Cleaning Fabrics After Smoke and Fire Damage
Properly cleaning up after a fire is a twofold process that requires you to clean up the physical damage and take care of the linger odors and other effects that can be difficult to eradicate even after your entire property has been cleaned once. Flames can consume nearly everything they encounter and even if things are not totally destroyed, the smoke and soot from a fire can still affect everything from paint and carpet to fabrics, furniture, and other household belongings. If you have suffered a house fire, the cause might be a clean burning source like wood, which is easier to clean up. However, if the source was a synthetic material in the carpet, floors, toys, wiring, or other possible causes, the resulting fire and damage is much more difficult to properly clean up. Properly disinfecting and cleaning affected areas requires specialized cleaning solutions and techniques in order to avoid spreading the damage. Water, for example, will spread soot and smoke residues instead of diluting them – wiping a soot-covered wall with water will only make it dirtier. This is why fire damage and smoke clean up is a two-step process.
Where To Start
You must first clean up the physical damage from smoke and fire before addressing the stubborn odors that linger in the area. The following is a few tricks and tips for cleaning soft types of materials that may have been smoke damaged.
Softer items such as clothing, curtains, and bedding – fabrics – should be gathered together and vacuumed. Soot is essentially oil and anything that rubs it into the fabrics further, brushes, or beats it away, such as a standard upright vacuum, should never be used. This will only make your items harder to clean. Instead, use the vacuum nozzle to suck up the soot slightly above the materials without touching it – this will lift it off instead of rubbing it in. It is important to separate carpets and other items cleaned so that they do not accumulate additional soot or residues.
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It is often recommended that you hire a processional carpet cleaner after your initial clean up efforts – this is a highly effective method of cleaning soot and smoke damage out of the carpets, assuming they were not damaged by fire. If you use a “wet cleaner” or a scrubbing-type of carpet machine, you should make sure to use proper cleaning solutions to avoid spreading the soot. If you use a steam carpet cleaner (injection cleaning) instead, make sure the solution you use does not create too much foam, which can affect the suction power. It is often a great idea to clean the carpets twice, once in the initial phases of your cleaning process and once at the end of the process. This helps ensure that odors do not linger in the carpeting material.
For clothing, curtains, and other machine washable fabrics you may have to clean everything between one to five times or until you can no longer smell the odors. The problem is that smoke odors linger in clothing until they have been very thoroughly washed out. One trick that might help is soaking your fabrics overnight in cleaning solutions designed to remove smoke odors. After soaking, wash as normal. Clothing can also be taken to a professional dry cleaners or smoke cleaners, who will steam the fabrics to get the odors out.
Make sure to always check each article of clothing and all fabrics for fire damage before attempting to restore anything. Insurance appraisers can help you evaluate the value of everything damaged in a fire from flames or smoke and an expert fire restoration company is often the easiest solution for properly cleaning and restoring your home and belongings after fire damage.