Can You Extinguish a Lithium ion Battery Fire? 

Can You Extinguish a Lithium Ion Battery Fire? 

Today, lithium-ion batteries are in many electronics, from smartphones to cars to medical devices. They offer reliable power with recharging capabilities, but failure is bound to happen with growing usage from different consumers and businesses. Issues with exploding cell phones, e-cigarettes, power tools, and other devices powered by Li-ion batteries haven’t disappeared. Lithium-ion batteries can suffer thermal runaway and cell rupture if overheated or overcharged, leading to combustion. Although the chances of a Lithium-ion fire are low, the popularity of these batteries and the ferocity with which they burn pose a new fire risk that’s challenging to handle with traditional methods. So, can you extinguish a lithium ion battery fire? 

It’s possible to put out a lithium-ion battery fire using a specialized lithium-ion fire extinguisher, sand, and other non-flammable items. Keep reading this guide to discover how to put out a lithium-ion battery fire, why lithium batteries catch fire, how to prevent a lithium battery fire, and other related information. 

What Is Lithium Ion Battery? 

A Li-ion battery is a type of rechargeable battery that uses the reversible intercalation of Li+ ions into electronically conducting solids to store energy. Unlike other rechargeable batteries, Li-ion batteries are characterized by a higher energy efficiency, energy density, and specific energy.  

Li-ion batteries power the lives of many individuals each day. This technology, from laptops and cell phones to hybrid electric cars, is prevalent because of its lightweight and rechargeability.  

  • How lithium-ion Batteries Work

Like any other battery, a rechargeable lithium-ion battery has one or more power-generating compartments known as cells. Each cell incorporates three components: a positive electrode, a negative electrode, and a chemical called an electrolyte in between them. The positive electrode is made from a chemical compound known as lithium-cobalt oxide or, in newer batteries, from lithium iron phosphate. 

The negative electrode is typically made from carbon, and the electrolyte varies between battery types, though it’s not too critical to understand how the battery functions. All lithium-ion batteries have a similar working mechanism.

During charging, the lithium-cobalt oxide positive electrode sacrifices some of its lithium ions; these ions travel through the electrolyte to the negative graphite electrode and stay there. The battery takes in and stores energy while charging. 

When the battery discharges, the lithium ions move back across the electrolyte towards the positive electrode, generating the energy that powers the battery. In both instances, electrons move opposite to the ions within the outer circuit. The movement of ions and electrons is interconnected, so if one stops, the other follows suit. 

If ions cease moving through the electrolyte due to a completely discharged battery, electrons will not move through the outer circuit. As such, you’ll lose your power. Also, if you turn off whatever the battery is powering, the electron flow stops, and the same applies to the flow of ions. The battery typically stops discharging rapidly, though it will keep discharging slowly even if the appliance is disconnected. 

Unlike regular batteries, lithium ions have electronic controllers that control how they charge and discharge. This deters the overcharging and overheating that trigger lithium-ion batteries to explode. 

  • Advantages of Lithium-ion Batteries 

Lithium-ion batteries are more reliable than traditional technologies like nickel-cadmium and don’t experience a “memory effect” (nicad batteries become challenging to charge unless fully discharged). Given below are the advantages of lithium-ion batteries: 

High energy density: Li-ion batteries store more energy than other battery types of the same size. It allows for ultra-high power density surpassing current lithium-ion technology. 

Excellent charge efficiency: Due to the smart charging algorithm implemented by the BMS, Li-ion batteries lose less energy during the charge/discharge cycle compared to other types of batteries, which is very important when large amounts of energy are being stored. 

High cell voltage: Extremely high cell voltage means fewer cells in a series of strings are needed to produce a given voltage that can quickly power devices. 

  • Disadvantages of Lithium-ion Batteries 

1: Safety: Li-ion batteries can easily catch fire if an internal malfunction leads to a short circuit or if they overcharge. In both instances, the battery heats up in what’s known as a “thermal runaway,” ultimately exploding or igniting. 

Why Do Lithium Batteries Catch Fire? 

Like any technology subjected to energy creation, storage, and use, Li-ion batteries’ possible malfunction, damage, or heat exposure can result in a fire under adverse conditions. So, why do lithium batteries catch fire?

Li-ion battery cells combine a combustible electrolyte with significant stored energy. Suppose a lithium-ion battery cell produces more heat than it can disperse. In that case, it can result in thermal runaway (rapid uncontrolled release of heat energy), triggering a fire or an explosion. 

