A fire is one of the worst accidents that can happen to a home – it not only destroys structural materials and household items in a quick and irreversible way, but also results in a number of supplementary hazards (possible water damage due to the fire- fighting efforts, harmful soot pollution, unhealthy smoke levels, etc.). Even if the fire was small and contained, its byproducts can continue to cause damage to the property and jeopardize the well-being of its inhabitants long after the flames have been extinguished.
Stubborn smoke odor is one of the most common examples of the detrimental consequences of a fire – it can linger in the home for a long time, compromising the indoor air quality and posing health hazards to the occupants of the building. So, in the unfortunate event that smoke affects your home (whether from a house fire or because of a nearby wildfire), you need to take every possible measure to get rid of the smoke smell quickly and effectively.
Smoke Odor Removal Tips
Getting rid of smoke smell is quite a challenge. When fire smoke infiltrates the home, the tiny smoke particles stick to all household surfaces and get embedded into all kinds of porous materials – carpeting, furniture, fabrics, books and even paint. Removing them requires a lot of effort and, more often than not, specialized cleaning equipment.
There are a few effective practices that can greatly reduce the number of smoke particles in an affected area, but whether they will be enough to restore the fresh and safe living conditions in your home depends on a number of factors:
- Size of the fire – Larger fires produce more smoke, so the resulting smoke smell will be more pervasive and more intense;
- Length of exposure – The longer an area has been exposed to smoke, the more deeply the smoke odor will have embedded into the household materials;
- Types of burned materials – When burned, different materials produce different odors. Some are easier to remove, while others are extremely difficult to get rid of (such as the smell from burning synthetic or plastic materials, for example).
So, what you need to do when dealing with the aftermath of a fire is to try all proven DIY smoke odor removal methods and see if the results are satisfactory. If not (or if you don’t have the time and the energy to do the job yourself), your only viable option is to call professional smoke odor removal services.
Here is what you can do to get smoke smell out of your house after a fire.
Air the Premises
Your first step is to air out the house. Open all doors and windows to ensure good ventilation and allow plenty of fresh air inside (don’t forget to remove the screens for better airflow.) It’s a good idea to place fans strategically throughout the home for added effect – point them in corners of the rooms or towards doorways and windows to “push” smells out of the house.
Have in mind though that if the smoke smell is strong and pervasive, opening the windows won’t be enough to get the unpleasant odor out of the house – you may need to blow out your home with positive pressure:
- Open the entrance door to your house or apartment and set up a large fan just outside of it, facing inwards;
- Turn the fan on high speed and close all other doors and windows, leaving only one window open for exhaust – this way, fresh air will be forced into the room with the open window and any lingering smoke and smoke odor will be pushed out;
- After blowing out the area for at least 15 minutes, close the window and the door to that particular room and open the window in another room;
- Repeat the process until you have aired all the premises in your house or apartment.
Fresh air will help reduce the smoke smell in your home, but the only way to remove it completely is to clean all the items and household surfaces that have been affected by the smoke.
Deep Clean the House
To get rid of smoke smell after a fire you need to clean every nook and cranny of your property:
1) Remove all curtains, area rugs, furniture covers, decorative cushions, duvets, blankets and any other fabric materials from the affected areas and have them washed or dry cleaned
Needless to say, you need to wash all clothes, towels, and linens that have been exposed to smoke as well. Make sure you store your clean fabric items outside of the home until it is completely free of smoke odor (otherwise they may soak up the smell again).
2) Wash the windows, window screens, and window shades
Wash the windowpanes to restore their transparency and shine, but pay greater attention to the window frames and sills, as well as to the blinds (smoke residue sticks mainly to them, not to the glass). Use a solution of white vinegar and hot water to scrub plastic blinds and specialized wood-friendly products to clean wooden blinds.
Make sure you wash all window screens as well. Place them in a tub or washbasin and use dish soap or shampoo to clean the mesh. Rinse the screens thoroughly with cool water and let them dry in fresh air. If you have used an exhaust fan to air out your home, wash the filter in the same way.
3) Wash all solid surfaces with a solution of dish soap, white vinegar, and warm water
Wipe walls and ceilings, doors and doorframes, baseboards, cabinets (both inside and out), shelves, furniture pieces, and any other surfaces where smoke particles might have settled. Don’t forget to clean light fixtures and light switches as well.
Use the same cleaning solution to mop all uncarpeted floors. Just make sure you rinse the mop under running water after each run. Otherwise, the smoke particles will just float around in the mop bucket and end up back on the floor.
Good to know: When it comes to removing smoke odor from furniture, you may need to use specialized cleaning products in order to achieve success. Make sure you purchase an appropriate cleaner and follow the usage directions strictly. If possible, take the furniture pieces outside on a sunny windy day to dry after the cleaning (the fresh air will help completely eliminate any persistent smells).
4) Clean carpets and upholstery
Smoke particles get embedded deep into the upholstery and carpet fibers, which makes smoke odor very difficult to remove.
Baking soda has proven to yield satisfactory results – just sprinkle some on the upholstery and/or carpet, let it stay for several hours (or even a whole day), so that the soda can absorb the smoke smell, and vacuum the surfaces. Make sure you use a vacuum machine that contains a HEPA filter to prevent the smoke particles from blowing back in the room.
Steam cleaning is even more effective, but you need to be very careful when handling delicate materials, such as leather upholstery or silk carpets, as they can be easily damaged during the cleaning process. It may be a better idea to leave this job to the experts.
In fact, when it comes to removing smoke smell from carpets and upholstery after a house fire, using professional upholstery cleaning services and carpet cleaning services is your safest and most efficient option.
5) Clean the HVAC system
Last but not least, you need to take care of the HVAC system. Smoke can permeate ductwork and linger in the ventilation system, compromising the air quality in your home. Therefore, you need to change the air conditioning filters (as well as any other air filters and furnace filters) as soon after the fire as possible and have the HVAC system inspected to ensure that it hasn’t sustained any damage during the accident. Professional air duct cleaning may also be required to guarantee the good air quality in your living environment.
Using air purifiers and placing bowls of vinegar, ground coffee, or active charcoal around the house can also help refresh the air and reduce the smoke odor in your house. These tactics, however, only mask the smell and can’t remove it (using scented candles or spray deodorizers has the same effect).
Good to remember: If any of your household items are covered in soot, you should not attempt to clean them yourself. It’s strongly recommended to trust them to a professional in order to prevent further damage.
If the smoke smell persists after all your cleaning efforts, you may need to replace some household items and/or materials that have absorbed too much smoke odor to be cleaned effectively (such as blinds, carpets, paint, etc.)
Repaint the Walls
If it is the paint that retains the smoke odor, you’ll have to repaint the walls in order to remove the bad smell from your house after a fire.
- Use cleaning products that contain ammonia or glycol to wash the walls (both substances are very effective when it comes to neutralizing unpleasant smells). Rinse well and let the walls dry completely;
- Apply a primer that is especially designed to lock in odors;
- Use latex paint to finish the job.
If the problem persists or if you’re not up to the above-described smoke smell removal challenge, you should trust the professionals.
Use Professional Smoke Odor Removal Services
Experienced professionals have the expertise and advanced equipment (such as nano filters, air scrubbers, ozone generators, hydroxyl technology, etc.) required to completely remove smoke odor after a fire. They will use safe and efficient odor removal techniques and appropriate cleaning products to achieve the best possible results. Your home will smell nice and fresh once again and you’ll be finally able to forget that the fire ever happened.