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What Is Smoke Damage and Can You Clean It Yourself

If you’ve ever forgotten to clean out your dryer lint, accidentally charred a meal on the stovetop, or left something in the oven a little longer than you meant to, you’ve probably experienced the negative effects of smoke damage. Stained fabrics, damaged items, and a lingering smell are all products of this kind of damage.

But as easy as it is to picture roaring flames eating up precious clothing or important documents, we rarely stop to think about what can happen far away from where a fire spreads. Even in a small, contained house fire that is put out by a homeowner, smoke damage affects your belongings. This leaves many homeowners scratching their heads and wondering just how to get rid of that pesky smell.

So, what exactly is smoke damage, and can you clean it yourself?

What is Smoke Damage?

Before we talk about how to clean smoke damage, we first have to talk a little bit about what smoke damage is and why it can be so hard to remove. Smoke is a combination of gaseous particles released when materials reach a certain temperature. When something starts to burn, solid particles, liquid particles, and gases are all released into the air.

When all these mix together, it creates smoke. Some of these particles, like soot, can stain fabrics and other soft contents. Smoke and soot can travel through your home and reach areas that the fire never does, damaging goods that were otherwise left untouched.

Fires can reach a temperature of 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit, which can cause nearby materials like paper and wood to burst into flames even when they are untouched from the actual fire. But one lesser-known consequence of this rise in heat is the way that it “opens up” the materials in your home.

When materials in your home heat up, they also expand, and this expansion stretches open pores of materials like wood, drywall, rubber, plastic, and even soft contents. As smoke and soot travel through the air, they fit into these little pores. When your materials finally cool, and the pores shrink back to their normal size, smoke and soot gets trapped inside.

This is what makes cleaning smoke damage so difficult. In order to fully clean your items, you have to reopen those pores to get rid of the smoke and soot particles inside. Opening up closed pores in materials is not something that traditional cleaners of any kind can accomplish.

Even Small Fires Cause Smoke Damage

One of the best ways to avoid smoke damage in your home in the first place, of course, is to learn about the most common causes of fires and make sure you do everything you can to prevent one from starting in the first place. Even small fires cause smoke damage, which may be far more problematic than the fire, itself.

Obviously, you should be careful around open flames. But most fires actually start as stove or grease fires in the kitchen. To avoid this, make sure you’re as careful as possible when you cook, and make sure to always stay with your food while it’s cooking.

There are lots of other ways a fire can start. Even forgetting to clean out your dryer lint trap can start a fire in your home. Christmas might not seem like a time to worry about fires, but Christmas lights and other holiday decorations can be sources of fire risk. Be careful with all kinds of electrical outlets and extension cords. If you see a cord is frayed, or an outlet isn’t working properly, make sure to replace or repair it as soon as you can.

Chemical Sponges and Encapsulating Sealers

There’s no need to panic if something you love has been damaged by smoke. Every fire is different, and you won’t be able to handle all smoke damage by yourself (more on that later), but when your clothing smells smoky, or a fabric is soot-stained from a fire, we want to make sure you have the best tips on how to take care of it.

You can’t always avoid a fire in your home­. Accidents happen. For removing smoke damage and soot from walls, one option is to purchase and use a chemical sponge (basically, just a large, dry sponge). They are quite effective at removing surface soot. Many people think that cleaning with a wet sponge is the best way to take care of smoke damage, but this often leads to smearing and smudging. Because it’s a dry sponge, chemical sponges draw smoke and soot particles into its own pores, cleaning your materials like a giant eraser.

While a chemical sponge removes excess soot from your walls, it isn’t able to get deep enough into the pores to thoroughly clean them. Thankfully, there are other options available for treating smoke damage by yourself. One of the ways you can do this is by buying an encapsulating sealer. This sometimes comes in the form of a smoke-sealing paint that stops smoky smells by sealing off smoke and soot particles inside the pores, and preventing those particles from reaching the air.

What If It’s Too Much to Handle?

Sometimes, there is too much smoke damage for you to handle on your own. That’s where we come in. 1-800 Water Damage uses state-of-the-art technologies to remove smoke damage in the most efficient and effective way possible.

For soft contents cleaning, we use our Esporta wash system to remove all soot and smoke particles. We also have a Fireline Ionizer and Fireline Ultrasonic cleaner, which both work to remove smoke damage from hard contents like plastics, ceramics, and metal. We also recreate heat in your materials to reopen the pores, release all odorous materials, and extract all deeply-embedded smoke and soot from your belongings.

Fires happen all the time, and we want to make sure that you’re able to make the best of a terrible situation. We have access to technologies that many other restoration companies don’t because it either takes up too much space or is too expensive, which means that we clean smoke damage more completely than any other restoration service.

We’re dedicated to returning your home and belongings to their pre-disaster states. By knowing what to look out for to prevent fires and learning things you can do at home to take care of the lingering smell of smoke, we think you’ll be able to live happier, return to life-as-normal, and breathe a little easier.

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