Cleaning Smoke Damage In California

By Bert Gabledon

Most house fires do not burn for a long time. Local fire departments respond quickly and are pretty efficient when it comes to extinguishing the flames. Because of this, the structure of a home is intact, but smoke still traveled throughout most, if not all of it, leaving soot behind. It is certainly the majority of the damage I have cleaned over the last two decades.

One of the common things I have seen in every fire is that the amount of smoke and soot damage is heavier the closer to the flames. That is important because it helps my work crews determine where to start. The thicker the soot left behind, the quicker permanent damage can set into walls and ceilings, as well as furniture and carpets.

Carpets are particularly vulnerable. There is not physical damage often, but the soot particles on the surface get wet from the efforts of the fire department and are ground into the nape as everyone walks across them to stop the flames. We use industrial grade shampoo machines and powerful cleaners not usually available to the public to remove the soot and clean them.

If this works and the appearance is back to normal, we still need to raise the carpet and remove the pad underneath. Carpet pads deteriorate once they become wet and it is cheaper to replace them than to have us spend the labor hours trying to dry them.

For the rest of the home, we use a combination of dry and wet methods to remove smoke and soot damage. Since there is already so much water in the home, we wipe down surfaces with cry cloths and sponges. Dry wiping removes the majority of the soot particles, and as we work outward, away from the origin point, this is sometimes the only method we need.

For remaining soot, we dampen the cloths or sponges with water or a cleaning agent. As with the dry wiping, we start at the top and carefully work our way down. This second method usually removes even heavy soot and finishes the job.

There are some surfaces and furniture that require more effort though. Rough marble and upholstered furniture like sofas need to be agitated to remove all of the soot. We do this by hand or with powered devices that work water and cleaners into the cracks and fabric which releases the soot. We then remove it using a commercial-grade version of a wet-vac.

To ensure your home is free from smoke and soot damage after a fire, always bring in a licensed restoration service. In many cases, it is the only way to get the machines and cleaning agents you need to return your home to its pre-fire condition and prevent major property loss.


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