How to Clean Smoke Damage After a Fire
The worst part of most house fires isn’t necessarily the damage from the actual fire but the damage caused by the smoke and soot of the fire. Most house fires that are contained and put out quickly leave little to no damage. If the fire is in the oven or on the cooktop, the flames may cause damage to the oven, hood, and back wall. If replacing the oven or cleaning up the oven was the only thing needed, that wouldn’t be so bad. Unfortunately, it’s the smoke from the fire that can quickly spread that can leave lasting damage if not cleaned up properly.
In this blog, we will go over some tips to clean up “minor” smoke damage after a fire. We use the word “minor” because smoke damage can quickly turn into a much bigger problem as it spreads quickly. The other problem is that the homeowner may exacerbate the smoke damage by using the wrong cleaning supplies and chemicals. This leads us to the first tip.
Assess the Smoke Damage Before Cleaning
Once the fire has been safely put out, check the area for smoke damage. If you see that the smoke has gone up the walls and to the ceiling, it is usually best to call a professional to clean up. The reason is that it can be difficult to remove smoke from porous ceilings and walls. Also, if the smoke is visible on the ceiling and walls, there’s a good chance that it has been carried elsewhere. Fire damage restoration professionals will know where to look and how to clean the smoke damage. Also, smoke can easily slip behind appliances, through cracks, and other hard to reach areas which if not cleaned could leave that the smell of smoke lingering behind.
Air Out the Room
If you experienced a small kitchen fire, open the nearest window and/or door to let fresh air in. This will allow any airborne soot or smoke to hopefully blow out of the house. It’s also a good idea to turn off your central air or heat so the smoke isn’t sucked up into your air ducts. Once the smoke has dissipated and you’ve gotten plenty of fresh air circulating through the area, you can turn back on your central air or heat. It is, however, a good idea to check your air filter on your furnace and change it out if you smell any smoke from it. Another good idea is to use box fans to push the air out through your open windows and/or doors.
Clean Up the Fire Extinguisher Residue
If you use a fire extinguisher to put out the fire, you most likely used the common ABC dry powder fire extinguisher. It’s important to clean up the dry powder from any appliances or metals as the powder can be corrosive over time. A simple wet rag can remove the powder from any surfaces like an oven, sink, or refrigerator. Also with small kitchen fires, the powder probably spread further than the actual smoke damage, so you want to be thorough in examining all of the surfaces and areas around where the fire occurred.
Vacuum Up Any Fire and Soot Debris First
Before using towels and cleansers to wipe the surfaces, you will want to use a vacuum to remove any loose debris or soot from the damaged area. The debris could scratch surfaces like cooktops if using a towel to wipe the surface. Use the brush attachment of your vacuum to lightly dislodge any debris so the vacuum can suck it up. You make also want to use a broom to sweep up any debris but be careful not to use too much force as you could scratch the surfaces or make the stains worse.
Don’t Use Liquid Cleaners Just Yet
This is where most people would tend to grab a towel and a liquid cleaner to remove the smoke from the walls, ceiling, and other surfaces. Doing this usually makes the damage worse and harder to clean up. Using liquid cleaners and a towel at this stage can sometimes smear the smoke stains or push them deeper into the surfaces especially walls and ceilings. To get most of the soot and smoke off of surfaces, you need to use a dry chemical sponge. This is a special type of sponge that is impregnated with chemicals that are designed to remove soot and smoke. By gentling wiping the surface, the sponge absorbs and/or picks up the soot and smoke from the surface. If the smoke damage is minimal, this can be an easy task but if there is extensive smoke damage, this can be an enormous project that is usually best left to the professionals.
Next, Wash the Surfaces with Professional Cleansers
Once you’ve removed most of the smoke and soot from the surfaces with the dry chemical sponge, you’ll then want to use professional cleansers and a towel to wipe down the surfaces. Some of the different cleaners that people use are commercial soot/smoke cleaner, white vinegar, dish soap, and trisodium phosphate (TSP). A professional smoke damage restoration company will know better what cleaners to use and when. Some cleaners may remove the smoke and soot stains but leave the smell behind. Some may kill the smell with natural, biologically-activated enzymes but not remove the stains.
The Best Step to Take is Call the Professionals
Removing the stains and smells from smoke and soot is not a simple and easy process. We just went over some steps that may work for smooth surfaces but what if the smoke gets into fabrics or furniture? That is why it is usually best to call the professionals to handle the cleanup and restoration of fire and smoke damage. Fire damage restoration experts, like us at SERVPRO of Fairfield County, have the knowledge, expertise, tools, cleaning agents, and equipment to effectively remove all the stains and odors and damage from a home fire. Contact us 24/7 when the next time disaster strikes at your home or business.