Cleaning Fire Extinguisher Residues from Carpets, Rugs and Elsewhere

So, you’ve averted a big disaster and caused a small one in the bargain?

When used properly by a trained adult, a fire extinguisher can avert major damage to life and property. Small fires can be extinguished and big fires can be contained by deploying a fire extinguisher of approved grade . The NFPA recommends that portable fire extinguishers should be used only when the fire is contained in a small area and the fire brigade is on the way. The first priority for the people exposed to the fire and smoke is to get out safely.

If you ever operated a fire extinguisher to put out a fire at office or home, you’ll know the kind of mess that you are left with after the fire has been successfully extinguished. Your joy at having averted the damage may be dampened when you see the residue that the life-saving extinguisher has left. If a major portion of your room is covered in powder or foam, you may require the services of a carpet cleaning company in San Diego CA to do the cleaning.

Using a “Residue-Free” Fire Extinguisher

There wouldn’t be any messy residue had you been using a carbon-dioxide fire extinguisher. These are typically used in computer or server rooms as the residue from other types of extinguishers can wreck sensitive digital equipment. Carbon-dioxide extinguishers contain pressurized carbon dioxide gas, which isolates the fire source from the ambient oxygen. The pressure is very high and the gas rushes out at an amazing speed, chilling out as it expands. It’s not uncommon to see flakes of dry ice flying out of the nozzle of a CO2 fire extinguisher. When the fire has been contained, the carbon dioxide evaporates into thin air, leaving no trace behind.

You may not be so lucky if you are using any other type of fire extinguisher, though. Carbon dioxide extinguishers are designed for liquid and electrical fires only. All purpose fire extinguishers are either dry powder or foam type, and leave serious residues behind even when sprayed for a brief amount of time. While the option of hiring a commercial carpet cleaning in San Diego CA crew is always there, here is how you can go about getting rid of the residual powder or foam yourself.

Dry Chemical Residue Cleanup

Dry chemical fire extinguisher leaves behind a powdery residue that coats the furniture and penetrates into the carpet and fabrics. The residue is highly corrosive and must be cleaned before undertaking any restoration works to repair the damage caused by the fire. If the fire was contained before it could cause any damage, you’d like to restore sanity to your home and office interiors as soon as possible.

Before you start, wear a dust mask, gloves and goggles to prevent the powder from getting into your lungs, eyes and throat.
Use a dry vacuum cleaner to gather as much of the powder as possible.

Vacuum the carpet, upholstery, curtains, and inside the cabinets and drawers.

Make sure that your vacuum has a HEPA compliant filter, so that it doesn’t let the collected powder escape into the air. Use a vacuum cleaner that has a CRI seal of approval.

Allow two passes of the vacuum and spend one minute vacuuming per square meter of the carpet.

If you have vacuumed properly, you may get rid of about 90% of the residue, but the remaining powder has penetrated deep into the porous surfaces such as carpets and drapery.

These trapped residues can potentially give rise to allergens and can cause respiratory illnesses, so a thorough carpet wash is strongly recommended. If the powder was sprayed over a large area, call in a good carpet cleaning company in San Diego for hot water extraction cleaning or cold washing your carpets and steam cleaning your upholstery and drapery.

Foam Residue Cleanup

Foam agents evaporate quickly leaving only wet patches behind. Foam agents can contain carcinogenic chemicals, so you should be careful while cleaning up after a foam-based fire extinguisher has been discharged at your office and home.

Wear waterproof gloves and goggles before you start cleaning.

Place paper towels over the wet area and soak up the residual foam or liquid.

Thoroughly wash the exposed area with water and use more towels to blot.

Repeat this process with more water and more towels, if necessary.

Dry up the wet patch with a fan or blow dryer and throw away the towels after sealing them in a plastic bag.

As with dry chemical residue cleanup, foam or liquid extinguishing agents also need to be flushed out of the carpets using liberal amounts of water. Make sure that you don’t ruin the flooring below the carpet or soak the carpet too much. Damp carpets can encourage mold and fungi growth, which have been proven to cause allergies and other illnesses.

Why You May Need to Call a San Diego Carpet Cleaning Company

You can wash the carpet, clean the upholstery and curtains, and even scrub off the resilient dry powder stains from floors, but even after sweating for hours, you may still be able to smell the chemical from the extinguisher and spot its traces. The domestic cleaning equipment doesn’t have the same power and capacity as that of the commercial equipment used by a professional carpet cleaning company in San Diego CA.

Their heavy duty washers spew out water at amazing pressure and speed, causing it to soak through each fiber of your carpet. Their monstrous vacuum motors suck out every last trace of chemical from deep inside the carpet.

Foam Residue Cleanup

A fire extinguisher, used in time and correctly, can save you from unthinkable expenses and worse. Cleaning up afterwards is a blessing in disguise. Even if you decide to sit back and relax while the carpet cleaning crews do their job, you can feel proud that you are spending only a small fraction of the cost of damage that you have averted. Did you ever us a fire extinguisher and what happened next? Share your experience with us in your comments.

By Steve Thompson