Are you wondering which is the most effective fire extinguisher? And, you’re not sure between powder, foam, and water canisters?

You’re not alone.

With five classes of fire extinguishers and five main fire extinguisher types, the answer isn’t always obvious.

Knowing what distinguishes these extinguishers is important in order to be able to successfully put out fires. 

That’s why in this post, we’re going to dive into each respective fire extinguisher, discuss its unique characteristics, and how you can effectively use it to suppress fires.

So, without further ado, here are our top fire extinguisher tips.

What Makes a Fire Extinguisher Effective?

Choosing the right fire extinguisher for a designated fire is what ultimately renders the extinguisher of use. To effectively quench a blaze you must take care to select the correct fire extinguisher.

Why is this key?

Because fire extinguishers are designed with specific fires in mind, hence the classes. There are at present five classes of fire extinguishers. And each fire extinguisher class corresponds to a type of fire that the extinguisher can put out. For example:

Class A fire extinguishers are ideal for ordinary combustible fires involving wood, paper, and cloth

Class B fire extinguishers are most appropriate for dousing flammable liquids like oil, grease, paint, and solvents

Class C fire extinguishers are engineered for putting out live electrical equipment fires think motor fires and faulty wiring fires.

Class D fire extinguishers are meant for combustible metal fires involving elements such as aluminum and magnesium

Class K fire extinguishers are designed to put out fat, oil and grease fires

Now that we’re aware of the fire extinguisher classes, let’s explore the five main fire extinguisher types.

The Five Main Fire Extinguisher Types

The major distinguishing factor for each of the following fire extinguishers is the fire suppressant agent within the canister.

1.     Carbon-Dioxide Extinguishers

Extremely pressurized non-flammable carbon dioxide gas fills these types of fire extinguishers.  A carbon dioxide fire extinguisher (CO2) is easy to recognize because of its characteristic hard horn as well as accompanying lack of a pressure gauge.

When to use one?

C02 fire extinguishers are meant for Class B and C fires involving flammable liquids or electrical fires only.

Laboratories, warehouses storing flammable liquids, and mechanical rooms would do well to keep CO2 fire extinguishers on hand.

How do they suppress fires?

They displace oxygen, a key element in fire, effectively causing the blaze to die down.

Fire extinguisher colour code?


2.     Dry Chemical/Powder Extinguishers

Dry chemical fire extinguishers (abbreviated DC) are often filled with mono ammonium phosphate powder and pressurized using nitrogen.  

When to use it?

DC fire extinguishers are ideal for exterminating Class A, B, and C fires. It’s worth noting that some canisters may be labelled ABC while some only BC. ABC canisters will put out Class A, B, and C fires, while BC canisters only class B and C fires.

Because of their versatility, DC fire extinguishers are among the most commonly mounted in new buildings, offices, commercial centers, and cars.

How do they suppress fires?

DC fire extinguishers extinguish the fire by covering the ignited fuel with a layer of powder which effectively cuts off oxygen to the fuel causing the blaze to die down. This powder hinders the fire’s chemical reaction snuffing it out.

Fire extinguisher colour code?


3.    Water Extinguishers

Water extinguishers are as their name implies filled with regular tap water which is then pressurized using normal air.

When to use it?

Water-based fire extinguishers are only to be used on Class A fires i.e fires where wood, paper or cloth are present.

Water-based fire extinguishers are never to be used on fires involving flammable liquids as they are not only ineffective but can even cause the fire to spread. The same is true of electrical fires, water is not to be used as it is a good conductor and there is a high risk of electrocution.

How do they work?

Water fire extinguishers eliminate the “heat” component needed for a fire (the other two elements being fuel and oxygen)

Fire extinguisher colour code?


4.     Chemical Foam Extinguishers

Foam extinguishers are also known as AFFF fire extinguishers and contain an aqueous chemical substance to suppress fires.

When to use it?

When attempting to douse Class A fires.

Foam-based fire extinguishers are some of the most eco-friendly options on the market because the foam is generally comprised of non-toxic chemicals.

How do they suppress fires?

The aqueous foam creates a long-lasting barrier between the fuel source and oxygen in the atmosphere sufficiently squelching any sparks that may try to reignite the fire.

Fire extinguisher colour code?


5.    Wet Chemical Gas Extinguishers

These particular fire extinguishers are charged with a solution of potassium.

When to use it?

Wet chemical fire extinguishers are designed for use against Class A and K fires. These fire extinguishers are best suited to tackle fire situations involving wood, paper, textiles, cooking fats and oils.

Wet chemical extinguishers are not to be used on flammable liquids, flammable gases, or live electrical equipment.

Wet chemical fire extinguishers are recommended for use in commercial restaurant kitchens.

How do they suppress fires?

The potassium solution cools the fire and decreases the temperature thereby stopping the fire in its tracks. Where fats or grease are involved, the potassium salts in the fire extinguishers cause a chemical reaction – saponification – to take place when they hit the hot oil or fat. The resulting soapy foam is non-combustible and thus effectively suppresses the fire.

Fire extinguisher colour code?


The Bottom Line

Each fire extinguisher has the ability to be effective if it is used to suppress a fire it was designed to put out. Using the wrong fire extinguisher can aggravate the situation. That’s why you should make sure that your business is equipped with suitable fire extinguishers. By using these fire extinguisher tips you can protect your business and home. 

If you’d like some help with choosing the correct fire extinguishers for your business, our team here at  Nutech Fire Prevention is on hand to meet with you for a consultation.

That’s not all we do, however. We also offer a comprehensive line of emergency backup generators, fire alarm systems, fire warning systems, fire extinguishers, emergency lighting, exit lighting, fire safety plans, sprinkler systems, and gas detection services for businesses in Hamilton, Ontario.

Request a free quote today.