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Here’s What to Do with Your Old RV Fire Extinguisher (Hint: It’s Not Garbage)

Here’s What to Do with Your Old RV Fire Extinguisher (Hint: It’s Not Garbage)

A fire extinguisher can save your life and your home if a fire occurs in your RV. Within a matter of minutes, your entire RV could go up in flames if you can’t put it out or prevent it from spreading. 

We strongly suggest that everyone has a fire extinguisher easily accessible while RVing. However, fire extinguishers do have expiration dates. Whether it’s past its prime or you’ve (unfortunately) had to use it, here’s how to properly dispose of an old fire extinguisher.

RV Fire
Don’t Let This Happen To You. Be prepared with fire extinguishers and know how to use them!

When Should You Get Rid of Your Old RV Fire Extinguisher?

Like most things in life, fire extinguishers have an expiration date. The expiration date will be printed on the side of the device or have a tag attached to it. Many fire extinguishers will also come with a pressure gauge. If the gauge indicates low or no pressure, you should immediately replace the unit.

Even if you cannot find a date on the extinguisher we recommend replacing them every 10 years. There are many possible causes of RV fires and you never want to reach for an extinguisher to realize it’s useless.

RV safety devices
While you’re testing your other RV safety devices, like your LP detector and smoke alarm, check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher too.

Before You Throw Away Your RV Fire Extinguisher…

If your RV fire extinguisher is expired but not discharged, you can’t just throw it into the nearest trash can or dumpster. These safety devices are hazardous materials, and you could unknowingly create a dangerous situation. So there are a couple of things you should do before disposing of your fire extinguisher.

If you have a partially or fully charged device, you can call your local fire department. They may take drop-offs to use for training or demonstrations. 

However, if they can’t accept them, you’ll need to locate and call a hazardous waste disposal facility. They can properly dispose of dangerous waste from fire extinguishers and many other devices.

collection of old fire extinguishers
Your old RV fire extinguisher can be disposed of at your local hazardous waste collection facility or recycling center.

You can also reach out to a local recycling center, but only if you have completely emptied the canister. Squeeze the lever in an open-air environment to confirm that no pressure remains inside. Then take it to the nearest recycling center.

Use Your Expired Fire Extinguisher to Practice Putting Out a Fire!

One great option to consider with an expired fire extinguisher is to use it to practice your fire fighting skills. This is important because many people don’t typically get the chance to practice before actually needing to use a fire extinguisher. Waiting to figure out how to operate a fire extinguisher during an emergency is not a good idea. 

We have been in one situation where we had to put out an RV fire for someone else because they did not know where their fire extinguisher was and were not confident using it. We don’t want you to be those people, so practice!

using a fire extinguisher
Practice using your fire extinguisher on a small campfire in a fire pit.

Practice your skills by putting out an actual fire to teach kids and others how to respond in an emergency. Fires happen unexpectedly, so make sure everyone in your RV knows how to operate them safely.

If you choose this option, practice in a safe environment. You don’t want to put yourself or others in danger while honing your safety skills. Find an open area, grab a garden hose for backup, and practice on a small campfire in a contained fire pit. 

How to Safely Use and Discharge a Fire Extinguisher

You’ll need to pull the pin at the top of the extinguisher to squeeze the handle. Once you remove the pin, avoid aiming the nozzle at anyone. Point it in the direction of the fire and squeeze the handle. Then, sweep back and forth over the base of the flames until you have completely extinguished the fire.

Free Fire Extinguisher Training Video - OSHA - Updated for 2020

When Can You Put a Fire Extinguisher in the Trash?

You should only put a fire extinguisher in the trash after it is empty. This means it no longer contains chemicals or pressure. 

You can then safely dispose of your extinguisher in the garbage, but only if your local regulations permit it. Make sure you check your local rules before tossing a fire extinguisher in the trash to avoid a large fine or legal complication.

Determine What Kind of Fire Extinguisher You Have

Because there are different types of fires, there are different types of fire extinguishers. RVs typically have BC fire extinguishers. This type uses dry chemicals and handles fires involving flammable liquids or electrical equipment

Your unit should have a label indicating what class of fires the extinguisher can handle. The waste center will want to know this information to assist you with the disposal.

