How to Clean Smoke Damage

The fire is out and no one was hurt. While you are thankful that things weren’t as bad as they could have been, cleaning up after a fire is still a daunting task. Getting rid of soot stains, blistered paint and that smoky smell is a lot of work, but with determination and some common supplies, learning how to clean smoke damage is possible.

Necessary Equipment

washing soda

You’ll need to gather a few things when consider how to clean smoke damage. This is a dirty job, so wear old clothes! You will need the following items:

  • a box of washing soda, also called Trisodium Phosphate or TSP
  • rubber gloves
  • safety goggles
  • several sponges and plenty of rags
  • buckets
  • warm water

Washing soda is usually found with the laundry detergents in the grocery store. Heavy duty rubber gloves and safety goggles are sold in hardware stores and home centers. If you need to clean ceilings, a scrub brush on a telescoping pole would be helpful, as would a step ladder.


Cleaning Soot and Charred Areas

smoke damage

Before getting started on how to clean smoke damage, open all the windows and air the place out. A few fans set to blow air out of the house would also be a good idea. Use a heavy duty vacuum cleaner to pick up the worst of the soot. Add one tablespoon of TSP to a gallon of warm water and mix well. Wash the blackened surfaces–don’t forget your gloves and goggles–with a sponge and the washing soda mixture and rinse with rags soaked in plain water. You may need to repeat the process several times. Be careful not to get the drywall too wet, or you could cause mold to grow. If the soot doesn’t come off completely after several treatments, repaint the area.


Smoothing Out Bubbles and Blisters

bubbles and blister in wall
Heat from a fire can cause bubbles and blisters in paint and drywall. You can scrape the bubbled areas flat with a putty knife and then sand the spot smooth. Apply a thin coat of spackling compound over the area and allow it to dry completely. Sand the spot until it is smooth. If you only need to repair a few spots, you might get away with touching up the paint, but if it is a large area, or you can’t find paint to match the rest of the room, you might as well repaint.

It is important to fix leaks and dry up moisture quickly. Mold can begin to grow within 24 to 48 hours from the time of the incident, and it often starts in out of the way places, such as wallboard, insulation, under carpets and flooring. Wet/dry vacuums, fans and heaters can be useful for removing moisture, but until a leak is stopped, the possibility of mold growth continues to exist.

Getting Rid of that Smoky Smell

The smell of smoke can linger for a long time, but there are some tricks to try when learning how to clean smoke damage. Fresh air and sunshine can do a lot when it comes to airing out furniture. If possible, carry upholstered items out into the sunshine, wash the cushions with a mild detergent and rinse with solution of a gallon of water and ¼ cup white vinegar. Leave the items out in the sun and fresh air for several hours until dry.

Take fabric items, such as drapes, comforters and throw rugs, to a laundromat and wash them. You can add a tablespoon of white vinegar to the rinse cycle to help get reduce the smoke smell. Wall to wall carpet can be sprinkled liberally with baking soda to absorb odors. Vacuum it up after a few hours.

Leave bowls of baking soda or activated charcoal–which is available in the fish department of pet stores–around the room to soak up the smoke odor. Opening windows whenever possible and using fans to move the air out of the room can help, too. After you have thoroughly cleaned the items, you can spray them with products that neutralize odors like Febreeze or Oust, but smoke smell is very difficult to get rid of and you might need to get your furniture and drapes professionally cleaned or replaced.

Quick Emergency Response

Fire restoration and knowing how to clean smoke damage are central to Vital Restorations’ business. We respond quickly to your request for help and handle cleaning, packing and restoring your home and possessions to give you peace of mind. If a fire leaves you feeling overwhelmed, let Vital Restorations put your life back in order.