Burned materials and soot aren’t the only damage that can be a cause for concern after a fire. The microscopic smoke particles that are released any time a carbon-based material is burned can spread an enormous distance. Especially if they manage to get into your home or building’s ventilation system.
While severe smoke damage can be nearly impossible to deal with using the cleaning products and equipment found at the retail level, there are a few things that can help you clean up minor smoke damage. The type of material, the surface, and the total area affected by smoke damage will determine the best cleaning method.
Identifying All Areas Of Smoke Damage
A lot of homeowner and commercial property insurance policies have some type of smoke damage included in the fire coverage. Though they can vary from one policy to the next. Make sure to conduct a thorough inspection of the property and photograph all areas of smoke damage, no matter how minor. Not only will this play a role in helping you identify all areas that need to be cleaned, but it can be used as evidence when filing an insurance claim.
Identifying Smoke Damage
It’s important to keep in mind that smoke damage can occur very far away from the actual fire. It often presents itself visually as:
- Blackened streaks or splotches
- Soot-streaked areas
- Fine black dust
- Discolored paint or wallpaper
You need to also remember that smoke damage isn’t always black. The color of smoke damage can be influenced by other materials that were burned in the fire as well as the color or finish of the surface it lands on. This might make the smoke damage look black, brown, gray, yellow, or even whiteish on dark surfaces.
The Right Personal Safety Equipment For Cleaning Up Smoke Damage
Even though there’s no fire, you still need to be safety conscious when cleaning up smoke damage. Not only can the smoke material stain your own clothing, but some of the chemicals needed to properly remove smoke from some surfaces can irritate skin, nose, and lungs. Before cleaning up a smoke damaged area you should consider wearing or getting some of the following things:
- Rubber gloves
- A ventilation mask
- Shoe covers
- Vest, apron, or other protective clothing
Tools & Equipment To Help Clean Smoke Damage
- Dry-Cleaning Sponge or a similar chemical sponge
- Various smoke damage cleaning solutions
- Liquid Soap or a Degreaser (like trisodium phosphate)
- Old rags
- A vacuum cleaner with HEPA filter
- Vacuuming Up Smoke, Soot & Other Loose Debris
After a fire, loose smoke particles, soot, ash, and dust can cover a wide range of surfaces. Accidentally stepping on them can grind them deeper into surfaces like carpeting. So, before you get into the elbow grease portion of smoke damage cleanup, take the time to thoroughly vacuum porous surfaces to remove this particulate matter.
Just make sure that the vacuum you use as a fine particle catching HEPA filter to trap these fine particles. An old fashioned vacuum cleaner with a bag might end up redistributing the smoke and soot particles back into the air as you vacuum them out of the carpet.
How To Remove Smoke & Soot Stains from Walls
The initial temptation when dealing with a smoke-stained wall is to merely bust out a roller and repaint it. Though with this approach you will find the smoke stains end up showing through when the paint dries. In a severe cases of smoke stains, it could also affect the paint’s ability to properly adhere to the wall. So, it’s best to try to thoroughly clean the walls first, before you consider repainting.
Removing soot and smoke damage from walls typically involves and three-stage approach. It starts with taking a sponge and softly rubbing it at affected areas, Make sure to not use the same part of the sponge for more than a few strokes to keep from smearing captures smoke stains around. Keep changing sections until the sponge is thoroughly blackened. Then replace it with a clean sponge and continue lightly rubbing until you have covered every square inch of smoke-stained wall.
Once this is done, you can switch to a mixture of cleaning solutions in warm water. Use soft, old rags to wipe the wall. A commercial soot cleaner would be ideal, though simple white vinegar in warm water can also do the job.
After cleaning the walls with the water and cleaning solution, you should switch to a mixture of mild degreaser or mild dish soap mixed with hot water, to release stubborn smoke stains.
If you still aren’t happy with the end results of your best cleaning efforts, then you might have to repaint the wall. Just be sure to let it thoroughly dry first.
How To Remove Smoke From Windows
Cleaning smoke stains off of windows and glass objects tends to be less complicated than cleaning them off walls and porous surfaces. The process starts with wiping the windows with cloths and soot cleaner, then using the degreaser to remove anything that’s left.
For minor stains, you might be able to simply spray a mixture of water and white vinegar. Spray on the glass and let sit for about 5 minutes, then wipe off with a rag or paper towel. If it’s cigarette smoke on your window, the white vinegar in the solution will dislodge the nicotine so that it is easy to remove the nicotine from your window.
How to Clean Smoke Stained Glass
Similar to windows, to clean smoke-stained glass tables, windows, or any other appliance, the first step is to clean the windows with cloths and soot cleaner. Remove all of the particles from the surface of the glass. Mix water and a little bit of white vinegar and spray it on the glass. Let it sit for a few minutes before using a towel or some clean, soft rags to wipe off.
How to Clean Smoke Damage Off Of Ceilings
Ceilings are one of the most prone areas for smoke damage. They also tend to be one of the hardest to clean. This is often due to the flat white paint used on ceilings, which tends to let smoke saturate it at a microscopic level.
Your best chance is to use the same procedures that you would for cleaning walls. Just be sure to use a ladder or perhaps some low scaffolding to ensure that you have a safe platform to stand on. Then make sure to wear eye protection as well as some type of head covering to deal with the inevitable drips.
Cleaning Smoke Damage From Floors & Carpeting
When it comes to cleaning smoke damage off tile and hardwood flooring you can gently scrub with a mixture of gentle dish soap with warm water. Then dry the floors quickly and carefully to avoid any water damage.
Smoke-damaged carpeting can be more challenging. You first need to vacuum it to remove loose soot and other fire-related ash and dust. Then use a special carpet shampooer to give it a deep clean. If this doesn’t fully restore the carpets to their original condition, you may need to turn to professionals for help.
When To Call In The Professionals
Dealing with fire damage can be a major hassle that goes far beyond extracting smoke and soot. The paperwork, documentation, and legal hassles with the insurance agency can feel daunting. Adding to this is the fact that most of the cleaning products available at the retail level aren’t potent enough to deal with a severe case of smoke damage.
In times like this, you can turn to a professional cleaning company like Building Services Inc. to handle all your smoke damage cleanup. We have highly trained technicians with years of experience cleaning up smoke damage, as well as the professional-grade products and equipment to do so. This includes commercial-grade deodorizers to help get your home or commercial property looking as well as smelling like new.