Home Fire Extinguisher Disposal

A portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out or containing small fires until the fire department arrives. But, portable extinguishers have limitations. Because fire can grow and spread so rapidly, the No. 1 priority for residents is to get out safely.

Fire extinguishers are one element of a fire response plan, but the primary element is a safe escape. Every household should have a home fire escape plan (PDF) and working smoke alarms (PDF).

Proper home fire extinguisher disposal

  • Look on the label of the fire extinguisher for the manufacturer name.
  • Go to the manufacturer’s website to see if the extinguisher has a recall.
    • If the extinguisher has a recall, contact the manufacturer to provide instructions on safe handling and disposal of the fire extinguisher.
  • If the extinguisher does NOT have a recall, take the following steps to properly empty the extinguisher and dispose of it properly.
    • Take the fire extinguisher outside to a well ventilated area
    • Wear protective eyewear (plastic googles, safety glasses, etc.) and a mask to protect your eyes and lungs. Some fire extinguishers can contain contents that irritate the eyes and lungs.
    • Keep pets and children away from the fire extinguisher.
    • Place a large, plastic trash bag on the end of the fire extinguisher hose. Secure the bag to the end of the hose with a rubber band, and secure the bag with one hand at the same location.
    • Hold fire extinguisher upside down, so base is pointing towards the sky.
    • Pull the pin and squeeze the handles together. 
      • This will cause the extinguishing agent inside the extinguisher to be released into the plastic bag.
    • Keep the handles depressed until nothing more comes out of the extinguisher.
    • Carefully remove the plastic bag from the end of the extinguisher hose, close / seal bag and place in the trash.
    • Place the fire extinguisher in a cool, dry place and check the pressure gauge periodically.
    • Once the pressure gauge needle on the fire extinguisher is below zero, the fire extinguisher may be placed in your regular trash for disposal. 

Fire extinguisher tips

As a general rule, firefighting should be left to professional firefighters. Fire extinguishers are meant for putting out small fires or used to help escape from the area, not firefighting large out-of-control fires. Read the instructions that come with the fire extinguisher and become familiar with its parts and operation before a fire breaks out. 

  • If you have portable fire extinguishers in your home, inspect them once a month.  
    • Examine the extinguisher for obvious physical damage, corrosion, leakage or cracks. 
    • Confirm the pressure gauge or indicator is in the operable range or position, and lift the extinguisher to ensure it is still full.
    • Make sure the operating instructions on the nameplate are legible and facing outward.  
    • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height when installing portable fire extinguishers in the home. 
    • Check to see if your fire extinguisher is under any U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalls. 
  • Use a portable fire extinguisher when:
    • the fire is confined to a small area, such as a wastebasket
    • not growing
    • everyone has exited the building
    • the fire department has been called or is being called
    • the room is not filled with smoke.
  • To operate a fire extinguisher, remember the word PASS
    • Pull the pin, hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you, and release the locking mechanism.
    • Aim low, and point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
    • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
    • Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.