How to Clean Up After a Fire – Basic Tips to Help Get your Home Back to Normal
Once the blaze is out and the firefighters have left, you will have to decide quickly whether
or not you can do the clean-up work yourself. If the damage appears extensive, leave everything as is. Then call
your insurance agent immediately so the damage can be documented and professionally repaired. But if the fire was
limited to one room and damage is minimal, you can probably proceed on your own.
1. Use a shop vacuum to remove the dry soot and any chemical residue left from fire extinguishers.
2. Open windows and doors so fresh air can circulate through the house and dissipate the smell
of smoke. Use a room deodorizer to mask the smell until it’s gone.
3. Clothing, carpets and other furnishings might require professional cleaning to eliminate the
4. Dry-cleaning sponges are ideal for removing loose soot particles from latex paint, blown ceilings
and acoustic tiles. They’re available through cleaning and paint supply outlets for about $5. Do not use household
cleaners on these surfaces. The sponge should be used dry. Wipe the ceiling first, since debris tends to drop downward.
Then work on the walls, moving from top to bottom using straight, parallel strokes that overlap. When the surface
of the sponge becomes sooty, simply skim it off with a knife to give the sponge a new cleaning surface. Dry-cleaning
sponges aren’t recommended for oil-based paint, acrylic paint or vinyl wallpaper, or for removing the greasy soot
sometimes left by kitchen fires.
5. Instead, use a regular sponge and pine-scented cleaner. Be sure to remove all the soot. The
more you get rid of, the faster the smoke smell will dissipate.
6. Even if the damage is heavy and you have filed a claim with your insurance company, you’ll
still have a mess on your hands. Fortunately, there are services that specialize in post fire cleanup work. Check
the yellow pages, under “Fire & Water Damage Restoration.” You can also contact several organizations
that provide references.
7. Professionals are especially skilled at eliminating the smoky odor that lingers after a fire.
Their cleanup arsenal includes ozone generators and special deodorizing chemicals unavailable to consumers.
8. After a serious fire, you might have to move out of the house during cleanup and repairs.
If so, be sure to board up broken windows and other holes. Remove any valuables you can. Consider hiring a security
service to keep an eye on your home.