Smoke damage requires special cleaning techniques. Improper cleaning will set the stains and odor, making them impossible to remove. Check with your insurance company for a recommendation about a dry cleaner. When you take the clothing to a dry cleaner, make sure to explain that the items are smoke damaged and make sure the cleaner is experienced in treating smoke damaged clothing. If the clothes can be washed, the smoke stain and odor can often be removed by pre-treating.
If the clothing can be bleached, a good mix for removing smoke odor is: 4 to 6 tablespoons of tri-sodium phosphate (Available from any hardware store, home center or paint supply store. As a substitute, 2 tablespoons of sodium hypochlorite can be used.), 1 cup of Lysol or household bleach, 1 gallon of water. Mix the tri-sodium, Lysol or bleach, and water. Soak the clothes in the mix. Remove the clothing, rinse well with clear water and dry. Spot test colored garments before treating.
To prevent mildew, remove wet or damp objects from the house as soon as possible and allow to dry, preferably in the open air and sunshine. To remove mildew, wash the stain with warm, soapy water, rinse well and allow to dry in the sun. If the stain is difficult to remove, try washing with lemon juice or one-tablespoon of pesborate bleach in 1 pint of lukewarm water, or a diluted solution of chlorine bleach.
3) Walls & Ceilings
Allow soot to dry untouched for at least 24 hours. Trying to remove soot before it has dried will only spread the stain and make it permanent. After soot has dried, clean walls or ceilings with the same tri-sodium phosphate and Lysol mix described above for cleaning clothes. Wear rubber gloves and old clothing when washing with this mix. After washing, rinse with clear water and allow to dry. Commercial cleaning products, available from paint and wall paper dealers, can be used. Some commercial cleaners are very powerful. Always follow the recommended directions exactly. Washable wallpaper can be cleaned the same as walls and ceilings, but do not soak the paper. To avoid streaking, start at the base of the wall and work your way up. Finally, wash the ceilings last. After you’ve washed the walls allow ample time for surfaces to dry before repainting.
4) Wood Furniture & Fixtures
Clear off all mud and dirt. Remove drawers and allow to dry thoroughly. Scrub with a stiff brush and cleaning solution. Wet wood decays and molds easily. Try to ventilate the room or, if serviceable, run the air conditioner to dry the room. If the furniture can be removed from the room, you can dry it outside, but only in a shaded area. Never place furniture in direct sunlight.
Mold on furniture can be removed with a cloth soaked in a mixture of water and kerosene or water and borax. To remove white spots or other stains from wood furniture, rub the area with 4/0 steel wool polishing pads dipped in liquid furniture wax. Then wipe and buff the area with a soft cloth. Many commercial products for cleaning and restoring wood are flammable and exposure to the fumes may be harmful to your health. Read and follow all directions and cautions carefully.
Discard any food items exposed to fire, smoke or heat. Even canned goods which have been exposed to heat may be unsafe.
6) Prescription Medications
Do not use any medication until you consult your doctor and/or pharmacist.
a. If your furnace still works, change the filter immediately. You may have to change the filter again after a few days because of air born soot, dirt and other contaminants.
b. Clean and protect chrome trim with Vaseline or other light oil.
c. Wash plants with clear water. Take care to clean both sides of the leaves and the stem.
d. Do not operate any VCR, video equipment, TV, stereo, computer or electrical appliance until it has been checked and cleaned. If a dry powder fire extinguisher was used and there is a film on any electrical or electronic unit, vacuum the powder off as soon as possible. Prolonged contact with the dry powder chemical can ruin electrical equipment.
e. If your electrical power was turned off for more than a few hours, discard all the contents of your refrigerator and freezer. Until the power is restored, use a roll of paper towels or a wad of newspapers to keep the refrigerator and/or freezer doors open and allow air to circulate. If the doors are shut and the units are not operating, permanent odors will set inside the units.
f. If the weather is below freezing and you cannot heat your house, pour anti-freeze into toilet bowls, sinks and tubs. Also drain the entire water system in the house. If you have hot water heating, have a plumber drain the system as soon as possible.
g. If your pets have been exposed to smoke, fire, or heat, have them examined by a veterinarian.
8) Water Damage
a. Remove as much excess water as possible by mopping, pumping, vacuuming with a wet-vac, etc.
b. Remove and elevate wet upholstery cushions to allow even drying on all surfaces.
c. Place aluminum foil, saucers or wood blocks between furniture legs and carpets.
d. Linoleum must be treated delicately. If water gets under linoleum, it can cause odors and warp the sub-floor. Check with an experienced flooring dealer for assistance on treating your linoleum.
e. Rugs should be removed, cleaned and dried. Carpets should be vacuumed with a wet-vac to remove as much moisture as possible, then clean and dry the carpets. If there is an odor after the carpets have been cleaned and dried, the carpets probably have to be pulled and the padding replaced.
f. In the summer, if you have air conditioning run the A/C as much as possible to promote drying. In the winter, open the windows.
g. Remove paintings and other artwork and store them in a safe place until all repair/restoration work is completed.
h. Open suitcases and other luggage to dry, place in the sunlight if possible.
i. Do not go into any room where the ceiling is sagging.
a. Don’t leave wet fabrics in place. Dry them as soon as possible. Hang furs and leather goods separately at room temperatures. If fur or leather goods have serious smoke damage, consult an expert on the best way to clean and remove the damage
b. Don’t leave books, magazines or other colored items on wet carpets or floors.
c. Don’t use a household vacuum to pick up water, only use a shop-vac or a wet-vac.
d. Don’t operate any electrical equipment when you are standing on a wet surface.
10) Vandalism & Theft
Have your Public Adjuster request for your insurance company to have your home boarded up as quickly as possible. If your insurance company doesn’t have a board-up service, we can recommend contractors for this service. Remove valuables to a safe location. If possible, ask your neighbors to keep an eye on your property until you can move back.