Even the smallest house fire can produce thick black smoke, leaving stains and a potent odor throughout your house. While you want to salvage as many items as possible, it’s important to know what you need to throw away after a fire. Smoke and soot travel much farther than flames and pose a hazard to your health and the safety of your home. This article will discuss what can be saved from smoke damage after a fire and what cannot be saved.
First Things First: Fire Damage Cleanup
The first step in any fire damage cleanup is to survey the damage. Even if the fire was put out quickly, there is still going to be some smoke and soot damage. If the fire department came to your home, it’s possible that you have as much water damage as you do smoke.
Any paper or fabric items that you want to save, you need to move to a dry, well-ventilated area. This includes clothing, books, and any other items that can be damaged by water. Once you have moved these items, you need to start the cleaning process.
Consider Hiring a Professional Restoration Company
Cleanup procedures will require significant amounts of time, effort, and expertise, as well as a thorough knowledge of health and safety concerns. Keep in mind that you do not have to deal with the cleanup on your own – hiring a professional restoration company is always an option.
Some of the things that a professional restoration company can do for you include:
- Remove all the smoke and soot from your home
- Repair any water damage caused by firefighting efforts
- Restore or replace damaged belongings and damaged home structures
- Help you file insurance claims
If you choose not to work with a professional company, here are some tips for cleaning up smoke and soot damage safely:
- Start by ventilating the affected area. Open doors and windows to let fresh air in.
- Wear proper safety attire. This includes gloves, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and goggles.
- Wet any sooty surfaces before you start cleaning. This will help to prevent the soot from becoming airborne.
- Use a mild detergent or soap to clean affected surfaces. Avoid using abrasive cleaners as they can damage surfaces further.
- Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to remove soot from upholstered furniture, carpets, and draperies.
- Clean all linens and clothing in your home – even if they were not in the affected area. Smoke and soot can cling to fabric quickly.
- Throw away any food that has been exposed to smoke.
Determine Types of Smoke Damage
Now that you know the basics of smoke damage cleanup, you may be wondering what can be saved from smoke damage and what needs to be thrown away.
The type of smoke damage will determine what can be saved. There are four common types of smoke damage: dry smoke, protein residue, fuel/oil residue, and wet smoke. Each type of smoke is caused by different circumstances like the fire’s temperature, fueling materials, and location. The restoration process varies slightly for each.
- Dry smoke is the most common type of smoke damage. It is caused by fast-burning fires with little or no moisture. Dry smoke leaves powdery soot on surfaces and has a pungent odor.
- Protein residue is produced by slow-smoldering fires that burn protein-based materials like wood, paper, and fabric. This type of residue is sticky and difficult to remove. It also has a strong, unpleasant odor.
- Fuel/oil residue is caused by burning petroleum products like gasoline, kerosene, or oil. This type of smoke leaves an oily film on surfaces and has a heavy, greasy feel.
- Wet smoke is produced by smoldering fires that have been extinguished with water. Wet smoke leaves a sticky residue on surfaces and has a sweet or acrid odor.
The type of smoke damage will determine what needs to be thrown away and what can be saved. Porous materials like clothing, upholstery, carpets, and drapes will likely need to be thrown away. Non-porous materials like metal, glass, and plastic can usually be cleaned and saved.
If you are not sure what can be saved from smoke damage, it is always best to err on the side of caution and throw it away. When in doubt, consult with a professional restoration company. They will have the knowledge and experience to safely restore your belongings.
What Can Be Saved From Smoke Damage?
Home: You may be able to save some of the structure and contents of your home, depending on the extent of the damage. Soot-stained walls can often be cleaned with a solution of trisodium phosphate and water. Carpets and drapes will likely need to be replaced.
Systems: Your home’s HVAC system will need to be cleaned and inspected by a professional before it can be used again.
Clothing: If your clothing is made of natural fibers like cotton, linen, or silk, you may be able to save them. Hang them outside in the fresh air and sunlight as soon as possible. Wash sooty clothes in a detergent designed for greasy stains and rinse them thoroughly.
Upholstered furniture: Upholstered furniture can often be saved if it’s cleaned quickly and properly. Vacuum the soot off with a brush attachment, then shampoo the fabric with a mild detergent.
Dishes: Dishes that have been exposed to smoke should be washed by hand in hot, soapy water. If they’re not too soot-stained, you can wash them in your dishwasher using the hottest water setting.
Appliances: Appliances that have been exposed to smoke should be unplugged and cleaned with a solution of equal parts water and vinegar.
Valuables: Valuables that have been exposed to smoke should be taken to a professional for cleaning. This includes items like paintings, coins, and jewelry.
What Should be Thrown Away After Smoke Damage?
Unfortunately, not everything can be saved after a fire. Soot and smoke damage is often irreversible, and it’s important to know what needs to be thrown away for your own safety. Here are some things that you will need to throw away:
Food: Any food that has been exposed to smoke should be thrown away. This includes canned goods, jars, and containers.
Cosmetics: Cosmetics that have been exposed to smoke should be thrown away.
Medicines: Medicines that have been exposed to smoke should be thrown away.
Salvaging items after a fire can be difficult, but with the right information, you can save many of your belongings.
We hope this blog post about what can be saved from smoke damage has been helpful. If you need assistance restoring your home after fire or smoke damage, please contact our team of experts at Shepherd’s Disaster Recovery and Remediation. We specialize in restoring your home or building back to normal. Contact us today for more information at (650) 459 4557!