There are few events more devastating than a house fire. Not only is it a terrifying experience emotionally, but it also can be truly disastrous, not only severely damaging your home, but destroying possessions and memories along with it.
Apart from the loss of furniture and personal items, you’ll likely have to make a bunch of other repairs such as patching holes and window replacements. You may even find yourself grappling with lingering smoke and water damage.
Once the initial shock of fire damage has subsided, it is time for the homeowner to begin recovery efforts. Possessions can be replaced, and a home can be rebuilt, and eventually the blaze will be simply a chapter from your past.
And the first step to moving onward towards your family’s future involves knowing how to clean smoke damage. The task might seem daunting at first, but with a little elbow grease, and the support of your community, you can hopefully restore your home back to its original beauty.
Before Cleaning Up Smoke Damage
Initial Fire Cleanup
It might be startling to see the immediate aftermath of a fire in your home. Apart from the soot and smoke damage, there’ll likely be damaged and destroyed furniture, books, articles of clothing, and other prized possessions.
Once you get over the initial shock, the first step of cleaning up is similar to decluttering your home— you’ll want to go through your belongings and keep the items that are salvageable, while throwing away those destroyed or damaged beyond repair.
This step will likely be the most emotional. It really does drive home how much damage the fire caused. Clear the space at your own pace, it does not need to be rushed.
Once you’ve cleared out your debris, you can start surveying the area to determine your next steps.
Look for Any Additional Smoke Damage in House
First, you need to go through every room in your house to figure out if any other rooms or areas were affected.
While it’s usually fairly easy to tell where you need to clean smoke damage in the room that the fire was contained to, smoke has a tendency to drift from room to room. It could cause damage in areas that were not even close to the fire.
Inspecting your ceilings is an important part of this task. When surveying smoke damage, it’s fairly common to focus on the walls, as their damage is the most noticeable. However, it’s important to check your ceilings, which often will have extensive damage and will require just as much attention as your walls.
Gather the Tools You’ll Need to Clean Smoke Damage
Now that you’ve determined where the damage is, it’s time to get started. Open up as many windows as you can throughout the house. Ventilation can help limit the damage and speed up the cleaning process, so turn on any fans, and get the air blowing.
It’s important to have all of the tools you need to clean up smoke damage, even the specialized ones. Make sure you have all of the below:
- Rubber gloves
- Goggles/Mask to Protect Eyes and Lungs
- Dry-Cleaning Sponge/Chemical Sponge
- 2 Buckets and Hot Water
- Various Smoke Damage Cleaners of Your Choice (Commercial Soot Remover/Vinegar/Paint
- Thinner/Rubbing Alcohol/Bleach)
- Liquid Soap or a Degreaser (like trisodium phosphate)
- Smoke Vacuum
Now, you may not have a smoke vacuum, or other tool used for smoke remediation, but that’s okay. A standard vacuum can work wonders in clearing up soot that gathered during the fire.
Cleaning Up Smoke Damage
Vacuum All Soot and Ash Off Ground
Now you should begin the first step in your smoke damage restoration, which involves removing any and all soot that is on the floor of the affected areas. Soot can be quite dangerous to your lungs, and affect breathing or even cause some types of cancer, so you’ll want to remove it as soon as possible, while taking precautions wherever possible.
While wearing gloves, a mask, and goggles, start off by vacuuming up the loose soot in or around the affected area. Ideally, you’ll have a smoke vacuum, or at least a powerful dry-vac for this task. However, a standard vacuum, with an upholstery attachment, can do the job as well.
Be gentle as you vacuum up the soot and debris, since just running a vacuum cleaner over the smoke damaged areas is more likely to spread the soot and drive it further into the floorboards and walls.
Once you’ve delicately removed as much soot and ash as you can from the ground, it’s time to focus on the walls.