The six main fire extinguisher types are water, foam, CO2, powder, water mist and wet chemical.
Each of the different types of fire extinguisher is suitable for different fire classes. It is important that you purchase the right fire extinguisher for your needs:
Fire extinguishers meeting BS EN3 should have a red body (RAL 3000) and an agent-specific colour code band covering between 5-10% of the surface relating to the extinguisher's contents. See the boxes below to find out what the different fire extinguisher colours mean.
Water fire extinguishers have a red label and a class A rating. They are suitable for fighting fires involving solid combustibles such as wood, paper and textiles.
A few models are safe on electrical equipment if di-electrically tested. Otherwise, care must be taken near electrical equipment.
AFFF foam fire extinguishers have a cream label and are highly effective on class A and class B fires (the foam agent helps to prevent re-ignition).
If foam extinguishers have been dielectrically tested they can be used on electrical appliances.
CO2 fire extinguishers have a black label. They were originally designed for use on flammable liquid fires and therefore have a class B fire rating.
They can be used on electrical fires, as CO2 is not a conductor and they do not leave behind any harmful residue.
ABC powder fire extinguishers have a blue label. They are versatile and can be used on class A, class B, class C and electrical fires.
They are available in a range of sizes from 1 - 9kg and are ideal for application in environments containing mixed fire risks. However, there is a risk of inhalation when using powder extinguishers indoors. Powder fire extinguishers are therefore not recommended for use within small rooms, homes and offices. Limited to engine rooms and outdoors machinery.
De-ionised water mist fire extinguishers have a white label and are highly effective on class A, B, C and burning electrical equipment.
The unique design of the water mist extinguishers' supersonic nozzle creates a microscopic mist curtain, reducing the oxygen content. Water mist extinguishers are safe and well suited for use on burning electrical equipment as the de-ionised water mist does not conduct electricity and the water mist does not form puddles which could lead to electrocution.
Wet Chemical fire extinguishers have a yellow label and are designed specifically for use on fires involving combustible cooking media such as burning oil and fat.
They have a class F rating and a special lance applicator nozzle. They usually have an additional class A rating and are normally not designed for use on class B fires (petrol, diesel, paint, paraffin etc), although the 3ltr Gloria wet chemical fire extinguisher is an exception.
Reviewed: 01/07/2021 (doc:2 V1.2). Our articles are reviewed regularly. However, any changes made to standards or legislation following the review date will not have been considered. Please note that we provide abridged, easy-to-understand guidance. To make detailed decisions about your fire safety provisions, you might require further advice or need to consult the full standards and legislation.