Can I Use An Expired Fire Extinguisher? Dangers and Risks

No, you should not use an expired fire extinguisher because it may have reduced effectiveness, unreliable pressure, or pose a safety hazard during a fire emergency.

Here’s an overview of the reasons:

  • Reduced Effectiveness: Over time, the pressure or extinguishing agent inside an extinguisher can deteriorate, making it less effective or potentially malfunctioning during a fire.
  • Unreliable Pressure: A fire extinguisher relies on internal pressure to propel the extinguishing agent. Expired extinguishers may have lost pressure, rendering them useless in an emergency.
  • Safety Hazard: A malfunctioning extinguisher could leak or even explode during use, creating a safety risk.
Dangerous expired fire extinguisher canister

Are Expired Fire Extinguishers Dangerous?

Expired fire extinguishers can be dangerous in a few ways, but the level of risk depends on the specific extinguisher and how it malfunctions.

Here’s a breakdown of the dangers of an expired extinguisher:

  • Malfunction: In some cases, an expired fire extinguisher might malfunction entirely. This could involve leaking, where the extinguisher is unusable and potentially expose you to harmful chemicals, or pressure issues, where the extinguisher does not build enough pressure to discharge the agent. Conversely, it could build excessive pressure and rupture.
  • False Sense of Security: Having an expired extinguisher on hand may create a false sense of security. In the heat of the moment, you might rely on an old extinguisher that’s not functional, leading to wasted time and potentially delaying escape or proper fire suppression measures.
  • Reduced Effectiveness: This is the most likely scenario. The pressurant (i.e., propellant) or extinguishing agent inside the extinguisher may degrade over time. This can lead to the extinguisher having insufficient pressure to expel the agent effectively, or the agent itself might be less potent in extinguishing flames. In a fire situation, having an extinguisher that’s not performing at its best can be a significant risk of danger.

Overall, expired fire extinguishers are not ideal for fire safety. While they might not explode dramatically, their reduced effectiveness and potential for malfunction make them unreliable in an emergency situation.

Note: Fire extinguishers generally have a 10-12 year life expectancy. The expiration date of a fire extinguisher depends on various factors, including the type of extinguisher, the manufacturer’s guidelines, and the extinguishing agent used. For more details, see our related guide on this topic: Do fire extinguishers expire? It also includes a table showing the approximate service life of different types of fire extinguishers.

What Should You Do With An Expired Fire Extinguisher?

Fire extinguishers contain various components that can be a safety hazard or harmful to the environment if not disposed of properly. The method for disposing of an old fire extinguisher depends on whether the extinguisher is full or empty.

As explained in our other guide on how to dispose of fire extinguishers, here’s how to dispose of them responsibly:

Full Extinguisher

  • Contact your local fire department: Many fire departments offer drop-off programs for expired fire extinguishers. They can ensure safe and proper disposal.
  • Consider a hazardous waste disposal facility: If your fire department doesn’t accept them, research local hazardous waste disposal facilities that handle fire extinguisher disposal. Follow their specific guidelines for drop-off or collection.

Empty extinguisher

  • Depressurize the extinguisher: Most extinguishers have a pressure release mechanism. Consult the owner’s manual or manufacturer’s website for safe depressurization instructions specific to your model.
  • Visually confirm it’s empty: Once depressurized, remove the extinguisher head to show it’s devoid of agent.
  • Recycle the metal shell: Most local recycling facilities accept empty metal canisters from fire extinguishers. Contact your local facility to confirm their guidelines for accepting these items.


Using an old fire extinguisher is a risk not worth taking when it comes to safeguarding lives and property. An expired extinguisher’s reduced fire-fighting efficiency and potential failure to suppress fires can lead to catastrophic consequences during emergencies. Therefore you should not use an expired fire extinguisher for any reason.

Prioritizing the safety of occupants and the surrounding environment is paramount, and ensuring that functional and up-to-date fire extinguishers are readily available can make a crucial difference when confronting fire-related incidents.