How to Remove Smoke Damage

Smoke damage caused by a fire can be devastating, and affect your carpeting, paint, walls and family belongings with soot, soiling, acid deposits and odors.

Large areas of damage may need to be treated by a professional restoration company, but for smaller fires, you may be able to remove smoke damage from your home and belongings by cleaning and airing out your home. Be sure to unplug all appliances that may be damaged by the fire and have them checked by a professional before returning them to use.

Protect yourself by wearing gloves, a facial mask and goggles. Use a powerful canister-style vacuum to clean off excess soot from walls, materials and surfaces before performing any other cleaning. Do not use brushes, beater bars or other attachments on materials such as drapes or carpeting as this can further push the soiling into the materials you are trying to clean. Hold the vacuum nozzle above these areas to suck off the excess soot.

Have your carpeting professionally cleaned both before and after you finish removing the smoke damage from walls and fixtures. The first cleaning will aid in keeping the soot from becoming ground into the carpet fibers while you are working to remove the rest of the damage in the home.

Follow up by cleaning porous surfaces with the use of a dry chemical sponge. Remove blackened soot stains with the sponge beginning at the top of the surface or structure and working your way down. If damage is severe enough to require repainting, you can skip the dry sponge cleaning on walls and go directly to the next step.

Choose a cleanser containing either trisodium phosphate (TSP-type cleaner) or a multi-purpose cleaning concentrate that contains an odor remover. See the Resources section for professional strength cleansers made for smoke damage removal. Add one tablespoon of the powdered trisodium phosphate to a gallon of warm water, or follow the manufacturer's directions on your multi-purpose concentrated cleanser for dilution.

Fill up a second bucket with warm water to rinse the sponge in. Begin cleaning surfaces from top to bottom with the cleanser, rinsing out in the clean water and reinserting the sponge into the cleaning solution as you go over walls and windows. Periodically dump out the clean water and refill bucket.

Do not overly saturate walls and surfaces with water. Scrub and repeat over surfaces until the soot residue is removed. Dry off areas with clean terrycloth towels as you move over to another section. You may follow up the application of trisodium phosphate with a simple vinegar and warm water solution to aid in odor removal or a disinfecting cleanser containing orange oil.

Wash any clothing or other washable materials by soaking them first in a deodorizing solution such as vinegar and water or a professional solution recommended for smoke damage. Use three cups of vinegar to plain water in the washing machine or bathtub and soak overnight. Clothing and other fabric materials may need to be washed as many as five times to remove smoke odors completely.

Air out your home by opening windows, using large fans or using a professional ozone generator, if necessary. Air purifiers that use activated charcoal filter systems are also good for the removal of smoke odors.

Things You Will Need

  • Canister style vacuum
  • Dry chemical sponge
  • Trisodium phosphate cleaner
  • Multi-purpose cleaner with odor remover
  • Large sponges
  • 2 large buckets
  • Warm water
  • Vinegar
  • Orange oil disinfectant cleaner
  • Rubber gloves
  • Goggles
  • Facial mask
  • Clean rags or towels
  • Fans
  • Ozone generator (optional)
  • Air purifier with activated charcoal filter (optional)

About the Author

Abaigeal Quinn works as an international entertainment broker in the United States. She is a former news editor and insurance agent who began writing for a daily newspaper in 1995.