Q: I was cleaning out my parents’ house the other day, and I found an fire extinguisher that looks like it’s about 20 years old. What’s the best way to get rid of it? Any advice you can give on how to dispose of a fire extinguisher?
A: You’re right to assume that an expired 20-year-old fire extinguisher is probably not safe or reliable to use anymore. Just as knowing how to use a fire extinguisher is important, it is almost equally important to know when it is time to dispose of an old fire extinguisher and replace it with a new one.
Fire extinguishers are filled with hazardous materials that are under high pressure. Thus, they should not be put in the regular trash. Read on to learn more about when old fire extinguishers should be replaced and how to dispose of a fire extinguisher properly and safely.
When should an old fire extinguisher be replaced?
Before disposing of old fire extinguishers, confirm that they actually need to be replaced. Fire extinguishers typically last between 5 and 15 years. In some cases, you may be able to find an expiration date or a date of manufacturing on the canister, which can help clue you in on the fire extinguisher’s age.
Even if you can’t find a date, there are other ways to assess whether you should replace your old model with a new fire extinguisher. If your fire extinguisher has any dents or bumps, is missing the pin or tamper seal, or otherwise looks to be in poor condition, it is time to promptly find a replacement.
If your old fire extinguisher has a pressure gauge, check to confirm that the needle is still pointing to the green section. When the needle is pointing to the red or white area on the gauge, it means it is either time to recharge or dispose of the fire extinguisher.
Some fire extinguishers can be recharged.
As you’re thinking about what to do with old fire extinguishers, keep in mind that some fire extinguishers can be recharged. If the pressure has dropped in your canister, or it has been discharged, recharging the fire extinguisher can make it safe to use again.
You should not attempt to recharge a fire extinguisher on your own due to the highly pressurized contents. Special equipment is required to recharge a fire extinguisher, so this is a task that is best left to a professional. Contact a fire protection company or a certified fire equipment dealer to make an appointment to have your fire extinguisher recharged.
Empty fire extinguishers can be recycled.
If you’re wondering how to dispose of old fire extinguishers, you may be able to recycle them if the canister is empty. Full fire extinguishers cannot be recycled because of the hazardous materials they contain. Once they’re empty, however, these hazardous materials are no longer a concern. You may be able to put the fire extinguisher out with your other recycling to be picked up.
Call your recycling company to confirm that they will recycle fire extinguishers that are empty. If they will not pick them up with the regular collection, ask about dropping the empty fire extinguisher off at a local recycling center.
Your local fire department may accept old or used fire extinguishers.
Bringing old or used fire extinguishers to the fire department may also be a viable solution for those who wonder, “How do you dispose of fire extinguishers?” If your fire extinguisher has not been discharged, rather than trying to empty and recycle it yourself, contact your local fire station.
Some fire stations allow residents to drop off expired, damaged, or otherwise unusable fire extinguishers. They will take care of properly disposing of the hazardous materials inside the canister and then recycle the rest of the materials.
Dispose of old fire extinguishers at your local household hazardous waste facility.
Another approved option for fire extinguisher disposal is to bring it to a hazardous waste disposal facility in your area. If you’re not sure where your local facility is located, try searching for “where to dispose of old fire extinguishers near me.” Also, your city or county government’s website may include information about their household hazardous waste disposal services and drop-off locations.
After you identify your local hazardous waste facility location, call to confirm that they accept fire extinguishers, whether there’s a limit on the number of fire extinguishers that you can drop off, and whether these materials are accepted only on certain days. If you’re looking to dispose of fire extinguishers on behalf of a commercial enterprise, there may also be additional protocols to follow.