Dos and Don’ts for Fire and Smoke Damage January 30, 2017 – Posted in: Blog – Tags:

While fire damage restoration is better left in the hands of professionals, there are some things you can do on your own. Take note, however, that DIY fire restoration is something you want to do only when the severity of the fire and smoke damage is small.

Fire damage can be a devastating experience both for home and business owners. Fire damage is difficult to overcome and repair, but there are simple things you can do to motivate the process. When you’re wondering what to do after a fire, here’s a look at things to do (and things not to do) during the fire restoration process.

How to Clean Smoke off Walls and Ceiling

If you’re looking for ways on how to remove black smoke from walls, read on.

In the aftermath of a house fire, you might be tempted to start cleaning your home right away. However, take note that cleaning smoke damage, as well as fire damage, involves some health and safety precautions. Before getting started, call a fire marshal to know whether it is safe to enter your home.

Be sure to open doors and windows whenever possible to allow air to circulate when performing a fire and smoke cleaning project. Toxic fumes and chemical compounds from burnt objects can harm your health. Wear proper gear and clothing, including gloves and mask. Additionally, place a drop cloth, plastic sheet or tarp on the floor to prevent the soot stains from the ceilings.

The first step on smoke damage repair is to clean loose soot on the surface of the walls using a vacuum cleaner. Aside from using a vacuum, effective soot and smoke cleaner is a dry chemical sponge. Wipe the soot off the walls and ceilings. Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) is another effective cleaning solution. Add a tablespoon of TSP in gallon warm water. Using a sponge, wipe off the soot vigorously from your walls and ceilings. Alternately, you can mix a solution of white vinegar and warm water to clean soot.

Cleaning Smoke Damage from Household Textiles and Clothing

Many people struggle with how to get smoke damage out of clothes.

  1. The first step to cleaning smoke damaged clothes is to remove those that are beyond repair. Next, sort the smoke damage clothes according to their fabric type and washing instruction.
  2. Remove as much soot as you can before washing the clothes with water. This can be done by giving each clothing item a gentle shake or using a vacuum cleaner.
  3. Different types of fabric require different methods of removing soot and smoke damage. For example, 50/50 polyester-cotton blend is best cleaned using a liquid detergent while 65/35 polyester-cotton blend may require powder detergent and bleach.
  4. Lastly, deodorize your clothes. Even after washing and drying clothes and household textiles, they may still have a residual smoke smell. Usually, it will take up to five launderings before the smoke odor is fully removed.

Removing Smoke Odor from Your Home

Even after a fire cleanup, the smoke odor can linger for long if not addressed properly. In fact, odor removal is the most exhaustive part of fire damage cleaning.

The best way to clean smoke damage is to remove soot and charring. Of course, you first want to asses the extent of the damage and whether it is more practical or reasonable to hire a professional or do it on your own.

It is critical to remove the source of the odor. Items that can no longer be salvaged should be discarded immediately while those that can still be rescued should be cleaned as soon as possible. To clean them, you will need a wet sponge for hard, porous surfaces and a dry sponge for hard, less porous surfaces. Use air movers to improve ventilation.

Thoroughly clean all furniture and other items in your home to get rid of the smoke odor. Mix a solution of water, some baking soda, vinegar, and detergent to clean various surfaces. You can also place odor absorbers such as charcoal, baking soda, odor-neutralizing gel beads, and an air purifier. You can use air freshener or scented air filter as well.

Dos for Fire Damage Restoration

Your checklist for after a fire should contain certain non-negotiable tasks, including:

  • DO contact a certified restoration specialist: Make sure you immediately contact a certified fire and smoke restoration professional for remediation services
  • DO turn off utilities: Turn of water, electricity, gas, and any other utilities until a professional can evaluate if any of these systems were damaged during the fire.
  • DO break out the vacuum: A professional should provide service, but you can enhance the professional’s chances of success by doing the first pass on your own. Use a vacuum with a brush attachment and go over your upholstered furniture. Your furniture will look better as soon as the soot is removed. Also, cover your furniture with a sheet if you need to sit on it while waiting for professional help. This will prevent the soot and ash from grinding into your upholstery.
  • DO address your carpets, floors, and countertops: Give similar treatment to your carpets. Vacuum them for an immediate and superficial improvement over the damaged state. It will help prevent soot from grinding deeper into the carpet’s roots. Countertops and hardwood floors should be wiped clean to prevent the soot from deeply staining and clinging to the surfaces.
  • DO check your appliances: Your utilities should be off. Make sure empty your freezer and refrigerator, and leave the doors open to prevent mold and mildew. Likewise, winterize your plumbing and drain your hot water heater and boiler. In the absence of heat during the fire damage restoration process, fluids can freeze and cause burst pipes and other damage.
  • DO take care of pets: Remove pets from your fire-damaged home. Lingering soot and smoke can be harmful to them.

Don’ts for Fire Damage Restoration

Your checklist should also include several things to avoid at all times, including:

  • DON’T use your AC, heater or electronics: Wait until a professional arrives on the scene — same with electronics like the television, computers and DVD players. Turning on electronics can create greater damage.
  • DON’T clean walls or clothing: Also, do not clean walls, ceilings and other similar surfaces, and wait to clean your clothing and similar garments. A professional should examine them first and provide advice.
  • DON’T eat leftover food: Never eat anything that was in the home during the fire. It is most likely not safe to consume due to contamination from smoke, soot, or contaminants introduced to the environment when the fire was being extinguished.
  • DON’T wipe away powder from extinguishers: Forgo trying to clean up any staining from the powder discharged by a fire extinguisher. It is best to let professionals guide the clean up of these areas.

These are some basic guidelines for preventing further damage and get a head start on cleanup, but they are not a substitute for professional restoration services. When in doubt, wait for the professionals. Upholstery, carpets and counters are fine to begin cleaning, but the rest is best left to the pros. And remember, never reenter a home until it has been cleared by the fire department or other local officials.

Learning how to fix smoke damage (smoke damaged electronics)is not easy but with the right knowledge and tools, you can do it. The sooner you start the smoke remediation process, the better. Fire and smoke are very damaging to one’s property. Within minutes, soot can cause discoloration on plastic and appliance surfaces and within a few hours, it can stain grout in the bathroom, countertops, furniture, and more. Within days, acid residues can cause walls to yellow permanently.

Only when you have been given a “go” signal by a fire marshal should you consider to start the clean up after fire damage. Always practice proper caution when handling fire restoration work. Wear proper clothing, gloves, and mask. The walls and ceilings are the surfaces that are most commonly damaged by fire and smoke. Insulation should be removed and replaced at any instance of a house fire.

Seeking professional fire restoration services is highly recommended if the extent of the damage is serious enough to address on your own.

Always Call an Expert

If you’re wondering what to do after a fire, it’s always tempting to start the cleanup process immediately, and do as much as possible. The best course of action is to hire a certified professional to provide expert knowledge and service. The situation requires specialized tools and knowledge that only a professional can provide. A trusted professional will offer an after-fire checklist that will help speed along the fire and smoke damage cleanup process. Consulting a professional will help you restore your property back to like-new condition as quickly as possible.

At Aer Industries, we provide fire damage restoration equipment that the pros trust. If you’re a restoration professional in need of dependable equipment, browse through our large selection.

Related Resources:

How to Remove Smoke Odor