Cleaning up your Home after Smoke Damage
After a fire, you will have many different types of smoke damage, and it can be an overwhelming dilemma to clean up. There are some best of practices for cleaning up all types of smoke damage, and we wanted to list them here for you.
Indoor Air Pollution
One area where a lot of people fail to recognize as “smoke damaged” is the actual air in the house. After a fire, you have a natural inclination to open the windows and “air it out” but you should really do everything you can to properly ventilate the house, and get all that sooty, smoky, rank air out of your house.
Run fans directing the air out windows, positioning them in a way that will make a steady current for air flow (like a wind tunnel). If there are rooms that do not have smoke damage (or have less smoke damage) shut these doors so that you aren’t spreading soot into these rooms when the wind starts moving it around. Go through your house room by room and set up the best ventilation you can for each by arranging fans in different ways.
You will also need to make the rounds and change out any air filters on your furnace, air conditioner and bathroom/kitchen vents/fans.
Smoke Damage and Soot on Surfaces
A major part of cleaning up smoke damage is actually removing soot from all the surfaces and from within all the nooks and crannies of your living area. We covered this in detail in the “After a Fire: Cleaning Instructions and Checklist” article we wrote, so you can check that out for specifics.
Things you should be sure to note though – soot appears dusty, but it’s actually oily, so you don’t want to be smearing it around. The best of practices for removing soot usually involves a high power vacuum, and NOT touching the surface with it, or any attachments (which will grind the oily soot into the surface, causing staining).
As with any fire, it’s always a good idea to contact professionals who have expertise in dealing with smoke damage and soot removal.
In the Kitchen
Many fires start in the kitchen, which is unfortunate, because this is wear all of your food-related items are stored. Not just food, but the cooking equipment and dishes you eat off from are all here too. Some of these can be cleaned adequately of smoke damage (again, we give some tips on cleaning dishes after a fire in the list we mentioned) but our best advice is to throw out anything that is questionable. Soot from smoke damage is dirty stuff and can cause serious health problems if ingested. Don’t risk your health or that of your family and get rid of anything that you can’t disinfect 100%.
In general, you can wash most kitchen surfaces with dish detergent (which cuts the grease in soot) and rinse twice, once with bleach (where bleach is safe) and once with clean water. You can also use a high powered vacuum for the first run through, and see how much soot you can lift from the walls, ceiling and counters.
Clothing is one of the hardest things to deal with, and we’ve devoted an entire article to methods of washing clothes that have smoke damage (hint: dry cleaning!). Make sure you read that article, it’s really much more complicated than throwing a bunch of smoky smelling clothes in the wash. You can also hire fire restoration professionals and dry cleaning specialists to help you with this.