How to Clean Up Soot and Smoke Damage After a Fire
House fires are a devastating experience to go through, and the clean-up process afterward is not easy. Fires produce a lot of soot, but even a small kitchen grease fire can leave you wondering how to remove soot stains left behind. Use these tips from professional house cleaning services to clean up soot and smoke damage after a fire.
Getting Back to Normal After a House Fire
A house fire can turn your home into a hazard zone, so the first thing to do is to have it thoroughly inspected by a qualified safety officer.
There is the damage you can see, but there is also a lot you can't detect on your own. The fire could have damaged your electrical systems and weakened support structures and foundations. Safety inspections can be completed by your fire marshal or an insurance company representative.
Once you receive the all-clear, you'll want to get some safety equipment before you start work. Personal protective gear (PPE) should include safety glasses, a breathing mask, work gloves, long sturdy pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and close-toed shoes.
Only enter your property to start cleaning soot once you have the all-clear.
What is Soot?
Soot is tiny carbon particles produced by burning fossil fuels like wood, coal, charcoal, oil, and grease. The dark, greasy, sticky particles are the remnants of incomplete combustion and contain other chemicals like metals and acid responsible for the unpleasant acrid odor.
Soot can cover and damage otherwise undamaged items in the home, so it's critical to start the soot cleaning process as soon as possible.
Clean Up Soot Off Walls and Woodwork
The first thing you should do before starting the soot cleanup process off the walls is to remove all items from the room. Next, determine if the soot is a powdery or dry type, as this will help you select the most efficient cleaning process and products.
Vacuuming Soot Residue
Use the Vacuum cleaner to remove as much loose soot residue as possible. You won't get all of it, but it will remove the loose stuff and any other dust and particles that may scratch the surface you are wiping down.
Progressively work from the top down to prevent spreading more soot damage into an already clean area. Try to keep the vacuum nozzle close to, but not touching the surface. Rubbing against the soot stain can scratch the surface and may embed the soot further into the material.
Take a full vacuum canister or bag outside before emptying, or the soot dust cloud may undo all your hard work.
Use a Dry Soot Sponge
The next step is to use a dry-cleaning sponge to gently clean soot from the walls. Start from the top and remove the soot by working your way down. You should work with the grain when cleaning wood panels to prevent soot particles from getting ingrained into the wood and causing further damage.
Dry soot sponges can quickly get saturated with soot, but you don't have to throw them out. If you have a big job, buy a few sponges you can rotate for clean ones. You will need to wait for them to dry thoroughly before reusing them.
You may have seen recommendations for using a baking soda cleaning solution, but these are not recommended for all soot cleaning processes. Baking soda on its own is okay, but the other ingredients could end up doing more damage to the wood finish.
If you use baking soda, sprinkle the powder directly onto the stain and let it soak up the soot before wiping it clean with a damp sponge or cloth.
Don't Use Too Much Water When Cleaning Soot off Walls
Dry cleaning soot can only go so far. Eventually, you will need to resort to using water or cleaning solutions.
Water needs to be used in moderation. A soaking wet cloth will run, and the stream of water will collect more soot as it runs down the wall. Before you know it, you will have an even bigger soot stain to deal with.
Painting Over Stubborn Soot Stains
Sometimes, no amount of effort when cleaning up soot will completely get rid of the stain. There may still be dark traces remaining, along with a lingering odor.
Restore the area and block the odor by painting over the offending soot-stained section. Begin with a heavy-duty stain-blocking primer and be prepared to apply several coats until the stain no longer shows through.
Cleaning Up Soot from Carpet
Getting a soot stain out of carpet can be tricky, but with the right products and some know-how, it is possible.
Start by physically removing piles of soot resting on top of the carpet with a utensil of some sort. Do your best not to smoosh it down further into the carpet fibers.
Next, remove as much soot as possible by vacuuming the loose powder. Move the vacuum head gently over the surface, so you're not grinding the remaining soot into the underlay. An attachment will help you get the soot that has settled along the baseboards.
Use a cloth dampened with dry cleaning fluid to blot the soot-stained areas and give it a few minutes time to work before blotting again. Try not to use so much moistener that you dampen the carpet because you don't want to cause a mold outbreak.
Getting Soot Out of Curtains and Bedding
Take your curtains and bedding outside where you can give them a good shake to remove the loose soot. There may be a large dust cloud, so make sure you do this in an area that won't annoy the neighbors.
Next, clean the remaining soot with a stain remover, rinse the fabric, and then soak them in baking soda and vinegar solution to deal with the rest of the soot.
Get Professional Home Cleaning Services
Is your soot problem too big to tackle on your own? Fortunately, professional house cleaning services are available to help restore your home, clean up soot, water, and fire damage, and get you back to normal life as fast as possible. Call the experts at Best Option Restoration to learn more about how we can help you clean up soot and fire damage around your property.