Smoke is a lingering consequence of fire. When the initial fire is extinguished, the peril is far from over. Tiny black soot particles – smoke – lodge into the building’s walls, furniture and HVAC system, spurring widespread hazards: Air quality is reduced; toxic odors permeate the air; and, smoke is flammable and can ignite under the right conditions.
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Smoke particles can be composed of varying toxic elements. When smoke is visible, the darkish haze consists of mostly soot (carbon), oils, tar and ash. In the devastating aftermath of a fire, the incombustible materials left unburned are what people see as smoke – extremely tiny particles that are visible only when they come together. In direct contrast, a fire that burns all combustible materials leaves behind only traces of water and carbon dioxide.
Although difficult to eliminate, smoke odors can be removed with a little knowledge and a lot of concentrated effort.
Open the Windows to Ventilate
Your first instinct may be to clear out the property of smoke by opening the windows. While propping open windows and doors helps, a proper technique is required to pull in clean air:
Close all the doors and windows to the home, leaving only one window and one door open. Place a fan in front of the open door, ensuring the fan blows clean, outside air into the home. Run the fan for 15 minutes. The streams of clean air blow out the smoke through the single open window and circulate fresh air. Repeat this process in every room of the smoke-filled home.
While efficient in reducing smoke odor, this natural method of airing out the premises is likely to require additional cleansing steps for complete odor removal:
Neutralize Odors with Baking Soda
Smoke particles lodge heavily into carpets and furniture. A tried-and-true strategy for defusing powerful smoke smells is to use the household staple, baking soda. Grab a few boxes of baking soda and generously sprinkle the powder on dry carpets and upholstered furniture. Allow the baking soda to sit for several hours or overnight. After 24 hours, vacuum the baking soda from the carpeting, and utilize a hand vacuum or the vacuum’s brush attachment to draw out the baking soda—as well as the odors—from the furniture.
Do Laundry with Vinegar
When smoke particles infiltrate your home, all the linens, blankets, sheets, clothing and curtains will be affected. Smoke smells can be effectively eliminated by doing a few loads of laundry—in a strategic way.
Gather all washable material from the home, and start the wash cycle using your everyday laundry detergent. Once the rinse cycle begins, drop in a cup of vinegar into each wash load to deodorize the affected materials. Or, as a fresh, aromatic boost, add one tablespoon of pure vanilla extract to the wash. Dry clean all non-machine washable goods.
Porous materials, like clothing and linens, easily re-absorb smoke odors. So, keep the freshly washed materials out of the home until the space is completely smoke-free.
Scrub Nonporous Surfaces with Baking Soda
Smoke residue is sticky. The sooty particles latch onto nonporous surfaces, like appliances and countertops. Tackling the gummy mess takes a sponge, a bucket of tepid water and good-old baking soda.
Alternatively, a combination of dish soap and warm water in a bucket can be used to wipe down the cabinets, baseboards, shelving and light fixtures.
Replace the Air Filters
Tiny smoke particles easily waft into the home’s HVAC system and lodge there. Homeowners should take care to replace the air conditioning filter and furnace filter as soon as possible after the initial breakout of the fire. A professional should inspect the HVAC unit. Alternately, you may hire a licensed air duct cleaning company to check the ventilation system for damage. Technicians will clean out the system to ensure clean, quality air circulates throughout your home every time the HVAC is in use.
Repaint the Walls
Smoke particles can permeate painted walls, leaving the structures emanating foul odors. Clean the smoke-saturated walls with mild detergent or soap. Work from the baseboards upwards to avoid streaking. Rinse the walls with clean water. An additional yet helpful step is to wipe down the walls with one cup bleach and a half gallon of water, a process that decreases the chances of mold and mildew growth.
The key to reducing mold growth is to ensure the walls are fully dry prior to applying paint. If your home features washable wallpaper, these smoke-affected materials can be washed in a similar fashion. However, be careful to prevent soaking the wallpaper through with water.
Set Out Vinegar or Coffee Grounds
Like baking soda, vinegar absorbs odors. As a final step to deodorizing your home from unpleasant smoke smells, place bowls of vinegar in various rooms of the property. Unused coffee grounds and charcoal function equally well to absorb and reduce smoke odors.
Professional Smoke and Odor Removal
When your property is saturated with foul smoke odors for any length of time, turn to smoke odor removal and deodorization professionals, like ServiceMaster of National Capital Restoration. Our trained technicians eliminate odors at the molecular level, using proven techniques. We routinely run hydroxyl generators, air scrubbers and ozone generators, among other technology, to dislodge smoke particles and remove the resulting odors.
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Smoke is not the only cause of unpleasant smells in a home or business. ServiceMaster NCR has successfully eliminated odors caused by sewage, fuel oil, decayed waste and animals, like skunks.
ServiceMaster NCR will arrive onsite to evaluate the odor issue and offer a smoke odor removal proposal to return your property to a habitable, comfortable and odor-free state.
Whether you are experiencing smoke odors or foul smells of any kind within your residential or commercial property, ServiceMaster NCR is standing by with a reliable team of specialists who are ready to tackle your living and working environment with speed, professionalism and efficiency. ServiceMaster NCR serves the Alexandria, Virginia, and Washington, DC communities of residences and businesses.