How to clean up after using a fire extinguisher

Updated February 21, 2017

A fire extinguisher uses extinguishing agents to put out a fire. Once the extinguisher is discharged, you will be left with a mess, often in the form of a residue. Most fire extinguishers will use what is called a "dry chemical" as their extinguishing agent, and cleaning up the residue from these extinguishers can be a straightforward process. Most personal fire extinguishers, meaning those typically found in homes, offices and cars, will use either mono ammonium phosphate or sodium bicarbonate as their extinguishing agent. Other commonly found extinguishers might use foam or potassium bicarbonate.

Use a good vacuum to clean up as much of the residue as you can. Use a strong shop vac for difficult areas, such as thick, shaggy carpet, or areas with a lot of crevices. If you do not have a good vacuum, you can use a broom or rag to sweep up the loose residue.

Use a clean, damp rag to scrub up whatever residue is left. For residue left from extinguishers using mono ammonium phosphate, clean the affected area as soon as possible, making sure to protect your hands with gloves.

Use a vinegar and water solution to clean stubborn residue remaining from sodium bicarbonate- or potassium bicarbonate-based extinguishers. You may have to use a large amount of water to flush the bicarbonate residue out of porous surfaces or soft materials such as carpets and draperies, blotting up the water and residue with clean rags.

Wash away residue left from foam-based extinguishers. The foam should evaporate after a short time.

Use a household deodoriser such as Febreze or carpet cleaner with baking soda to remove any lingering odours from the extinguishing agent.


Sensitive and delicate items, such as artwork, electronic equipment and cooking appliances, may require professional cleaning if exposed to extinguishing agents.


Dry powder agents are generally safe, but they can cause respiratory, eye and skin irritation. Take the appropriate precautions, such as using face masks, goggles and gloves, if cleanup can lead to kicking up the dry powder, making it airborne. Mono ammonium phosphate is a corrosive chemical and should be handled with care. Use gloves while cleaning up residue left by extinguishers using this extinguishing agent. While certain extinguishing agents should be cleaned as soon as possible to prevent their corrosive properties from doing damage, make sure the area you want to clean is cool enough to work with.

Things You'll Need

  • Vacuum
  • Gloves
  • Clean rags
  • Water
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