An internal short circuit can trigger thermal runaway because of manufacturing defects, lithium plating, or mechanical damage. Other causes of thermal runaway are overcharging or over-discharging. Thermal runaway can trigger the ejection of different combustible and toxic gases from battery casings.

The combustible gases generated often ignite immediately but can also disperse without getting ignited until an external ignition source is encountered, leading to an explosion. 

How to Put Out a Lithium Battery Fire

Lithium-ion batteries are found in many household items like mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and larger things like electric cars. However, sometimes these innovative batteries can fail and explode or start a fire. As such, we’ve compiled this guide on how to put out a lithium battery fire to help you avoid catastrophic losses. Here’s how to extinguish lithium battery fire: 

  • Reasonable choice of smothering agent, scientific disposal of lithium fires

Water extinguishing will do the trick in case of a small fire, such as a mobile phone lithium battery burning. If the fire is large, use an ABC dry powder or CO2 extinguisher to smother the open fire. To use a fire extinguisher, you’ll need to master the PASS technique:

  • Pull the pin.
  • Aim the hose at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the lever and sweep from side to side. 

If a high-voltage battery is on fire, remove the flammable material around the battery or take the burning object to an open area. If the fire is uncontrollable or there is a risk of explosion and spillage, contact the fire brigade and evacuate immediately to a safe area. 

  • Stand at a safe distance and handle emergencies appropriately. 

In case of an open flame, don’t use a foam fire extinguisher as the foam will adhere to the periphery of the battery to create a thermal insulator, thereby increasing the chemical reaction and producing more heat. 

Additionally, it’s forbidden to use ice to cool lithium batteries as it will cool the outside and prevent the heat inside from escaping. This consistent high temperature adds to the intensification of the chemical reaction. 

  • On-site monitoring 

When examining the fire with the lithium battery cooled, don’t touch any high voltage components or toxic liquids, and always use insulated tools to inspect. It can take as much as 24 hours to extinguish a battery fire completely. Monitor the lithium battery to see if it will reignite. The smoke shows the battery is still hot, so you should monitor it until it stops smoking. 

Note: Ensure the household power lines are switched off when extinguishing a fire using water. Also, shut down all electrical circuits before using water to smother the fire. Doing so mitigates the risk of electric shock. 

How to Prevent a Lithium Battery Fire 

As the number of Li-ion battery fires continues to grow, it pays to know the precautions necessary to avoid these fires from occurring in the first place. Here is how to keep lithium battery fires at bay: 

  • Use quality batteries: When buying any device powered with lithium-ion batteries, research to find out if the product was tested. Reputable companies often get their products certified by an independent and reliable testing agency. Make sure the batteries comply with industry standards.
  • Read the instructions provided: Your electronic device must have a set of instructions explaining how to use your device. These should help you minimize the risk of a dangerous fire; therefore, do not disregard them.
  • Avoid physical damage: Keep your lithium batteries from physical trauma, as damage can affect the internal structure. Use sturdy battery cases or holders to protect them from impact or punctures.
  • Proper storage: Store lithium-ion batteries in a cool, dry place, far from direct sunlight and heat sources. High temperatures can compromise battery performance and raise the possibility of malfunctions. Also, do not store lithium batteries together, and maintain a safe distance of roughly 2 feet between them.
  • Use the appropriate charger: Use chargers that come with your device. Don’t use power strips, extension cords, or substandard chargers, as they may lack proper voltage regulation, causing overcharging and other issues.

Equally important is to charge lithium-ion batteries in a safe area. Set charging stations on a firm, non-flammable surface. 

  • Cover battery terminals before disposing of batteries: It’s best to cover them with insulating material before discarding damaged lithium-ion batteries. Doing so keeps the terminals from contacting metal or other battery contacts that can close the battery circuit and lead to unanticipated energy discharge.
  • Don’t overcharge: Do not leave Lithium batteries plugged in for long. Use chargers outfitted with overcharge protection to avoid overcharging, which can produce heat and increase the likelihood of fire.
  • Regular inspections: Always check your lithium batteries for signs of leaks, wear, or unusual heat during use. Replace deteriorating batteries immediately to avoid safety hazards.

How to Dispose of Lithium Batteries 

Lithium-ion and lithium batteries are often used to power digital cameras, watches, laptops, and other electronics. Lithium-ion batteries are usually rechargeable, whereas regular lithium batteries are single-use. Unlike alkaline batteries, lithium ones are reactive and contain hazardous materials. For that reason, they should not be thrown in the trash. 

