This guide explains the different extinguishers available for domestic environments.
WARNING: If a fire has already taken hold in a room, filling the room with fumes, do not attempt to extinguish the fire. Leave the room immediately, close the doors behind you and alert other people in the building, evacuate to a safe place and call 999.
In the past Powder extinguishers were considered “all purpose” and were the go-to extinguisher for most applications and a lot of write-ups recommending them are still available, but current recommendations discourage their use indoors. Discharging a powder extinguisher will result in a large cloud of fine powder which, while being very effective in extinguishing fires, blocks vision and can cause breathing difficulties. Therefore, we would not recommend a powder extinguisher to be used inside your home.
Kitchens require a fire extinguisher capable of dealing with combustible solids like paper and wood (Class A), flammable liquids like small spills of oil (Class B), cooking media like fat and oil (Class F) and need to be safe for use on live electrical equipment. Some kitchens will have gas cookers or gas hobs, adding flammable gases (Class C) to that list. This list includes unfortunately every classification of fire, so choosing the correct fire extinguishers is difficult, as most extinguishers do not cover all risks. There is now a fire extinguisher available that can be used to tackle all your kitchen fires - the water mist extinguisher.
Water mist fire extinguishers can be used on solid combustibles, flammable liquids, flammable gases as well as small fat fires* and are safe for use on live electrical equipment. This means that a single 1 or 3 litre Water Mist extinguisher can protect the entire kitchen. The fine water mist is very effective when tackling these types of fire. Water mist extinguishers contain only de-ionised water and so cause minimum damage to your property as there is no residue from the extinguishing agent after the fire.
Wet chemical extinguishers were designed for industrial kitchen fires involving deep fat fryers but are quite expensive and can usually not be used on other types of fire. However, a small 2ltr wet chemical extinguisher is available for domestic kitchens where deep fat fryers are frequently used.
*We do not recommend using water mist on anything above a 5F rated fire (this is equivalent to an average domestic deep fat fryer).
If you have a home office or similar then the risks are solid combustibles like furniture, carpets and paper as well as electrical equipment such as computers. Fires in these areas are often caused by electrical malfunctions, unattended cigarettes or dropped ash.
Similar to kitchen environments, the Water mist range can handle all of these fire risks with minimal clean-up required and without posing any risk to the user.
Laptops usually contain rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Should these start to overheat and start to smoulder, cool them with plenty of water or even better take the piece of equipment outside and leave it in a place where there can be no damage if the device should start to burn. Once these batteries start to burn there is practically nothing that can be done to extinguish the fire. Ensure that laptops are not left charging for long periods of time unattended.
Fire risks in living rooms are linked to soft furnishing and curtains, fuel and fireplaces with electrical equipment and open fires as sources of ignition. A single 3 or 6 litre Water mist extinguishers can cover all fire risks within the living room including gas fires and open solid fuel fires. For living rooms without a gas fire other water-based extinguishers are also suitable, such as foam extinguishers or water extinguishers.
Powder fire extinguishers are still the best and cheapest solution for garages, workshops or sheds.
They can be used on solids (Class A), spilled petrol (Class B), gases (Class C), and around electrical equipment. Please be aware of the impact of the discharge in a small space and that there is a lot of clean-up needed after any discharge.
If you store drums or vats of flammable liquids like petrol or oil then foam fire extinguishers or powder extinguishers should be purchased.
Engine compartments in cars and motorhomes require powder extinguishers to extinguish fuel leak fires and engine fires. If smoke is coming up from under the bonnet, very slightly lift the bonnet and discharge the powder extinguisher into the engine compartment. Do not fully open the bonnet, as the fire could badly injure you.
Living compartments in caravans and motorhomes commonly carry the same risks as your home kitchen and living room. So a water mist fire extinguisher will give the ideal protection. It is recommended that you have an extinguisher in the pulling vehicle and an extinguisher in the actual living space to ensure that one extinguisher is always within reach no matter where you are in relation to the fire.
Fire blankets are also available and are usually marketed towards kitchen use, specifically for deep fat or oil fires, but can also be used to be wrapped around people with clothing on fire as well as waste bin fires. They work by being carefully placed over the pan or fryer in order to trap the fire and cut off the supply of oxygen; without oxygen a fire cannot continue to burn and will extinguish.
However, when dealing with deep containers of high-temperature fats and oil, re-ignition is a very real risk. After placing the fire blanket over the fire, you should immediately turn off the cooking appliance and leave the blanket on the container until the fat/oil has fully cooled.
Do not move the pan or remove the fire blanket until you are sure the oil or fat has cooled down fully, otherwise it may reignite once oxygen is available again.
Do not buy a cheap fire blanket just to "tick a box"; ensure your fire blanket has a CE mark and a Kitemark or other reputable certification to EN 1869. If the seller cannot prove their fire blanket has these marks then look elsewhere. Fire blankets without the quality assurance marks could catch fire and cause injury or the spread of the fire you are trying to put out.
If you would like to read more about fire extinguishers we have an extensive selection of guides and informational pages. Alternatively, you can call freephone 0800 612 6537 or use our online chat system to talk to our friendly and knowledgeable customer support team who will be happy to help.
Reviewed: 28/02/2023 (doc:514 V1.1). 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.