Extinguisher Residue Comes in Contact With Your Face?

When cleaning up portable fire extinguisher powder, always wear a face mask and goggles to avoid getting it in your eyes as it may cause mild irritation. If needed, immediately rinse your face with clean water and seek medical attention if irritation continues.

What Should Be Done With a Fire Extinguisher After Use?

Fire extinguishers need to be recharged after use. Advise clients to take their extinguisher to a certified fire equipment dealer or fire protection company to have it recharged and ready to use again in case of another fire.

Training Opportunities for Cleaning and Restoration Professionals

Jon-Don offers a variety of classes for cleaning and restoration professionals looking to improve their knowledge base and skill set.

Learn how to clean fire extinguisher residue from carpet, plus dive into the science of carpet cleaning with IICRC Carpet Cleaning Technician. This two-day, hands-on class is ideal for those new to the carpet cleaning industry or for restoration professionals looking to expand their services.

If you’d like to learn how to clean up after a fire, whether a small house fire or a large commercial fire, we highly recommend attending our IICRC Fire & Smoke Restoration Technician (FSRT). This course covers everything from content cleaning to working with insurance adjusters and more.

For training and product recommendations, please call a Jon-Don Restoration Representative at 800-556-6366.

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