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IISER scientist devises kitchen hack for firefighting using vinegar, baking soda

Samrat Ghosh, a scientist at Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Mohali, has demonstrated how fire response time can be almost immediate and some measures to bring it under control can be initiated before firefighters arrive

Written by Anjali Marar | Pune |
Updated: June 9, 2021 1:03:44 pm
cleaning, home cleaning, cleaning hacks, simple hacks, simple ways to clean the house, indian express, indian express news(Source: Getty/Thinkstock)

Every household uses vinegar and baking soda, but not many are aware that, when appropriately diluted in water, these can be effective in dousing a fire early on.

Samrat Ghosh, a scientist at the chemical sciences division of Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Mohali, has demonstrated how fire response time can be almost immediate and some measures to bring flames under control can be initiated before firefighters arrive.

Fire safety equipment is provided at offices, residential apartments and public places, but lack of knowledge and expertise in handling them during fire mishaps often lead to severe damage to property and, sometimes, even loss of lives.

“Not everybody is trained to use a fire extinguisher. On some occasions, these cans are not in an operable condition as desired pressure for spraying is unavailable, rendering it useless. The response to a fire in the initial minutes is crucial, as that is when the fire has maximum chance of spreading and causing damage,” said Ghosh, who developed this easy home-made hack at his Delhi residence.

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Early school lessons in science involves an experiment, where a lit candle gets extinguished as soon as it is placed under a glass beaker, owing to lack of oxygen.

Based on the same principle, Ghosh said the solution of vinegar (or citric acid) and water, when sprayed onto flames, can cut off oxygen supply at the spot, eventually dousing them. Likewise, the solution of baking soda and distilled water chemically reacts to form carbonic acid, which in turn, produces carbon dioxide around the fire area disallowing it to rage on.

“Anybody can prepare these solutions, which can easily be prepared and stored in bottles. Before use, one has to shake the solution well and pump the piston several times to create the necessary pressure for the effervescence to form and be sprayed onto the flames,” Ghosh said, adding that this method was cost effective and could be assembled at home in less than Rs 500.

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Asked if the solution would remain effective for a longer duration when not in use, he said, “Normally, the solution will work even if left unused for many days. But one has to always check for effervescence and prepare fresh solutions.”

Fire safety drills are also an important part of training people, especially those living in high-rise buildings and those living alone. Often, sprinkling water or sand can only bring a cooling effect around the area of fire and not douse the flames. The scientist suggested some handy tips to be practised in case of a fire: call for immediate help; lie down or lie low to be able to breathe normally, as fire often spreads vertically upwards consuming oxygen faster at higher levels; cover mouth and nose using a damp cloth; in case fire engulfs a person, wrap the body using a blanket to cut the oxygen supply.

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