Can you use an expired fire extinguisher?

The mere presence of a fire extinguisher in your premises can make you feel safer. However, without the proper maintenance, this piece of equipment may not function properly when it’s needed. A predominant cause of a non-functioning extinguisher is that it has gotten too old and has, as a result, declined in performance. In this article, we’ll highlight the signs of age to look out for, as well as maintenance and disposal tips.


Fire extinguishers don’t technically have a set expiration date as much depends on the quality of the manufacture for the individual canister. Better quality extinguishers will last longer and proper maintenance will help ensure they reach their full potential. As a guide, you should think about replacing your extinguisher roughly every 10 years. The age of your extinguisher can be worked out by consulting the manufacturing date stamp on the canister’s body. Some extinguishers will last longer than 10 years if they receive refills and refurbishments, but this can be more costly than getting a new one.  

You should check the extinguisher’s pressure monthly, get it inspected by a professional annually, and get an extended service when necessary. For water, foam and powder extinguishers, an extended service and refill should be carried out every 5 years; CO2 extinguishers only need this every 10 years.

Signs of age

If your extinguisher has visible defects, it should most certainly be replaced. Signs of age and wear that prevent proper functioning include:

  • The neck seal is broken, or showing signs of weakening and damage. This will reduce the pressure of the extinguisher which is needed for it to perform.
  • The handle is broken, shaky or weak.
  • The pin is absent or has been previously released.
  • The hose is cracked, split or shows other signs of damage.
  • There is no inspection tag present.

Although not an immediately visible sign of age, a professional will also test whether the chemical powder has settled and compacted in the extinguisher. If this is so, the extinguisher won’t work properly and will need recharging.


If a fire extinguisher needs to be disposed of, there is a particular way to do so. This piece of equipment is pressurised and potentially dangerous and, therefore, can’t be treated like normal waste.

If the extinguisher is not empty you have two options: either get in touch with your local fire department to see if they will take it or take it to your nearest hazardous waste disposal facility. These are the best equipped options for safely disposing of such gear.

If the fire extinguisher is empty, the process is somewhat simpler. In a suitable space, press the lever to ensure all pressure has been released. Then remove the top to show that the canister is empty and take it to a recycling facility. Most places will accept the extinguisher, provided they have the ability to recycle steel.


Cheshire Fire provide high quality fire extinguishers and maintenance services to ensure that your extinguishers stay in full working condition. Our company has many years of experience and a host of accreditations, giving you peace of mind we will carry out any and all work reliably and safely. For fire safety specialists – who also provide risk assessments, alarm systems and fire safety training – look no further than Cheshire Fire. Contact us to find out more about our services across Chester, Warrington and the surrounding areas.