Old Fire Extinguisher, What Should I Do With It?

OK, so now that my parents split up and my dad has moved out, I can poke around the garage without fearing for my life if one of his things gets broken, moved out of place, or generally breathed on. In the process of doing this, I noticed that the garage fire extinguisher is older than I am, and was last charged/inspected in March of '79. The little dial thingie is too scuffed up to read, but I doubt that the fire extinguisher would really extinguish anything very well.

So, what I’d like to know is: can this fire extinguisher be charged up/filled up so that it’s actually useful? Where do I go to do this? And if it can’t, what’s the correct way to go about disposing of it? Also, how much do you suppose a couple old rotary phones would fetch me on E-Bay?

Don’t know about the phones. For the extinguisher, look up Fire Extinguishers in the Yellow Pages (that’s how it’s listed in mine).

That’s my line of business. I’d toss the extinguisher. It’s too old and from your description, to expensive to repair. Read the label, if it is a dry checmical just toss it in the trash. If it is halon, call a fire extinguisher company for recycling.

bare, should he toss it because of its age alone, or because it hasn’t been maintained? I remember seeing a fire extinguisher in my high school in the early 80s that was manufactured in the 1920s! I didn’t even know they had fire extinguishers then. I think it was only a water-filled one for paper fires, but it was only up close that it looked any different from a modern one, as it was esentially the same style. Man, that thing was solidly built though. I never unhooked it from its wall-clip, but I reckon it would have weighed a ton. Anyhow, it was very much in active service, and its perdiodic inspections were up to date.

Use it to extinguish old fires, of course!

Thank-you, bare, for the information, and everyone else for the suggestions.

Psst, TheLoadedDog - I’m a she. :slight_smile:

Sorry ma’am. Getting gender incorrect (in both directions) is one of my SDMB trademarks. I do it way beyond the 50% mere chance would suggest. Apologies. :wink:

Well… it was last recharged or inspected (which doesn’t nescessarily mean that it was recharged) 24 years ago meaning that it is older than that. The gauge is unreadable meaning replacement, the powder is probably caked, calling for replacement and it’ll likely be needing new o-rings and valve stem. On top of that it will require hydro-testing that should occur every 12 years.

Anytime it is likely to be more than half the cost of a new one to bring it back into usable condition, I try to sell my customers a new one.

The ones TheLoadedDog saw from the '20’s were probably soda/acid extinguishers. They usually had a halo-like handle on the top that you would invert tipping the baking soda into the acid to chemically expell the contents.

I’ve collected quite a few odd extinguishers over the years. The oldest ones I’ve ever found are similar to this, filled with carbon tetrachloride, and designed to be thrown at a fire. I even have globes that are in a wire cage with a fusible link on the bottom that is designed to melt and send a fan on a spring up to break the globe while the fan spins the contents in a circle. The first automatic fire extinguisher I believe.

TheLoadedDog: no harm, no foul. :slight_smile:

Bare, how often should matinence be done on household fire extinguishers, anyways? The ones we had in the school dorms had little tags showing that they got inspected yearly, but that’s only for schools and businesses and stuff, right? How much does it cost, roughly, to get a fire extinguisher checked out?

So, shooting it with a high-powered rifle, then throwing it in the local river is a bad option?

bare: I’ve never seen those, but I’ve seen a few of the (also very old) syringe-type extinguishers that squirt carbon tetrachloride. And a few soda-acid extinguishers, still installed. If I remember correctly, it was the acid in the small inner bottle that spilled into the baking soda and not the other way around – I imagine they were unreliable and difficult to use.

teleute12: Some fire departments will inspect and recharge home fire extinguishers for free. They aren’t really that expensive, so if it’s older than you are you might want to buy a new one.

DrMatrix: Maybe the extinguisher could put out this 42-year-old fire. =)

Yer right, most businesses and places open to the public are required to have their extinguishers serviced once a year by either their insurance companies or the local fire marshal.

Household extinguishers should be good for five or six years before needing to be recharged, if the gauge is still in the acceptable area. Cost is going to vary depending on your local market and area but it should be reasonable.

Hint: avoid the cheapo plastic-headed extinguishers available everywhere. I love looking at ads in the papers with those things for sale, half of them are dead in the photos. They just tend to leak off more often. Look for a metal-headed one that is rechargable.

