If you ever need to clean up inside your home after a house fire, you will realize that smoke damage makes up a great deal of the damage from a fire. Fire can spread through rooms in your home, consuming flammable materials, but smoke travels to every crevice and corner in your home, attic, and basement. Then, this smoke leaves behind an acrid smell and an oily layer of soot. Here are four steps you should take to clean up your home after a house fire.

Remove Damaged Materials

Because soot and the odor from the fire gets on every surface of your home, you need to combat the smell by removing any burned and melted items. This includes carpeting, furniture, drywall, and wall cabinets. You may need to rent a roll-off dumpster to dispose of fire damaged items. If you leave any fire or smoke damaged items in your home, the smoke smell will remain also.

Saving Damaged Materials

If you are unsure if your kitchen cabinets have been burned below the lacquer finish, test a section of the cabinets before you tear them out. Sand the surface down to the wood below. If the wood underneath is not charred, you will be able to refinish the cabinets and save them. 

Scrape off some of the exterior blistering on a wall to see if only the exterior has been damaged by fire. If so, you can sand down and scrape off any charring on the wall's surface if the interior is not burned. Use a putty knife and fine sandpaper to remove any bubbling, rippling, and other rough damage caused by the fire.

Once you have removed the exterior charring from cabinets or walls, you can prepare their surfaces for a new coating of paint or lacquer. For cabinets, reapply a new oil-based stain and finish it with a coat of lacquer or polyurethane. On walls, you will need to coat the wall with some joint compound. Then, when it is dry, use drywall sanding boards over the entire surface until the surface is smooth. Then, you can repaint the wall with an odor blocking lacquer paint primer, followed by a coat of paint.

Clean the Soiled Surfaces

First, use a vacuum to pull up any loose soot from curtains, appliances, and any other areas it may have accumulated. Next, you will need to clean all the surfaces in your home that are soiled with soot. Because the soot can be oily, you can't successfully use soap and water to clean it up. This would only create a bigger mess on your walls and other surfaces. A mixture of trisodium phosphate and water can clean the soot from hard surfaces.

Wear long pants, a long sleeved shirt, protective goggles, and thick rubber gloves, then mix together:

  • 2 gallons warm water
  • 1/4 cup trisodium phosphate cleaner

Using a scrub brush, scrub the TSP cleaning solution over the soot-soiled surfaces to remove the soot, then wipe it off with a wet rag or sponge.

Clean Your Home's Air

The final step in cleaning up after a home fire is to get rid of the smoke odors from all the hard-to-clean places. This can include your cabinet interiors, home fixtures, ventilation system, and carpeting. You can rent an ozone generator from most tool rental businesses for this step. An ozone generator emits ozone gas that is pumped through your home to penetrate everywhere the fire's smoke has been, eliminating the smoke smell on a molecular level. 

This treatment takes 24 hours and is toxic, so remove your family, plants, and pets from your home while it is being completed. Then, before anyone goes back into your home, you will need to air it out completely for at least 20 minutes.

Use these four steps to clean up your home's interior after a fire. For more information, work with an experienced fire damage restoration company like Central Flood Management Inc

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