Discover how to dispose of lithium batteries below: 

Method 1: Finding a Recycling Center 


Keep batteries out of your regular recycling bin: Household batteries should be recycled separately. Mixing lithium batteries with other recyclables can cause a fire because the battery can spark whether it has lost its charge. If recycling a device with rechargeable batteries, such as a laptop, remove them first to recycle them separately. 

Look for stores that collect lithium batteries: Most chain and big box stores recycle different types of batteries on behalf of clients. Some stores collect batteries for free, while others charge a small fee. These services are intended to help with household waste, so the stores can restrict the number of batteries you can turn in at a time. 

Take the batteries to a household hazardous waste center: In some jurisdictions, local governments collect hazardous wastes from citizens, including lithium batteries. Sometimes, they may have a household hazardous waste center that collects the items year-round. You can identify your local center by sifting through your government’s website. 

Method 2: Turning In Your Batteries 

Call to see whether lithium batteries are accepted: You do this because some collection sites only pick some types of batteries. Check to confirm if the site accepts lithium batteries. While some centers will take your batteries for free, lithium batteries sometimes need a small fee. 

Use electrical tape to tape over the ends of your lithium battery: Dead batteries can still spark, making the ends hazardous. The electrical or clear tape helps deter sparking or energy discharge. Immediately after removing the battery from your electronic device, tape over the ends. 

Store your batteries separately: Storing lithium batteries together can cause a spark, leading to a fire, even if the charge is nearly depleted. For safety purposes, bag your batteries separately. 

Store the batteries in a cool, dry place: It would help to avoid high temperatures because batteries are reactive. Similarly, it pays to keep the batteries dry. Put your used lithium batteries in a closet or cabinet until disposal. 

Mail in your battery: Comply with the packaging guidelines from the manufacturer or collection center collecting the batteries. It entails taping the ends of the battery and sealing them in a plastic bag. You’ll also want to label the package as containing batteries. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q1. Can a fire blanket put out a lithium battery fire? 

Yes, a fire blanket is best for extinguishing a lithium battery fire. A lithium fire blanket immediately isolates toxic gases and smoke while protecting people from carcinogen exposure. A lithium fire blanket is the easiest and safest way to put out lithium battery fires, like in e-scooters, e-bikes, and open battery fires. 

Lithium battery fires don’t respond to other classes of fire extinguishers apart from class K and D, making even small lithium battery fires very dangerous. To use a fire blanket, place it over the burning battery to extinguish the flames. Ensure the blanket is tight around the burning object and let it sit until the fire is completely extinguished. 

Q2. Can you put out a lithium battery fire with sand? 

Sand is a viable option for extinguishing a lithium battery fire. It acts as a smothering agent, cutting off the oxygen supply to the fire and cooling the batteries. Without a specialized lithium-ion fire extinguisher, covering the fire with a generous amount of sand will contain the fire. Remember, safety comes first, so if the fire is unmanageable, evacuate to a safer area and seek professional help. 

Q3. Can you use baking soda to put out a battery fire? 

You can use baking soda to smother a battery fire as it releases carbon dioxide when heated, which helps extinguish the fire by displacing oxygen. Although it’s a viable option, it might not be as effective as specialized extinguishers for lithium battery fires. If a Class D fire extinguisher or a lithium-ion battery fire extinguisher is at your disposal, those would be more suitable for smothering a battery fire. If using baking soda, apply a reasonable amount and evacuate immediately. 

Q4. Can a regular fire extinguisher smother a lithium-ion battery fire?

A standard extinguisher might not address the specific challenges of lithium-ion battery fires and could worsen the situation. 


Lithium-ion batteries are an essential part of today’s society, with the batteries forming the backbone of most advanced technologies requiring battery support, like most household electronics and large-scale energy storage systems. With their growth in popularity, lithium-ion batteries also present a fire safety risk that should be considered. 

It must be noted that the frequency of fire caused by lithium-ion batteries is relatively low, but the implications can be significant. So…

Can You Extinguish a Lithium Ion Battery Fire? 

It’s possible to put out a lithium-ion battery fire, though it demands careful consideration. Don’t just use any extinguisher, as it can worsen the situation. Use a specialized lithium-ion fire extinguisher or Class D extinguishers rated for metal fires. You can also use sand and baking soda to attain the same objective, though these aren’t as effective as fire extinguishers. 

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