THE NATURE OF FIRE SMOKE DAMAGE
Getting rid of fire smoke damage can be very challenging because of the very nature of smoke.
When fire smoke permeates a house, very small smoke particles stick to every surface and become absorbed into all the porous materials of the home.
HOW MUCH DAMAGE DOES FIRE SMOKE CAUSE?
The amount of damage that fire smoke causes are dependent on the total amount of smoke particles that need to be cleaned and removed.
Ultimately, the number of smoke particles in a home will determine whether you can effectively expect to clean up the smoke damage enough to create safe living conditions.
The size of the fire
Obviously, larger fires produce more smoke, so the size of your fire will make a difference in the intensity and extent of the smoke damage.
The length of exposure to smoke damage
The longer the property or area has been exposed to smoke, the greater the absorption of the smoke and chemical particles in the building materials and furnishings. If the house is boarded up after a fire, this can intensify and lengthen the exposure time to the smoke as well. in the intensity and extent of the smoke damage.
The kind of materials that are consumed by the fire
When different materials undergo combustion, they all produce different chemicals and different odors. Some of these are easier to remove than others and some are extremely caustic or even toxic. For example, the smell that results from synthetic or plastic materials is much more difficult than the burning of organic matter.
There are many experts that can help you determine whether effective cleanup from smoke damage is possible, including your insurance adjuster and your restoration contractor.
Before you begin any smoke damage cleanup, make sure you have the all-clear from the fire department to reenter the property and seek the advice of these other professionals to determine the best plan of action regarding cleanup.
HOW TO CLEAN AND REMOVE FIRE SMOKE DAMAGE
If the fire smoke damage is from a small fire and the home did not suffer a long exposure to the smoke, you may be able to do the cleanup yourself.
The following steps will help you to get rid of smoke damage in these cases.
Be sure to have permission from the fire department to reenter the property. Never assume that it is safe to enter a fire damaged structure just because it “looks okay.”
There are many hazards that you may be unaware of after a fire, and the property needs to be inspected by fire professionals before you go back in.
Be sure to wear proper protective clothing and masks. Whatever you are wearing when you enter the property will also be damaged by the smoke and chemicals lingering, sometimes unseen, in the air. Everything you wear will smell like smoke. The chemical hazards that exist from smoke damage, exist in the air you breathe while you clean up. These chemicals cause adverse health effects. Make sure that you have proper protection with gloves, masks, and air filters.
If any of your house’s surfaces or any of your household items are covered in soot, which is a fine carbon dust, you should never attempt to clean them yourself. Soot contains many toxic chemicals that are dangerous to handle. Soot will need to be cleaned and removed by a professional in order to prevent additional damage.
The next step you need to take is to air out the house and allow ventilation to move some of the remaining smoke to leave the premises.
Open all the windows and doors and remove any boards that were put up after the fire. Remove the screens as well to improve the airflow.
You should place fans in the rooms and hallways to help push the smoke-laden air out of the windows.
If the smell is very oppressive, you might need to blow out the home using positive pressure. To do this you need to open the door to the property and set up a large fan outside the door, facing inside the home. Then, with the fan on high speed, close all the other doors and windows except one window.
This will create positive pressure and force the smoke out of the exhaust window. After you blow one area for 15-20 minutes, close the window and door to that room and open another. Move room by room until you have blown out the air in every room in your home or apartment.
Keep in mind that while removing the smoky air and replacing it with fresh air will help to reduce the smell of smoke in your home, the only way to remove the smoke that has infiltrated the porous materials of your property is to completely clean every surface and household item that has been exposed to the smoke.
Anything that is not part of the structure of the house itself needs to be removed from the home to be cleaned.
This includes area rugs, cushions, curtains, blankets and sheets, and other fabric or household items, including clothes and towels. They all need to be washed or dry cleaned outside the home so they don’t soak up the smoke odor again.
You may not be able to properly clean mattresses and they may need to be replaced depending on their exposure to the smoke.
Wash the glass in the windows to restore their shine and transparency. You will need to thoroughly inspect and clean the window frames, the sills, and window screens. Clean the blinds and remove all the smoke residue from every side.
You can use a solution of hot water and white vinegar to clean plastic blinds, but you will need to choose a wood-friendly product to clean wooden blinds.
To scrub the window screens, you can put them in a tub and use dish soap to clean the mesh. Rinse and let dry in fresh air away from the property. If your house has an exhaust fan, you can wash the filter in the same way as the window screens.
This can seem overwhelming, but you will need to clean every solid surface in your home.
Think about ceilings, doors, baseboards, door frames and walls, floors, all the cabinets inside and out, all the solid furniture pieces, and light fixtures.
