Fires in the home can be traumatic and devastating, destroying or damaging possessions that are valuable and meaningful to you. If there is significant soot/smoke damage on any of your personal possessions, it is critical to act quickly and thoroughly. The sooner you can clean smoke damage and leftover soot, the less risk you have of facing health complications. In addition, there is a higher chance of restoring items if you start the cleaning process early on. Once the structure of your home has been inspected, and it is safe to reenter, be sure to inspect and prioritize items that have been affected. Signs of smoke damage include black dust and discolored paint. Check all blackened or soot-streaked areas. Discard anything that is no longer of use or significantly damaged and/or broken beyond repair. Keep inventory of these items as this will be required once you’ve started an insurance claim.
Gather the Necessary Tools
To clean smoke damage from the salvageable items, you should first gather the tools to help you stay safe and get the job done.
- Rubber gloves
- Goggles/mask to protect eyes and lungs
- Dry chemical sponge
- Two buckets and hot water
- Specialized smoke damage cleaners: vinegar, rubbing alcohol, bleach
- Liquid soap or a degreaser such as trisodium phosphate (or TSP) – TSP is effective for sooty, greasy, or dirty areas around the house; use a gallon of warm water for every tablespoon of TSP.
- Smoke vacuum
Cleaning Smoke Damaged Clothing or Blankets
To clean smoke-damaged clothing or blankets, first, use a high-powered vacuum to pull any soot that has attached itself to the fabric. Be careful not to touch the fabric with the vacuum – hold the vacuum as close as possible without touching it. Making contact may result in permanent staining. Next, consider taking the clothing items to the dry cleaner if the smoke damage odor is strong. Dry cleaners use oxidizers and ozone treatments to break down and remove smoke odor molecules. Avoid drying the affected clothing items in a dryer – the heat will set any odors into the fabric. Consider hanging the clothes to dry.
Clean Smoke Damage from Furniture
If your furniture has been damaged from smoke, clean all removable covers according to the previous suggestions for cleaning clothing and blankets. If your furniture is covered with upholstery, sprinkle it with baking soda, let sit for 24 hours, vacuum, and repeat. When you vacuum, hold the vacuum attachment as close to but not directly touching the fabric to avoid grinding any remaining soot into the fibers. Repeat as often as necessary. For your wood furniture, vacuum the surfaces to remove loose soot from the wood, use a dry chemical sponge to remove soot that remains on the surface, wipe the wood in the direction of the grain with a slightly damp rag, and then let it dry completely. Finally, use a wood polish or conditioner to restore the finish. If the odor remains, ask your fire damage restoration specialist about ozone vaults or generators.
To clean smoke damage and odor from books, use a HEPA vacuum to remove the bulk of dirt and soot and wipe all surfaces of the book with a dry chemical sponge. To remove lingering odors, start ventilating them immediately – open the book on its tail edge and spread the pages to allow airflow. Alternatively, try this technique:
- Fill a bowl or plate with one of the following odor absorbers:
- Baking soda
- Fresh coffee grounds
- Activated charcoal
- White vinegar
- Place the odor absorber in a box along with the books. Be careful not to spill the vinegar!
- Put the lid on the box and let it sit for several hours or overnight.
- Remove the odor absorber and, if the smoke odor remains, move the books around and repeat this process using a new supply of odor absorber.
- Repeat as many times as needed.
Remove Smoke Damage from Your Home with ProKleen
The team of professionals at ProKleen will address any smoke damage present in your home after a fire and will go to great lengths to ensure your home is a safe, healthy environment again. They will work tirelessly to remove any toxic elements that may have been left behind. They have expertise with a variety of fabrics and materials and know the proper combination of procedures and chemicals to use for each. Call ProKleen if you experience a house fire so they can start the cleanup process as soon as possible.