A kitchen would not be the same without salt because of its usefulness in cooking and ability to enhance the flavor of meals. However, not all kitchens have fire extinguishers. Can salt take the place of a fire extinguisher to put out a fire? Find out below.
Does Salt Put Out Fire?
The answer is Yes.
Just like fire extinguishers, salt is unique in its capacity to do certain things. Putting out fires is one of them.
The fire extinguisher versus salt myth probably has its roots in fire safety advice from the early 1950s given by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). It was suggested that a box of salt be kept in a kitchen as a fire extinguisher. In those days, fire extinguishers did not have the same contents as today, and salt was seen as an effective alternative.
Why Does Salt Put Out Fires?
Fire sustains itself through the rapid combination of heat and fuel with oxygen. This combination produces fire’s characteristic bright light and high temperature. If you throw salt on fire, it will smother it, but you need a lot of salt. However, unlike baking soda, salt does not chemically reduce the fire.
Ordinary table salt is inert and stops fires by smothering the flame. When poured onto a fire, it forms a barrier between the fire and air. This is the same way dry powder fire extinguishers put out fires.
After the fire goes down, you will notice the salt remaining because it will not have burned. Salt is very good at absorbing heat for its volume, so you won’t need a bucket of it to put out a small fire.
Is Salt Flammable?
No, salt is generally not flammable or combustible. Ordinary table salt has a fire rating of 0, meaning it is nearly impossible to ignite.
However, if salt reaches 1470 degrees Fahrenheit (800 degrees Celsius) it will start to melt or burn.
The reason salt is not flammable is because of its chemical makeup. The very strong bond formed between the sodium and chloride atoms makes it difficult for them to break apart. The only way for salt to burn is through exposure to extremely high heat. However, this is unlikely in any real-life situation.
Salt Chemical Formula
The scientific name for ordinary table salt is sodium chloride. Its formula reads as:
Na + Cl2 –> NaCl
Salt is a chemical compound formed from sodium (Na) and Chloride (Cl).
Rock salt, or halite, is nearly identical to table salt but has much larger crystals. This makes it not as effective at smothering fires.
Other salts also exist and are used in various industrial and commercial applications. Some of these include:
- Potassium Dichromate (K2Cr207) – Very flammable and toxic and not to be used to fight fires.
- Copper Sulfate (CuSO4)
- Sodium Bisulfate (NaHSO4)
- Calcium Chloride (CaCL2) – Most often used to melt ice on roadways.
Different types of salts will have varying abilities to fight fire. However, using the wrong salt could actually make a fire worse!
Does Salt Put Out Grease Fires?
Yes, along with baking soda, salt is very good at putting out grease fires. The only problem is having enough salt available to put the fire out completely. However, only a cup-sized amount of salt can be enough to extinguish a grease fire, which is often available in a home kitchen.
If you do have a grease fire, never use a pressurized fire extinguisher to try and douse the flames, unless it is a Class K or Class B fire extinguisher. The pressurized contents can actually make the fire spread by blasting lit grease particles throughout the kitchen. The same goes for using water, which will only make the grease fire worse. And do not use flour, which is easy to mistake for salt or baking soda, as this will also make the fire grow because the flour will burn.
Is Salt In Fire Extinguishers?
Do fire extinguishers contain salt? Yes, they do.
Sodium bicarbonate is commonly used in hand-held fire extinguishers. Sodium bicarbonate can be found in class B and C dry chemical fire extinguishers. Other salts, such as alkali metal salt powders and mono ammonium phosphates are also used. Most kitchen fire extinguishers have salt within them.
Best Salts For Putting Out Fires
Sodium chloride (table salt) and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) are very effective at putting out small fires in homes, offices, or industrial plants.
In the kitchen, ordinary fine-grain table salt is more effective at putting out fires than rock or sea salt. This is because rock and sea salt tends to be too chunky to smother a fire. However, the best type of salt is the one you have available at the moment you need it.
The only type of salt that should be used is the one that will actually put the fire out and not make it worse. For most ordinary non-industrial situations, a person does not need to worry about using the wrong type of salt. As long as it is table salt or baking soda, it will work to put out a fire.
Salt Fire Retardants
Do fire retardants contain salt? Yes, they do.
Along with sodium bicarbonate, fire retardant mixtures include mono ammonium phosphate and diammonium phosphate.
Salt Vs Fire Extinguisher Cost
A medium-sized container (26 oz) of ordinary table salt will cost between $5-10 USD. A suitable class B, ABC, or K fire extinguisher (for putting out grease fires) will run between $30 – 100+ USD. So, salt is much less expensive than a fire extinguisher, but may also be less effective in certain situations.
Which is Better: Salt or Fire Extinguishers?
The answer to this question is most often fire extinguishers because they are specifically made to fight fires. However, not everyone has a fire extinguisher available when they need it, but they may have access to ordinary table salt. This can be used to control a fire long enough to either grab a fire extinguisher or exit the building. In fact, the best option is likely to simply vacate the premises and call the fire department.
Salt has been a very useful substance to human endeavors through history, especially in the kitchen. Adding to its capabilities is its capacity to fight fires. But remember, fire can easily grow and spread, so using a proper fire extinguisher and keeping safety in mind is likely the best path to take.
Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree in Economics from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use.