Fire Extinguisher Use & Care: How to Properly Use & Maintain Different Types of Fire Extinguishers

How to Use and Care For a Fire Extinguisher If you do any work around heavy machinery or equipment, you know the importance of wearing proper safety gear. You wear safety glasses for your eyes and hearing protection for your ears. But what about keeping your space and things safe? In the event of a fire in your workshop, you need to have a fire extinguisher on hand and ready to use. You may think that fire extinguishers are easy enough to use and that there’s not much to it, right? But there is. Not only do you need to use a fire extinguisher properly, but you also need to know which one to use for different fires.

If you want to learn more about what you can do to keep your property and its belongings safe, then continue reading. The information below will shed some light on how to choose and use the right fire extinguisher based on the items you have in and around your workspace.

Why Are There Different Fire Extinguishers?

There are different fire extinguishers because there are different kinds of fires due to the different types of fuels that create fires.Each fire requires a different type of fire extinguisher to address the various fuels to ensure that each fire is put out properly. In fact, if the right fire extinguisher is not used on the right fire, it could possibly spread and cause even more damage. The different fire extinguishers are available for safety purposes. The various types are provided below.

Types of Fires

There are a total of five different types of fires. They include:

  • Class A Fires
  • Class B Fires
  • Class C Fires
  • Class D Fires
  • Class K Fires

Three of them are considered common classes of fires and two of them are considered specialty classes of fires. The common classes of fires consist of Class A, Class B, and Class C Fires. Specialty classes of fires consist of Class D and Class K fires.

Class A Fires

Class A fires consist of what is referred to as common combustible fires that involve items such as paper, rubber, clothes, wood, trash, and plastic items.Class A fires most often take place in commercial or residential settings, but they can occur wherever these types of items are present. The fire extinguisher used to put out Class A fires is a water extinguisher only.

Class B Fires

Class B fires consist of flammable liquids and gases. These items mostly include gasoline, oils, solvents, lacquers, paint, tar as well as other oil-based or synthetic products.Class B fires typically spread quickly, and if they are not properly secured, these fires can relash even after the flames have been fully extinguished. The fire extinguisher primarily used to put out Class B fires is a dry chemical extinguisher.

Class C Fires

How to Handle a Class C Fire Class C fires consist of live electrical equipment and involves items such as motors, wiring, various types of controls, data processing panels, appliances, circuit breakers, outlets, and similar items. Fires that are involved in this class can be created by something as simple as a spark, but they can also be caused by a power surge or a short circuit. These types of fires normally take place within the walls of residential or commercial properties, typically in locations that are hard to see or get to.

Water should never be used to try to put out an electrical fire, it could result in an electrical shock. Multi-purpose, regular, carbon dioxide and halotron extinguishers can all be used for a Class C fire.

Class D Fires

Class D fires, which are considered a specialty fire, consist of combustible metals such as sodium and magnesium. These types of fires are unique industrial hazards and required a special type of dry powder agent to extinguish. The only extinguisher recommended for use on a Class D fire is a dry powder fire extinguisher.When a dry powder fire extinguisher is used, it smothers the fire by absorbing oxygen and heat, which ultimately puts it out.

Class K Fires

Class K fires typically consist of combustible cooking materials such as grease, oils, and fats that are commonly used in kitchens.These types of fires are more often seen in the food service and restaurant industry, but they can also occur in your own home. In order to put out a Class K fire, you need to use a wet chemical extinguisher.

Types of Fire Extinguishers

Most people are only familiar with one type of fire extinguisher, but in reality, there are may types. These include:

  • Water and foam
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Dry chemical
  • Wet chemical
  • Cleaning agent
  • Dry powder
  • Water Mist
  • Cartridge-operated dry chemical

Each of these types of fire extinguishers is best for a different type of fire, though there is some overlap between them. Fire extinguishers work by disrupting different parts of the fire triangle. Before choosing an extinguisher for your workshop, you need to know which types of fires they should be used on.

Water and Foam

How to Use Water and Foam Fire Extinguishers Foam fire extinguishers are normally used in manufacturing plants, on construction sites, at race tracks, commercial storage facilities and fueling stations.Water-based fire extinguishers are used for Class A fires, whereas foam based fire extinguishers are used for Class A and Class B fires.

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers are typically used in areas that require cleanup or involve some form of contamination. They are mainly used in commercial settings such as food storage and processing areas, data processing centers, laboratories, and telecommunication rooms.Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers are typically used for Class B and Class C fires.

