One of the worst things that could happen to your home is a fire – not only could it put you and your loved ones in danger, a fire can also damage your furniture, destroy treasured possessions, or cause structural damage to your home.
One of the lingering effects of a house fire is the smoke damage it leaves behind, which can cause numerous other problems. Even if the fire was small or only affected a small area of your home, smoke damage can lead to worse air quality, potential breathing problems, and the nasty smell of smoke spreading through your home.
Compared to the more visible and immediate damage to your home caused by a fire, it’s easy to forget or overlook smoke damage. However, smoke odor can linger for months if left untreated, and the longer it isn’t dealt with, the more of your home will become affected.
This guide will cover everything you need to know about smoke damage, including why it’s so hard to treat, why some cases are worse than others, and most importantly how to get rid of it.
Stubborn Smoke Smell: Why Is Smoke Odor So Hard To Get Rid Of?
Lingering smoke odor can be extremely hard to get rid of, largely due to the specific properties of smoke particles.
Smoke particles are extremely small – in fact, smoke particles from burning natural materials can be up to 25,000 times smaller than a grain of fine sand.
This allows smoke particles to penetrate other materials very easily, which is why so much of your home’s furniture will smell of smoke after a house fire. This is especially the case when it comes to fabrics like drapes, curtains, rugs, and cushions.
Factors Affecting Smoke Smell Intensity
Area Affected By Fire
The more of your house affected by a house fire, the more smoke damage it will suffer. Smoke leaves smoke residue wherever it spreads, which then results in lingering smoke smells.
Even if the fire was restricted to just one part of your house, other rooms may also suffer smoke damage, especially if the fire was particularly intense.
Size Of Fire
The size and intensity of the fire will have an impact on how hard it is to remove the smell, with bigger or more intense fires releasing more smoke and causing larger smoke particle buildup as a result. Bigger fires will therefore result in worse smoke damage and make it even harder to remove smoke odor.
Type of Soot- Oily, Wet, Or Dry?
One of the major causes of smoke odor is soot left behind by a house fire. Different types of fire produce different soot varieties, each of which has its own properties. The three types of soot to look out for are:
- Oily soot – from fires burning grease, fuel, oil, or plastics. This soot is difficult to remove and can leave many smears and stains.
- Wet soot – from low intensity, slow-burning fires. Wet soot is particularly odorous as moisture particles make it easier to transmit the smell. It’s also very difficult to remove, as it can be very sticky and leave smears and stains.
- Dry soot – from high intensity, fast-burning fires. This is the easiest type of soot to remove and is unlikely to smear or stain.
Whilst dry soot is fairly easy to remove, wet or oily soot may require a professional cleaner.
Items Or Materials Burnt
The smell left behind by a house fire is likely to vary greatly depending on what exactly was burnt by the fire. Plastics and other synthetic materials can leave particularly noxious odors which can be held in furniture and other household items, helping the smell to spread and linger.
Effects Of Residual Smoke Smell
A lingering smoke smell after a fire isn’t just unpleasant – it can also negatively affect your health. Residual smoke particles in your home lead to lower air quality; this can make it harder to breathe in your home, worsen existing respiratory conditions like asthma, and cause further health complications if left unchecked over a long period.
Because of this, if your house continues to smell of smoke after a fire, you should take action to remove any smoke residue at the earliest opportunity to avoid any long-term health risks.
Essential Methods To Get Smoke Smell Out Of Your House Post-Fire
There are several methods of getting the smoke smell out of your home after a fire, and it’s essential to use all of them to ensure that you can get rid of smoke residue as quickly as possible and avoid any health risks. The longer smoke residue is left, the harder it is to get rid of – so it’s vital to start ASAP.
It may be advisable to get a professional to clean up smoke damage, as exposure to smoke particles during cleaning can be bad for your health. However, if you want to avoid the cost of hiring a professional, follow this step-by-step guide to removing smoke smells.
Segregate Damaged Items: Remove All Furniture & Other Household Items
To start with, find every item and piece of furniture that smells of smoke or has visible smoke damage and remove it from your home if possible. The smoke residue left on these items is the cause of the lingering smoke smell, so removing them means the smoke particles will no longer be spreading through your home.