As you work, consider that smoke particles have settled on every surface in your home, even if you can’t see them and they all need to be properly cleaned and sanitized. If not, the smoke odor will linger and the corrosive effects of the smoke will continue to damage the materials in your home.
Use a solution of dish soap, white vinegar, and warm water to clean all of these surfaces. You can use the same solution on the non-carpeted floors as well. As you mop the floors, be sure to rinse the mop under running water after each use. If you don’t, the smoke particles will just float in the water in the mop bucket and end up back on your floor with every rinse.
Certain pieces of furniture, including wood pieces, will need specialized cleaning products to get the smoke smell out without damaging the furniture further. Purchase the right cleaners and follow the directions. Where possible you should take the furniture outside of the fire damaged property to dry. The fresh air will help eliminate the smell as well.
Carpet and upholstery fabric is obviously porous and will be permeated by the smoke odor and the smoke will embed itself deep into all of the carpet and fabric fibers.
This can make the smoke challenging to remove.
Baking soda can help absorb smoke odors. Sprinkle baking soda on the upholstery and carpet and let it sit for several hours or even all day. Once the soda has had a chance to absorb the smoke smell, you can vacuum up the baking powder. It is very important to use a vacuum cleaner that has a working HEPA filter to prevent smoke particles from blowing back into the room as you work.
It can sometimes be more effective to have all the carpets and upholstery steam cleaned by professional cleaners. They will have more expertise and experience when it comes to removing the pervasive odor of the smoke.
One area that is often forgotten about in the home is the HVAC system.
During a house fire, smoke will permeate all the vents and ductwork, settling inside and lingering inside the ventilation system. Imagine cleaning your entire home and then turning on the air conditioner later, only to redistribute large amounts of smoke particles back into the air to cover all the surfaces again.
You need to change all the air conditioning filter and any other air filters or furnace filters inside your home.
Your HVAC system will need to be inspected by a professional to make sure it hasn’t been damaged in the fire and professional air duct cleaning might be required in order to make sure all the smoke particles have been removed from the system.
Whenever you attempt to clean your home or furnishings after a house fire, remember that your goal is to remove the smoke and the corrosive and toxic elements it carries, not just improve the smell.
Using scented candles or air fresheners only mask the smell and can’t remove the smoke particles that have accumulated.
The same applies to air purifiers, activated charcoal, bowls of vinegar or coffee grounds. None of these things removes the smoke from your home, which is the goal for health and safety reasons.
Paint is another porous material in your home that can absorb smoke odors and chemicals.
If the paint retains the smoke odor even after it has been leaned, you will need to repaint the house in order to remove the smoke odor from your home.
Before you repaint, clean the walls thoroughly with a product that contains ammonia or glycol. Rinse after washing and let the walls completely dry.
Then apply a primer that is specifically formulated to lock in odors.
Finally, repaint the walls with a latex paint.
If the smell of smoke persists after your extensive cleaning efforts, you may need to replace some of your household items that have absorbed too much of the smoke.
Carpet, blinds, and furniture may never have the smoke odor completely eliminated. In these cases, you will need to replace these overly damaged and unsalvageable items.
It is most likely, depending on the extent of the fire, that your appliances and electronics will need to be replaced.
Even if the flames did not touch them, the chemicals in the smoke cause irreparable damage to the electronic circuits.
Even after all your cleaning efforts, the smoke odor may remain.
There are so many places for smoke particles to settle and be absorbed that you may need to call in professionals to help you restore your home and property.
Experienced smoke removal professionals have the specialized equipment and expertise to identify and remove the cause of the smoke odor.
These professionals use air scrubbers, ozone generators, nano filters, hydroxyl technology and highly-targeted chemical cleaners, to properly clean and deodorize your property.
Smoke removal specialists are trained to know where and how to eliminate the smoke from every area of your property and minimize the corrosive and harmful effects of the smoke damage. After they finish, there will be no trace that there was ever a fire in your home.
If the fire damage is more extensive than a DIY project, restoration experts can be called in to demolish unsalvageable structures and rebuild and restore your property to the way it was before the fire. Never feel like you need to take on the overwhelming job of cleaning and removing smoke by yourself. There are experts who can help ease your burdens and make your property safe again.
FIRE AND SMOKE DAMAGE EXPERTS IN ARIZONA
In most cases, you will need the help of a fire damage restoration service provider to undo the damaging effects of even a small house fire.
In this way, you ensure that the smoke is completely eliminated.
Titan Restoration is an expert in fire damage and smoke and soot removal. We have a team of people who have years of experience and expertise using the most advanced equipment, who are ready to help you return your home to its safe and beautiful condition.
We know that a fire can be devastating and stressful. At Titan Restoration we walk you step-by-step through the process of smoke and fire damage restoration, no matter how big the fire or how pervasive the smoke damage. We are always here to help.
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