Yep, I’ve got some of those old syringe types too. Some are dry chemical and some carbon tet.

There were tons of manufacturers of soda/acid extinguishers, but all that I have messed with had the acid in the top portion of the cylinder. Some just require inversion to work, others need to be slammed upside down on the ground to break the acid bulb attached to the inside of the cap. Most of those were either copper or brass construction and shine up pretty well, so lots of folks collect them and use them for other things.

I really hope you aren’t seeing these type extinguishers still installed. They have not been compliant for ages and never were very effective to begin with.

The garage fire extinguisher is scheduled for a one-way trip to the dump, come trash day. I was just wondering if the kitchen extinguisher was past due for a check. The pin is gone and there’s no tag on it, but the gauge is still in the green “Full” area. It’s probably around six years old or so, I’ll take it past the fire station sometime and see what they have to say. Or maybe look in the phone book and call someplace, although that option sadly lacks nice firemen to oogle rest my eyes upon.

I’ll try and see if I can find an extinguisher with a metal head when I go to replace the one from the garage. If Wal-Marche doesn’t have it, Le Home Depot probably does.

Shoot, I hope this gets in before the boards go down.

Yeah, when I went off to buy a fire extinguisher (when living in an illegal garage bedroom with only one exit), I learned a bit from people in the biz, and I was told not to fuss with the impulse buy plastic ones at the cash register at Home Depot. They only have a few years of dependable life.

I bought one of the smaller commerical, metal-cased ones. Never had to use it, but I bet it still might be good even 8 years later. Is that possible, Bare?

Oh yeah, it’s possible, anything is possible.

Chances are it would work just fine. I’ve serviced some more than 20 years old that would have worked just fine.

You can’t buy insurance for the price of a working fire extinguisher, it ought to be worth a 10 spot every now and then to ensure it will work.

Something that is mildly interesting to do with extinguishers, if you’re handy with tools.

Make sure the extinguisher is empty, with no pressure.

Cut off the bottom with a torch.

Take the top off (undoing the handle, etc. ) and try to find a bolt to fit the hole, or tap it and get a bolt.

Make a windchime using a piece of wood as the gonger. These are great gifts, and if you’re good with wire feed you can weld some neat designs on the side. They go for anywhere between $50 and $300 here in the NW (most have Japanese characters on the side).

One type of old fire extinquisher that is still “good” is the old “fill with water then pump” kind. Good for car-camping. OK for backyard use around the BBQ. Not so good for indoor use as it is worse than useless against grease fires.

On that subject- for stove grease fires of the “one frying pan” size, a better thing that a fire extinquisher is a fire blanket, which is also good for when a person catches on fire. I keep both a fire blanket and an “ABC” chemical extinquisher in the home. For small grease fires, the blanket works better, and the bacaon is usually salvageable afterwards. Less mess to clean up, too.

WARNING and Oh, boy! on Carbon Tetrachloride Extinguishers
While carbon tet was an effective fire chemical, it was so hazardous to the user, it was almost better to burn. However, some of those old carbon tet units can be emptied (with ample ventilation) and used as a dandy squirt gun. I have an old brass one that squirts about 25 feet on both the pull and push strokes.

Yep, carbon tetrachloride is nothing to mess with and it needs to be disposed of properly, ie: at a hazardous materials site. I wouldn’t even use an old one for a squirt gun because of the chance of residuals.

If you want a REAL squirt gun, pick up a 2 1/2 gallon pressurized water extinguisher. If you want to get fancy, attach it to a backpack frame. With one of these babies, you are guaranteed to win the water war! They are easy to refill yourself too, just fill with water and pressurize with a hand pump.

Agreed on the “Can’t buy any amount of insurance for the small cost of an extinguisher” concept. On Sunday, I was running for an extinguisher to put out what us Faire-folk amusingly call a “carbon” at the site. If I weren’t 25 feet away from one, a charred dish towel (it apparently got too close to a camp stove) could have burned an entire hillside covered with dry fallen leaves and needles.

Will I be buying a new one? Absolutely. I’ll probably buy two actually. One for the camper and one to mount near the cooking area.

Oh… as for the phones, it depends on what kind they are. The newer colored phones with clear dials are generally almost not worth putting up on eBay - expect 'em to sell for $5-10, if at all. Older all-black phones with metal dials are almost always worth listing, and depending on the type and condition can approach $50-100.