➡ Fire extinguishers aren’t the only safety device you need to carry while RVing. Here’s a list of the essentials: 13 Most Important RV Safety Devices You Need For Your Camper

Has It Ever Been Used?

Many disposal centers will only dispose of fully discharged fire extinguishers. This means the units no longer contain chemicals or pressure that could harm the environment or cause danger to workers. 

Take old fire extinguishers to an outside space away from humans or pets and fully discharge them. You can practice using whatever is left to put out a campfire at the end of a trip or simply aim it at a target. Be sure you’ve completely emptied all the chemicals from the unit.

See If It Is Rechargeable

Just because you needed to use your fire extinguisher doesn’t mean you need to dispose of it. You can recharge some fire extinguishers, but this does not apply to all units. Typically a rechargeable unit will have a metal discharge head, a pressure gauge, and a label indicating if you can recharge it or not.

fire extinguisher gauge
Some fire extinguishers can be recharged. However, many of the tanks found in RVs are single-use units.

You can expect it to cost $20 to $50 to have your unit recharged. The cost will vary depending on its size and the type of chemical your tank requires. Fortunately, recharging your fire extinguisher can cost less than buying a new one.

Where Can You Get Rid of Your Old RV Fire Extinguisher?

You have several options to consider if you need to get rid of an old RV fire extinguisher. Many areas have collection programs designed to handle household hazardous waste items. Simply searching “household hazardous waste” on your favorite search engine can provide several options near you.

You can also reach out to your local fire department for assistance. They may even offer to take your unused or expired extinguishers for demonstrations or other educational purposes. If not, they might provide you with information or resources on how to dispose of them properly according to any local laws or ordinances. 

How Long Do RV Fire Extinguishers Last?

Most RV fire extinguishers are disposable, typically last 12 years, and must be replaced after each use. While this can seem wasteful, you can’t refill disposable tanks. If you do have a refillable extinguisher, you need to recharge it every six years. 

Did You Know? Similar to fire extinguishers, RV propane tanks are only good for 12 years and must be recertified for continued use beyond that point.

fire extinguisher tag
Check the side of your unit or the tag for an expiration date.

Can a Fire Extinguisher Be Used More Than Once?

You can use some fire extinguishers more than once, but not all. This is why you need to know the type you have. Most RV fire extinguishers are disposable, and you can only use them once. 

However, you can get a heavy-duty kind that you recharge. If you have any questions regarding the type of extinguisher you have, take a trip to your local fire station. They’ll likely help educate you on your specific unit and how to use it properly.

Being Prepared in an Emergency

Having access to a fire extinguisher is essential while RVing. You don’t want to find yourself unprepared in the middle of an emergency. It’s also crucial that you educate others living in your RV on properly operating the extinguisher in case you aren’t around when a situation occurs.

Pro Tip: If you’re renovating an older RV, a new fire extinguisher and wall mount is a practical upgrade worth budgeting for.

fire extinguisher in RV kitchen
Keep your fire extinguisher in a convenient location. If it’s hard to find, it won’t be of much help in an emergency.

It’s easy to forget about these critical devices, so make sure to check your fire extinguisher if you don’t know how old it is. Dispose of an old tank safely and replace it immediately.

Have you ever had to use a fire extinguisher while RVing? Drop a comment below.

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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Tex Hooper

Tuesday 18th of January 2022

I didn't know that RV's had their own kind of extinguishers. I need to get an extinguisher for my kitchen. I'll have to consider getting something that is easy for my kids to use.

Mortons on the Move

Thursday 20th of January 2022

Its not special to RV's but the kind and RV should have in it. We stopped a fire once with an extinguisher that would burned the RV to the ground for sure so they are important!

Bill Morgan

Wednesday 15th of December 2021

As on-track responder at numerous race tracks, I have been trained on the use of and have deployed fire extinguishers to put out fires in race cars. Your advice to, "Point it in the direction of the fire and squeeze the handle. Then, sweep back and forth over the base of the flames until you have completely extinguished the fire" is incorrect. The extinguisher will be empty long before the fire is out. You should approach the fire as closely as possible and safe, aim low, and squeeze the handle in short, two or three second bursts as you move around to different angles. Do not sweep the nozzle or aim over the top of the fire. During training I have completely extinguished car fires using 20% of the bottle charge with this technique, while other folks emptied two 20 pound bottles and needed more.