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Why does baking soda extinguish fires?

Playing with fire is always a dangerous thing. In the case of an accident, you can extinguish a fire in a number of ways. One of them is by using baking soda.

Why baking soda extinguishes fire

If you ever come across a fire in your kitchen or house and do not have a fire extinguisher handy, you can use a home remedy to extinguish the fire. Baking Soda.

A fire needs three elements to burn. Fuel, an oxidizing agent and heat. A fire will stop burning if any of these three is no longer present.

The science behind putting out a fire

To put out a fire you need to remove one of these three factors. You must have seen people use a blanket to smother a fire and put it out. All they are trying to do is cut off the oxygen supply to the fire.

Another way to put out a fire is to replace the oxygen available for a flame to burn with a gas that does not support combustion. And what better gas than carbon dioxide. This is why carbon dioxide fire extinguishers are very common. Carbon dioxide is heavier than air and does not support combustion. This means that this gas will naturally settle and help blanket the flames. CO2 extinguishers also produce cold gas which acts on the heat.

Carbon dioxide is used in fire exchangers because it is heavier than air and does not support combustion.

Water may be used to extinguish fires by reducing the temperature to a point where burning is not possible. This cancels out the heat factor that is essential for a fire to burn.

So, if you remove any of the three vital factors needed for a fire to burn, you can easily extinguish it.

Baking soda as a fire retardant

Baking soda is chemically known as sodium bicarbonate. When heated to a high temperature, the chemical properties of this salt make it produce lots of carbon dioxide and remove oxygen. This then totally reduces the amount of oxygen in the surrounding atmosphere and puts the fire out. This reaction also produces a small quantity of water and sodium carbonate as by-products. 

Tags :     Everyday Chemistry     Fire     Combustion     Baking Soda     Carbon dioxide     Fire Retardant     Sodium Bicarbonate    


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