How to Remove Smoke Damage From Photos

Brandon Getty

Even a small, quickly contained house fire can cause extensive smoke damage. Anything that isn't turned to ash or severely charred by the fire will likely be covered in a film of sooty residue. After a disaster of this sort, most people cling to emotionally significant items such as pictures and photo albums.

Smoke damage can leave a layer of soot over your prized photographs.

While most mild smoke damage can be removed from photographs using simple household materials, severe cases should be treated by a restoration professional.


Ensure that your work area is well-ventilated to prevent inhalation of lingering smoke fumes.

  1. Handle all photographic items with a pair of latex gloves. Using bare hands may result in additional smudging and fingerprint damage.

  2. Brush away surface soot from the front and back of all affected prints with a soft-bristled brush. Use a light, gentle touch when brushing away the soot.

  3. Remove tough patches of soot or any burned-on material using the edge of a dry sponge.

  4. Mix one cup of warm water and several drops of mild dish soap.

  5. Saturate a microfiber cloth with the mixture and then wring out excess moisture. Use the cloth to clean picture frames and photo album jackets. Rinse and remoisten the cloth as needed.

  6. Place an open box of baking soda in a large plastic bag. Set the photographs inside the bag next to the box and tie the bag shut for two days to remove smoke odors.