Is It Safe To Clean Up After a Fire?

roof of a house in flames

Is fire and smoke cleanup safe?

We all have our methods and routines when it comes to cleaning our homes under normal conditions. But can you imagine what it takes for a proper fire and smoke cleanup? There has to be more detail to this type of cleaning, which leads to many questions. If you find yourself in need of fire and smoke cleanup in Palm Beach, Florida, in most cases you’ll want to hire an expert to help with the process, but there are a few things you can do on your own. We’re going to cover a few of the steps you can take to make things a bit easier and get your home back to normal, as well as what you can expect while working with a professional to take care of the cleanup process.

What is involved in fire and smoke cleanup?

For most of us, if we experience the misfortune of a house fire, our homeowner’s insurance provides coverage for a professional service to handle the fire and smoke cleanup process. But, for those who may not have that type of coverage, or for a small kitchen fire or fireplace that got a bit out of control, you may not want to file this with your insurance company, which means handling your fire and smoke cleanup process.

It’s not just a matter of collecting burnt items and putting them in a trash bag. Or going through your home with a cleaner and rag. There are several stages to fire and smoke cleanup that include making repairs and rebuilding. As we’ve mentioned, if you have insurance coverage, after contacting your insurance company and filing a claim, your next call would be with a professional restoration specialist company. 

A professional restoration specialist company is staffed with experienced experts who specialize in fire and smoke cleanup and damage restoration. They can be found online or your insurance company may have a contract with a specific company that they contact on your behalf. They will typically follow these steps: 

  • Inspect and Assess: Whether you have a professional restoration company do the work, or you do it yourself, the first step is to inspect the area that was damaged and assess the damage. This is where having a professional doing it is better because they will know what to look for in structural damage, along with the smoke, soot, and water damage. It is important to do this before starting the fire and smoke cleanup for safety purposes. 
  • Boards and Tarps: Next, to ensure no further damage occurs, it is important to board up any openings like exterior doors and windows and place tarps over the roof. This will keep any rain, wind, or other environmental impacts. factors. 
  • Removing Water: After a fire, there is usually a significant amount of water used to extinguish the fire. That water needs to be removed as quickly as possible to prevent mildew, mold, wood rot, and more from occurring. This requires specialized equipment and methods to get the water thoroughly removed, again, a fire and smoke cleanup and restoration specialist will have that equipment. 
  • Smoke and Soot: The method and process to remove smoke and soot is best done with special techniques and specific cleaning products, all of which fire and smoke cleanup specialists have. This includes the ceilings, floors, walls, counters, furniture, and any surface that can absorb the smell of fire or smoke.
  • Cleaning and Sanitizing: As you can imagine, the entire area, and even connected areas are affected by the fire, smoke, soot, and water. This requires cleaning and sanitizing these areas with special cleaning products and equipment that remove odors and residue, which a professional fire and smoke cleanup team will have on hand.
  • Rebuild and Repair: When it comes to this final step, the fire and smoke cleanup specialist will turn this over to the homeowner, who may do it themselves, or hire a contractor. This includes rebuilding ceilings, flooring, and walls as well as restoring furniture and replacing personal items. 

How much does a professional fire and smoke cleanup restoration service cost?

If for some reason the fire and smoke cleanup process isn’t covered by your homeowner’s insurance, or you’re otherwise unable to do this yourself, a professional service can cost up to $1,000 or more to remove the residue and toxic odors left by the smoke that is clinging to any absorbent surfaces. This includes carpeting, upholstered furniture, and walls, which will leave stains if not properly and thoroughly removed. 

How can you get rid of the smoke smell after a fire?

Eventually, the smoke smell will diminish and disappear. But there are some things you can do to help speed the process up, which will require a lot of cleaning!  What is a good cleaner for smoke residue? Your basic household or a mild laundry detergent mixed with white vinegar and tri-sodium phosphate or baking soda with warm water.

1. Airing Out

Ventilation is key, so open all the windows, and remove screens if possible for an increase in airflow. If the weather isn’t right for this, crack open all the doors and windows. Turn every ceiling fan and exhaust fan on throughout your home so they pull the cold air up and push the warm air down.

2. Cleaning Windows, Window Treatments

You can do your own fire and smoke cleanup by removing all the window treatments like blinds, curtains, and drapes and either gently wash them in the washing machine or send them to a professional dry cleaning service. Do not reinstall them in your home until you have completely cleaned your home. 

For metal or plastic blinds, and curtain rods, you can clean yourself with a mixture of vinegar and water at a 50/50 ratio. For wood blinds, clean them with a wood polish. Clean the window using a microfiber cloth or sponge with a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water.  

3. Wash Clothing, Linens

The next step in your fire and smoke cleanup process includes washing all the clothing, linens, and towels with your normal laundry process. Adding a tablespoon of pure vanilla extract will aid in removing the smoke odor. 

4. Ceilings, Floors, Walls

The process for fire and smoke cleanup includes the countertop and other surfaces in your home can be done while wearing rubber gloves and using this mixture: 

  • A mild detergent of soap
  • Six tablespoons of tri-sodium phosphate
  • One cup of household chlorine bleach
  • One gallon of warm water

Wipe the surface down, rinsing the rag frequently and repeatedly. Then wipe down with clean, clear warm water and allow the surface to dry thoroughly.

5. Dishes, Cabinets, Countertops

Last, but not least, time to wash all of your dishes, pots, pans, and any other kitchenware. Wipe down the cabinet interior and exteriors with a slightly damp microfiber cloth or wood polish. 

Is there a machine that removes the smell of smoke?

Yes, and any professional fire and smoke cleanup restoration specialist will use several Ozone Machines for the process. This is a powerful oxidizer that breaks down smoke particles and eliminates the smoke odor from its source. This is the same type of machine used in hotels to remove smoke smell from rooms. 

And Back To Normal! 

Once you have completed all the steps in fire and smoke cleanup, or if a professional restoration company has completed their service, it is time to move back into your home! This process, when done thoroughly and completely, can several days, weeks, or even months, depending on the amount and extent of fire, smoke, and water damage. Meanwhile, if you find yourself in need of fire and smoke cleanup in Palm Beach, Florida, be sure to reach out to a professional who understands the process and who can provide you with quick and reliable service. You can reach us at (954) 548-5613 if you find yourself in need of assistance.