Will Salt Put Out A Fire?


When a fire starts in a kitchen, the natural reaction is to grab the more suitable thing close to hand to put out the flames and stop them from spreading. Is it true that you can use everyday kitchen salt to put out a fire?

Salt can be a very effective agent for dealing with fires. The properties of this common mineral have the potential to calm and even extinguish small fires – particularly grease fires in kitchens. However, there are still risks involved with using salt as a firefighting tool, and depending on the size of the fire you may need a large amount of salt on hand.

With this in mind, it is important that we look at the different ways salt is used as well as some of the potential problems. This means considering the following.

  • The impact of basic table salt when fighting flames
  • How to use salt when dealing with grease fires in a kitchen
  • The potential of saltwater for other fires and why it isn’t commonly used
  • How salt compares with other items on hand in your kitchen cupboard.

Before we continue with this article, it is important for me to state clearly. If you have a fire in your home or elsewhere, call the fire department. It is never a good idea to try to fight a fire on your own.

Why is salt a good choice for fighting a fire?

Salt is a brilliant choice for fighting fires for three key reasons: it doesn’t burn, it has a high melting point, and it is effective at smothering a flame.

The salt that you have at home as table salt is just a crystalized form of sodium chloride. This mineral compound will not burn and will not melt until it reaches temperatures above 1,472 degrees Fahrenheit.

Therefore, you can put it in a fire and there is a strong chance that it won’t be affected by the flames. This then means that you can use the substance to smother the fire with relative ease. You can reduce the intensity of the fire by starving it of oxygen and then control the blaze more easily.

The positive side of this is that salt is quite readily available and it shouldn’t be too difficult to use if you are faced with a kitchen pan fire.

The downside is that you will need to use quite a lot of it for a notable effect on the flames. This means opening up the container and dumping as much salt as possible onto the fire.

The greater the mass landing on the flames in a shorter space of time, the better the results. Sprinkling salt from a salt shaker isn’t going to cut it.

Can you use sea salt to put out a fire?

Sea salt is an option if you have a container in your kitchen. The large crystals could work well in that smothering process if you have enough of them.

At its core, sea salt has the same composition as table salt as sodium chloride so there should be no worries about the melting point here either.

Salt is just one part of the process of tackling a grease fire.

Let’s take a moment to remember just how dangerous grease fires are. An uncontrolled fire in a kitchen can cause extensive damage and put lives at risk.

So, it is important to know what to do and what not to do if a pan catches fire. There is often the instinct to pick up the pan and take it outside where it will do less damage.

But, this is very risky as the fire could come into contact with other flammable materials on the way out or cause burns. It is best to leave the pan where it is and find a way to smother the flames.

Never use water to put out a grease fire because this can agitate the oil and make the fire more dangerous.

Smothering the fire means using appropriate tools and extinguishing agents to take away the oxygen the fire needs. Without oxygen, it will die out pretty easily.

It is a bit like using a candle snuffer, just on a much bigger scale. One of the best options is to put a lid over the pan, or some kind of alternative cover to limit that oxygen supply. This is much easier to do if you can reduce the fire’s intensity with the salt first.

Why don’t firefighters use saltwater to put out fires?

You may ask why saltwater isn’t more commonly used in firefighting if salt is such a good agent for extinguishing fires. Surely the addition of salt would help to control the fire more effectively. Saltwater can work really well, but there are also problems such as,

  • Availability
  • The risk of corrosion
  • Wasted water cleaning out the hoses

Saltwater is a great tool if you have a lot of it on hand. For example, you may find that firefighters working out at sea will make use of seawater if it is more plentiful than freshwater. This could be a major consideration if a fire breaks out on board a boat or off-shore structure.

Do you make use of the seawater or use up your limited supply of clean drinking water?

However, it doesn’t make sense to create supplies of saltwater for use inland when there are so many downsides.

The first issue here is the risk of corrosion. Saltwater is five times as corrosive to metal as freshwater. This is why metalwork in marine environments is so prone to rust.

Therefore, fire crews don’t want to have to deal with the corrosion risk that comes from using salt water instead of freshwater. Metal parts on hoses and other equipment could begin to deteriorate and become less effective, which then means a lot more costly replacements.

Then there is the fact that fire crews have to rinse out their hoses and equipment with fresh water to remove and salt reside after using saltwater.

This is time-consuming and wasteful.

So, it makes sense for a firefighter to only use salt water when it is the most convenient and effective option

Is it better to use salt rather than baking soda?

There are benefits in turning to salt instead of bicarbonate of soda if you have a kitchen fire. For a start, you may be more likely to have a container of basic table salt in your kitchen cupboard than bicarbonate of soda.

You can quickly obtain it and then cover the fire to deal with the flames. There is also the fact that you probably won’t need to use as much salt as you would bicarbonate of soda because the grains are so effective at smothering the fire.

However, bicarbonate of soda has its benefits for different types of fires, such as electrical fire. So your choice will depend on the problem at hand.

Bicarbonate of soda is effective in its own right and a common component in some fire extinguishers.

Click the link if you want to learn more about how to use baking soda to put out fires.

Can you use flour instead of salt?

With all this talk of effective ingredients in your kitchen cupboard, you may ask about using flour to put out fires. After all, this is another powder-like substance next to the salt and bicarbonate of soda that would theoretically smother the flames.

This is a bad idea because there are reactionary agents within the flour that can ignite and cause small explosions. This will only make the fire more volatile and unpredictable. The same is true for baking powder.

If you aren’t completely sure about using something on your fire, don’t take the risk, just call the fire department.

Can you use salt in a large kitchen fire?

While there are benefits in using salt for kitchen fires, it does all depend on the scale of the fire. If a pan catches fire because a bit of oil ignites, you can use the salt and the other options mentioned above to smother the flames and put it out with relative ease.

However, any fire that cannot be covered by a pan lid or easily managed with salt requires a different approach. The salt may have to control the flames but may not be enough to put it out entirely.

That’s when you need to call the fire department. Never worry about calling 911 for a small fire because it is better to be safe than sorry.

The last thing you want is that fire spreading and putting lives at risk.

Always call for help when dealing with kitchen fires.

Salt clearly has the potential to do a lot of good when dealing with kitchen fires. You can use this simple substance to bring fires under greater control and maybe help put them out altogether.

But, that it isn’t a substitute for calling the fire department. If you have the confidence to try using salt on a small, manageable fire then that’s great.

If the fire is too intense, leave the area and wait for the fire crew. The safety of you and your family is the priority here.

Mike Pertz

I’m Mike, I’m a full time firefighter/paramedic/diver for a department just west of Cleveland, Ohio and the founder of FirefighterNOW. I’m also a columnist for FireRescue1. If you’re reading this blog my guess is you are interested in the fire service. There's information on fitness, gear, interviews, tests and more. I hope you find what you're looking for.

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