If you’re like many people, you’re aware that there are a variety of types of fire extinguishers, and some of the most common are dry chemical extinguishers. But what are dry chemical extinguishers, how do you read their labels, and how do you know which fires you can use them on? This guide explains.

What is a Dry Chemical Fire Extinguisher?

A dry chemical fire extinguisher is a fire extinguisher designed to put out fires of several types. They contain chemicals that can smother flames and coat fuel with a thin layer of dust. That helps extinguish fires on the spot.

What Do the Markings Mean on a Dry Chemical Fire Extinguisher?

Dry chemical fire extinguishers are marked with various labels. The most common are:

  • “DC,” which stands for dry chemical
  • “ABC,” which indicates that they can fight Class A, B or C fires
  • “BC,” which indicates that they can only extinguish Class B and Class C fires

Fire extinguishers labeled “ABC” are very common, and they may be the most useful around the house.

Related: Important house fire statistics for homeowners

A Word on ABC Fire Extinguishers

“ABC” fire extinguishers are filled with a special powder made with monoammonium phosphate. The powder is usually yellow in color. These fire extinguishers also contain nitrogen, which is pressurized inside the canister. The pressurized nitrogen allows you to spray the powder on a fire to smother it quickly.

How Do Dry Chemical Fire Extinguishers Work?

Dry chemical fire extinguishers separate a fire’s fuel source from the oxygen it needs to survive. In many cases, the chemical powder in these types of fire extinguishers also interrupts a fire’s natural chemical reactions.

Where Are Dry Chemical Fire Extinguishers Most Common?

Many homes have dry chemical fire extinguishers, as do many businesses. Usually, you’ll find them contained in glass cabinets in schools, companies, restaurants and other businesses.

Related: Winter fire safety tips you need to know to prevent disaster

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