You can then start systematically washing and cleaning these items to remove the smoke residue. Put smoky clothes, towels, and other fabrics in the wash; clean and wipe tables, chairs, and other wooden items; and thoroughly clean any other items you’ve removed.
This may be time-consuming, but it’s an important first step to removing smoke odors. If you can’t leave these items outside, store them all in a garage or separate room to prevent smoke particles from spreading into the rest of your home.
Air Out Your Home: Air Circulation Is Vital!
The time you spend cleaning smoke residue from household items is a good opportunity to air out your home and remove smoke particles from the air. Open all your windows and doors on a clear day to allow plenty of air circulation and carry out the smoke particles.
If possible, use positive pressure ventilation – get a powerful fan and position it outside a door facing inwards to blow clean air into your home and push out the smoke-infused air. Use this method room-to-room, closing all other doors or windows apart from one to act as an outlet for the dirty air.
Deep Clean Your Home
Next, it’s time to do a full deep clean of your entire home. Smoke particles don’t just stay in the air in your home – they’ll also linger on every surface in your home, even if you can’t see any visible smoke reside.
Work systematically through every wall, floor, surface, and piece of furniture in your home to ensure no smoke residue is left at all by the time you’re done. The recommended cleaning solution for removing smoke is a gallon of water mixed with half a cup of distilled white vinegar and a teaspoon of dish soap; for easier application, you can decant this mixture into a spray bottle.
Wash All Your Windows
Your windows are likely to have suffered badly from smoke as they act as a circulation point, drawing smoke particles towards them in the air. Wash your windows inside and out with your cleaning solution, making sure to clean the panes and fittings as well as the glass.
You should also remove any screens or shades and wash them outside, as they will hold smoke residue as well. Watch out for soot – as detailed above, dry soot will be relatively easy to clean off, but wet or oily soot may leave smears and may be best left to a professional cleaner.
If you haven’t already washed your curtains or blinds, do so now – it’s likely that these will hold far more smoke residue than the windows themselves since fabric absorbs smoke particles more easily.
Thorough Cleaning Of Upholstery & Carpets
One of the main sources of lingering smoke odor after a fire will be your carpets and upholstery. This is because smoke particles are extremely small and can easily become trapped in the space between upholstery and carpet fibers.
One option is to sprinkle baking soda across your carpets and upholstery, leaving it overnight to absorb the smoke particles before vacuuming thoroughly. You could also use a steam cleaner, but be careful not to damage delicate upholstery.
Rather than doing it yourself, it may be better to leave this to professional cleaners – whilst it may be more expensive, professionals are likely to do a more thorough job and reduce the risk of damaging any upholstery.
Inspect & Clean HVAC System
You need to pay special attention to your ventilation system, as this is likely to have absorbed a lot of smoke particles. Using this system without cleaning it will simply spread smoke particles through your home and lower the air quality.
Again, this may be best left to a professional who can ensure that the whole system is cleaned and fix any damage that smoke or fire may have caused.
Clean All Solid Surfaces
Finally, go through your home and clean every solid surface – walls, ceilings, shelves, cabinets, tables, doors, and more can all harbor smoke particles. Use the cleaning solution you made earlier to thoroughly clean each surface; adding ammonia may also help lift smoke residue more effectively.
Fresh Coating of Paint
Your last task is to give a fresh lick of paint to any walls or doors that have been visibly damaged by fire. Not only will this refresh the look of your home, it will also help remove fire smoke smells as paint can absorb odors. There are three steps to follow:
- Wash your walls with an ammonia or glycol solution – these are great for removing odors.
- Apply an odor-locking primer to remove any last traces of smoke smell, then wait for it to dry.
- Paint over the primer with latex paint to seal in any last traces of smoke odor.
After this, your home will both look and smell as good as new.
Removing the smell of smoke from your home is crucial after a house fire, as lingering smoke odor means lower air quality which can negatively affect your health. Luckily, with the right steps you can get rid of lingering smoke smells and give your home a new lease of life.
If in doubt, call in professional cleaners – but do it as soon as possible, as the longer you leave a smoke odor, the worse its health effects can be. And if you are looking to sell a property in Florida, don’t forget that we buy houses in Fort Lauderdale, Kendall, Riverview, Brandon and other areas in the state.