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Recovering from Tragedy: How to Get Rid of the Smoke Smell After a Fire


how to get rid of fire smoke smell

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) there are over 358,000 home structure fires each year. For homeowners who are allowed to return to and live in their home, there’s good news and bad news. Their home is salvageable, but it reeks of smoke and fire damage.

Completely removing the smell of smoke after a fire is a daunting task, but it’s not impossible. Read on to learn how to get rid of the fire/smoke smell and make your home’s air quality fresh again.

What Makes Smoke Smell So Hard to Remove?

Before we get into these DIY steps, it’s important to note that successful smoke smell removal depends on a few factors. How large the fire was, for example, can make a difference as a bigger fire produces more smoke.

Any odorous materials that burned in the fire, such as plastics, can make removing the smell tougher. Smoke gets easily absorbed by fabric such as drapes, furniture and carpeting so the process will include cleaning these materials and everything that was exposed to it.

Why does smoke seem to permeate everything it comes into contact with? Smoke particles are very tiny which allows them to penetrate all kinds of surfaces. One wood smoke particle is actually tinier than bacteria, a red blood cell, and talcum powder.

A Special Word About Soot

If you have any kind of soot lingering in your home, you should leave the clean-up to a professional restoration company. Soot can be very dangerous, particularly if it contains residue from chemicals, plastics, and other caustic materials that have burned.

The cleaning steps below should help to remove most of the lingering smoke odor in your home.

Air Your Home

Airing out and circulating fresh air into your home is one of the best ways to start flushing smoke particles from your living areas. Open all windows and doors, be sure to remove any screens. Set a few fans on high and aim them at the room’s corners to help direct smoke particles outside.

Air purification fans can definitely help absorb smoke particles, although you may want to buy some replacement filters ahead of time to help the fans do their job properly during the clean-up process.

Clean All Fabric Items

Fabric soaks up smoke like a sponge, so you want to wash all clothing, drapes, furniture covers, pillows, linens, area rugs, blankets, and anything else made of woven material. Wash or dry clean according to the directions on the label.

All cleaned woven items should be kept away from your home until it’s been completely eradicated of smoke particles and odor. This will prevent them from reabsorbing the odor.

Have Your Upholstery Cleaned

Fabric covered furniture obviously can’t be put in the washer, but you will still need to clean all upholstery to get rid of the lingering smoke smell. An added benefit of cleaning your upholstery following a fire is it will prolong its beauty and condition.

It’s generally recommended to use a professional upholstery cleaning service for this task and again, keep pieces in storage or completely covered in plastic to keep them fresh until your home is clean.

How to Get Rid of the Fire/Smoke Smell in Carpeting

Smoke particles often make their way deep into carpeting, including the carpet fibers.

One of the best ways to eliminate the odor is with baking soda. Liberally sprinkle baking soda over the carpet and let it sit for several hours, preferably overnight. Vacuum thoroughly using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA-filter.

You can also steam clean your carpeting. If neither of these techniques work, it’s time to contact a professional for a deep cleaning. You may need to have the carpeting replaced if the smell cannot be completely removed.

Clean All Hard Surfaces

It may not seem that hard surfaces such as appliances, countertops, windowsills, and even screens could harbor smoke particles. However, you will need to give your entire home a deep cleaning to get rid of the smoke smell, and that means washing all solid areas.

Even your doors, cabinets, walls, and floors can retain smoke.

Make a cleaning solution consisting of a gallon of warm water, a half cup of distilled white vinegar, and a teaspoon of dishwashing soap or shampoo. For wooden objects such as blinds, you may want to purchase a cleanser formulated to clean wood.

You can add your cleaning solution to a spray bottle for easier application. Spray on all hard surfaces that were exposed to smoke and wipe away with a soft cloth or sponge.

Mop your hard floors using the cleaning solution and rinse the mop with fresh water in between mopping to flush smoke particles down the sink.

Remove the screens from your windows and wash them outside or in the bathtub using dish soap. Every square inch of your windows should be cleaned as well, including the frames and corners. Lamps and lighting will need to be wiped down as well.

This is by far the most time-consuming step. The best way to tackle this job is to focus on thoroughly cleaning all surfaces in one room at a time.

Change Your Air Conditioning Filter

In addition to cleaning every surface area of your home, you will also want to put a fresh filter in your air conditioning unit. If you have an HVAC or ventilation system, this will need to be inspected and cleaned by a professional.

Air duct cleaning is really important to help rid any lingering smoke particles and keep the air healthy and fresh for all occupants.

We Can Help with Fire & Smoke Odor Removal

If you follow these steps and discover the odor is still hanging around or the smoke damage is too overwhelming, it’s time to call a professional for help.

For decades, we have helped homeowners and business owners restore their property following a fire. Contact us for immediate service.