How to Dispose of Empty Fire Extinguishers

Updated March 23, 2017

Fire extinguishers often provide years of protection with a single purchase and annual maintenance. Many old fire extinguishers can be refilled when they become empty, but it can often be advantageous to purchase a more modern fire extinguisher instead of refilling an older model. There are two main ways that these empty fire extinguishers can be disposed of: they can be discarded or they can be recycled.

Make sure that the fire extinguisher is completely empty. Check the pressure valve if the extinguisher has one and attempt to use the extinguisher in a well-ventilated outdoors in order to ensure that there is no remaining pressure in the tank.

Call or visit the waste management service that you use for home trash pickup and ask if they have restrictions against discharged fire extinguishers being thrown away. They may have a special procedure for fire extinguisher disposal or may direct you to bring the empty extinguisher to a special facility for processing and disposal.

Visit a fire extinguisher sales company and ask them to dispose of the fire extinguisher for you if you are unable to dispose of it through your waste management service. Depending on where you live, there may be a small fee associated with this type of disposal.

Ensure that the fire extinguisher is completely empty, just as you would if you were throwing it away. Check the pressure meter if one is present and attempt to use the extinguisher in a well-ventilated outdoor area.

Using a pipe wrench, carefully begin unscrewing the head of the extinguisher. If you hear the sound of any gas venting, stop turning the wrench and allow it to vent before proceeding; this means that there is still some pressure left within the extinguisher.

Pour water into the fire extinguisher's body to remove any residue that might be contained within. The head unit may be cleaned as well. Make sure that the inside of the body container is rinsed thoroughly and that it is allowed to dry completely.

Contact a local recycling centre and see if they recycle the steel of fire extinguisher body cylinders. If they do not, visit a fire extingisher sales shop and inquire as to where you could recycle the metal of the body.

Drop the body cylinder off at the recycling centre or sales shop that accepts cyclinders for recycling. The head unit can be thrown away.


Not all fire extinguisher types can be recycled. Dry chemical fire extinguishers must be thrown away or otherwise disposed of because of the nature of the chemicals used in them.

Things You'll Need

  • Pipe wrench
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About the Author

Born in West Virginia, Jack Gerard now lives in Kentucky. A writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience, he has written both articles and poetry for publication in magazines and online. A former nationally ranked sport fencer, Gerard also spent several years as a fencing coach and trainer.