How Do I Clean Up After a Fire?

If you have recently experienced a fire, you know that the damage is not limited to the space where the flames occurred. Smoke and soot were formed or blew to places that were seemingly too far away to be affected. The mess is everywhere.

Once you have made sure your space is structurally sound, you need to start cleaning the interior of your home. You will need to touch and clean nearly every space, even if you think that it was not near the fire.

Clean and restore your home’s surfaces

Your best bet might be to hire a professional fire and flood restoration company. If you choose not to do that, you can embark on this intentional process to clean every surface inside your home to erase the faintest traces of the fire.

First you should open all of your windows and run fans to help increase air circulation.

You should remove all wet vinyl flooring, carpets, and carpet padding. You might be tempted to keep them, but they are essentially destroyed and are likely covered by your home insurance.

Clean all of your interior surfaces. This includes floors, walls, and ceilings. Ceilings might be stained or invisibly soiled, and will need to be cleaned then repainted.

Remove oily residue of soot with a soot removal solution that includes two tablespoons dishwashing soap, four to six tablespoons trisodium phosphate, and a cup of bleach in one gallon of water. This combination helps break down and remove the many components of soot. Immediately rinse each section after cleaning.

Clean small areas, and wear gloves. If working above your head, wear goggles too. Rinse each section with clear water immediately and allow the surface to air dry.

When an entire room is cleaned, apply a layer of Kilz or other stain and mildew-resistant base coat before repainting.

Clean furniture, clothing and accessories

Unfortunately, after a fire nearly every upholstered or cloth item that can’t be placed in a washing machine might be lost. If there is minimal damage, steam cleaning might do the work.

If there was water damage in addition to smoke exposure, you may consider saying goodbye to couches and chairs affected. You can always check with a professional cleaner who can advise you about specific stains and smoke odors.

For ALL of your clothing, follow instructions on the label and get it cleaned correctly. Ask your dry cleaner to treat specific items to remove the smoke odors.

As you wash clothing and other fabric items such as drapes, towels, and tablecloths, use a heavy-duty detergent and an oxygen-based bleach mixture made for colors.

If a particularly important piece is still stained, you can try to soak it overnight in a new solution of oxygen bleach and warm water. Rewashing at that point will reveal whether you have saved the item or if you need to dispose of it.

Many of your washable fabrics will not be stained but might still smell smoky. You can wash them as usual, but you might benefit from adding baking soda or another detergent booster designed to attack stains and smells.

Leave a Reply