Dry Chemical

A dry chemical fire extinguisher is used mostly for fires associated with automobiles, boats, laboratories and garages.A regular dry chemical fire extinguisher is used on Class B and Class C fires.

Wet Chemical

Wet chemical fire extinguishers are often used in kitchens due to the risk of fires that are caused by grease, fat, and oil.Wet chemical fire extinguishers are most effective on Class K fires.

Clean Agent

The clean agent fire extinguisher is an extinguishing gas designed to extinguish gaseous fires.

The clean agent fire extinguisher is installed in a fire suppression system. It is made up of a gas solution comprised of 60-80% of tetrafluoroethane, between 10 to 30% of pentafluoroethane and roughly 10 to 30% of carbon dioxide. This type of fire extinguisher is a liquefied substance while it is stored, but it turns into a gas upon being discharged into the air.It is mainly used in and most effective on Class B and Class C fires that normally involve propane, butane, oil, petrol, and similar substances.

Dry Powder

The dry powder fire extinguishers extinguish fires by separating the oxygen or heat from the fuel, preventing the fire from combusting.Dry powder fire extinguishers are mainly used for Class D fires or fires that specifically contain combustible metals.

Water Mist

Water Mist fire extinguishers sprays deionized water in an extremely fine mist. The droplets are able to cool an area down, making it harder for the fire to spread. These extinguishers are often used when contamination of the area is a concern because they don’t leave any chemical residue or leave the area soaking wet.Water mist fire extinguishers are best used on Class A and Class C fires.

Cartridge-Operated Dry Chemical

How to Use a Cartridge-Operated Dry Chemical Extinguisher Cartridge-operated extinguishers put out fires by disrupting the chemical reaction that allows fire to burn by creating a barrier between the oxygen and fuel. You can get a cartridge-operated dry chemical extinguisher in a normal or multi-purupose formula.Multi-purpose ones can be used on Class A, B, and C fires while normal ones are exclusively for Class B and C fires.

It is very important to note that the wrong type of fire extinguisher should not be used on the wrong type of fire.For example, a Class A fire only requires pressurized water, but pressurized water should never be used on Class B or Class C fires. If you did use a water extinguisher in one of these situations, it could cause the fire to spread or electrify the area. The key is to make sure you’re educated long before you will need to use a fire extinguisher.

How to Care For and Maintain a Fire Extinguisher

Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of fire extinguishers and how to use them, you should also understand how to properly care for them. Many people make the mistake of buying a fire extinguisher and letting it sit for years without being touched.However, you should be doing routine maintenance and checks on your fire extinguisher to make sure it’s still in working order in case you ever need it. After all, the worst fire extinguisher to have is one that doesn’t work when you need it.

Perform Your Own Visual Inspections

It’s important for you to get in the habit of performing a visual inspection of your fire extinguisher.You should be looking out for any signs of breakage or anything that would inhibit you from using the fire extinguisher quickly. Look for damage such as:

  • Broken seals
  • No leakage or clogs in the hose
  • Any signs of general damage

You should be checking and testing your fire extinguisher at least once a month, and you should keep it in a place that’s easy to see.

Hire an Expert to Perform a Professional Annual Inspection

How to Inspect a Fire Extinguisher You should also have an annual inspection performed by a professional. That way you can receive a much more thorough examination of the extinguisher that involves more extensive testing.This includes inspecting and testing the mechanical parts of the fire extinguisher among other things.

After the annual inspection has been completed, the inspector will then provide you with an updated record of the inspection that will be added to the tag that’s located on the fire extinguisher.

Hire an Expert to Perform a Professional Six-Year Inspection

Similar to the annual inspection, you should also have a six-year inspection by a trained professional as well.The difference between the two is that the inspector will completely empty out your fire extinguisher so that the mechanical parts that are on the inside of the extinguisher can be thoroughly examined.

If your fire extinguisher passes the inspection, it will be refilled, re-pressurized and, re-sealed. As with the annual inspection, the inspector will also add an additional record of the six-year inspection to the tag upon completion of the extinguisher as well.


Now that you have a better understanding of how to choose, use, and maintain fire extinguishers, you should be able to select the correct one for your workshop. By performing monthly maintenance checks and having them inspected regularly, you should feel confident about whether your extinguisher is working properly in the event of a fire. Having a working fire extinguisher in your workshop is just as important as having proper safety gear like safety goggles.