Cleaning Smoke Damage: 7 Steps to Cleaning Up Smoke and Soot Damage After A Fire
Whether it’s a kitchen grease fire, an out of control candle, or a chimney fire, a fire can be an extremely overwhelming and stressful experience. In addition to the trauma of the fire itself, flames, smoke, and soot can cause significant damage throughout your home. Before cleaning smoke damage, we recommend that take a moment to compose yourself and come up with a plan to prevent further damage and limit the spread of smoke and soot throughout your property.
Things to Consider Before Cleaning Smoke Damage After a Fire
Every fire is different. Some fires produce a significant amount of smoke, while others have intense heat and flames. For extremely severe fires, you may need to wait for the fire department to release the scene as well.
Make sure you comply with all officials, as fires can be dangerous even after the flames are extinguished. Soot and ashes can be carcinogenic, posing a health risk. Flames can cause significant structural damage, weakening flooring and walls.
Once you are allowed to access your property, start by assessing the damage and evaluating your options. Identify areas that need to be cleaned, making note of items that need to be refinished or replaced.
Depending on the severity of the damage, you also may need to find temporary housing during restoration. If you are able to stay in your home while cleaning smoke damage, consider tarping rooms to limit the spread of soot and dust.
Steps to Cleaning Smoke Damage
Beginning clean up quickly after a fire is critical to limiting the damage after a fire. Smoke and soot are highly acidic and can begin to permanently stain pour materials like wood, paint, fabric, and furniture within hours. The sooner you can begin cleaning smoke damage, the greater the chances of preventing permanent damage.
1. Dry Out Wet Areas from Firefighting Efforts
If water or chemical fire extinguishers were used to put out the fire, you need to extract standing water and dry out the area quickly to prevent mold and bacteria from growing. Water can also cause significant damage to flooring, walls, and ceilings.
Use a pump or a shop vac to remove standing water and rent high-efficiency air movers to quickly dry the area to prevent structural damage. Mold is also likely to grow if materials remain wet for too long.
2. Vacuum Soot and Ash
Once the area first step is to vacuum as much loose soot and ash as you can. Using a shop vac, vacuum every surface to collect as much debris as possible. Remember that smoke can travel much further than flame, so vacuum rooms nearby the source of the fire. Depending on the extent of the fire and the amount of smoke, you may also need to have your vents cleaned to prevent your HVAC system from blowing smoke and soot throughout your home.
3. Ventilate the Area to Reduce Smokey Smells
Once the loose soot is cleaned up, you can ventilate the area. Ventilating before removing the soot will only help to spread it further throughout your property. Open windows to promote air flow. While fans can be effective, they can also spread soot so use them carefully to prevent further fire damage. You also may want to consider covering HVAC vents with damp cheesecloth or vent filters to prevent the spread of soot and ash.
4. Clean Surfaces With A Vinegar and Water Solution
Smoke and soot usually settle on surfaces as a fine, oily powder. A vinegar and water solution is usually effective at cleaning smoke damage and soot, plus it helps break down some of the baked on tar-like resins from extremely intense fires.
Mix up small batches of vinegar and water and systematically clean small portions of the room. Mix up new batches as necessary to effectively clean the entire area. In addition to cleaning walls, ceilings, flooring, cabinets, and countertops, clean furniture and personal items as well.
5. Cleaning Fabric, Carpeting, and Upholstery
Drapes, carpets, and upholstery are especially difficult to clean properly. Most draperies and window hangings are dry clean only, so take them to a professional dry cleaner specializing in smoke damage.
For carpeting, your regular vacuum is unlikely to completely remove heavy smoke and soot. Either rent professional carpet cleaning equipment or hire a professional carpet cleaner to remove soot and odors. In some cases, carpet cleaners or carpet cleaning equipment may be able to clean upholstery as well. Refer to the care guide for your furniture to properly clean and prevent further damage.
6. Deodorizing to Eliminate Smokey Odors
Once the smoke and soot are cleaned up, it may be necessary to deodorize the entire area. While professionals use counteractants or ozone scrubbers to eliminate smoke smells, they are dangerous to use at home.
If you choose to use these items, thoroughly read their usage guides and take all necessary safety precautions. While there are a number of commercially available deodorizing sprays available, they usually only remove odors temporarily and will likely need to be used regularly to limit smoke smells.
7. Restoring Your Property
Once the smoke and soot have been completely cleaned, you can finally begin restoring your property. Even after a thorough cleaning, it is still likely that walls will need to be painted. In some cases, drywall will need to be removed and replaced. Wood flooring and cabinets that were damaged in the fire will need to be sanded and refinished or completely replaced.
While Some Items Can Be Clean, Others Will Need to be Discarded
Although many items can be cleaned or refinished, there will be items that are unsalvageable and need to be thrown away. This includes porous items like towels and clothing, open food packages, exposed edibles, and paper goods.
If water was used during firefighting efforts, you may also need to dispose of items that were saturated or damaged. If the power was turned off for an extended period, you will need to clean out your refrigerator and freezer and dispose of all food inside.
Professional Cleanup for Smoke and Soot Damage
Depending on the severity of the smoke and fire damage and your stress levels after a fire, a professional smoke and soot damage restoration company may be a better option. The soot and smoke cleanup technicians in the Restoration Local network have the experience and professional grade equipment necessary to clean smoke and soot, repair smoke damage, and eliminate smoke odors.
Smoke and fire damage restoration begins with an initial assessment. Windows and doors are boarded-up and roofs are tarped to secure your property and prevent further damage. If necessary, they will extract water and dry out areas damaged by firefighting efforts. Then they deodorize and restore your home or business to its original condition.
Let us give you peace of mind in an emergency. Restoration Local is the largest network of restoration contractors, including major franchises like BELFOR Restoration, DKI Restoration, and PuroClean. Find a local fire damage restoration contractor now or call 1-888-443-3110 now to talk with our on-call fire cleanup company in your neighborhood. The compassionate and dependable fire damage and smoke cleanup specialists in our network will clean up your property after a fire.