How to Remove Smoke Residue From Your Walls and Other Smoke Damage Repair Tips
By Shannon Wells
Every 86 seconds, somewhere in America, a fire department is responding to a fire in someone’s home. In just minutes, a fire can have devastating effects ranging from major structural damage to minor smoke damage. When fires are quickly contained, it’s common for homeowners to go through a range of emotions. They may be grateful their home was spared, while at the same time feeling overwhelmed, and anxious about the work that lies ahead. If you’ve suffered through a home fire, here are some important steps that will help you begin repairing your home.
Wait Until It’s Safe to Re-enter
Though it can be hard to wait, it’s critical to refrain from reentering your home until the fire department gives you the go-ahead. Often, major structural damage is not immediately apparent upon visual inspection. Another unseen safety risk after a fire is your home’s air quality. Residue from chemical reactions during a fire can leave toxic substances that must be removed with special care.
Call Your Insurance Company
Times like these are the reason we have homeowner’s policies, so get in contact with your agent right away. Your agent may be able to help you hire a home inspector, itemize a list of damaged property and secure temporary housing.
Know When to Call the Pros
Once you’re permitted back in your home, you’ll have the chance to evaluate your situation. Here are a few instances when enlisting the help of a professional is your best bet:
If smoke and soot are spread throughout your home, it’s advisable to hire a professional remediation company. Smoke and soot often contain unsafe chemicals that can cause extensive health issues if improperly removed. Toxic, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde, benzene and hydrogen cyanide are all found in soot.
On average, firefighters use 3,000 gallons of water fighting a house fire. If firehoses were used to save your home, you’ll have the additional problem of water damage to contend with. If flooring and walls are not properly dried and repaired, your home will be at risk for mold infestation.
It may be startling to learn that firefighters had to cut holes into the walls or roof to access and fight the fire. Reaching out to the right remodeling contractors will speed up the repair process. If portions of your home need to be rebuilt, consider having a sprinkler system installed at the same time.
If your home is free of structural and water damage and the soot is limited, you may want to attempt smoke damage repair on your own. Here are steps to help you proceed safely.
Ensure the area you’re working in is well-ventilated. Get a cross breeze when possible and use high-powered fans as needed.
Use full protective gear. This includes safety goggles, heavy-duty gloves and a respirator. As far as clothing, pick clothes and a hat that you won’t mind getting rid of afterward.
How to Remove Smoke Residue from Walls
First, use a chemical dry sponge to get any loose particles off the wall. Then, use a solvent such as trisodium phosphate (TSP) or vinegar to wash the wall. Rinse it thoroughly, and then dry it with a towel. You’ll want to continue washing the wall until you no longer see soot residue on your towels.
Repairing, Cleaning and Replacing Personal Property
As you clean each personal item, be sure to remove it from the work area, or cover it up so it doesn’t get covered in soot again. Be cautious about using appliances and electronics that were near the fire, as high temperatures may have damaged wiring. Dispose of cosmetics, medication and all food with any soot or smoke damage.
Tips for a Kitchen Fire
If a kitchen mishap caused your fire (it’s the leading cause of home fires in America), stock up on white distilled vinegar. This cleanser is great for coping with grease fires. A natural degreaser, vinegar neutralizes odors and is safe to use on most surfaces (just remember to dilute it for wood).
When it comes to repairing smoke damage from a fire, the process can be slow. Work with your insurance company to ensure you’re utilizing your policy’s full benefits. And, when in doubt, reach out to a qualified remediation professional.
Shannon Wells is a freelance writer. When she isn’t helping her clients grow their businesses, she writes about healthy food and home improvement. You can find her on LinkedIn.