The clean up

One of the major complaints from home owners living immediately downwind of, or near the B’s Recycling fire site, was the lack of information available, or receiving any restoration assistance in mitigating the toxic smoke damage to the homes affected by the fire.

This cleaning process after a fire can be a very challenging task, and without professional help or access to appropriate technical information, attempting to clean toxic smoke damage on your own can truly be a nightmare.

We have been following all of the personal tragedy stories related to the fire; however, we have not seen any assistance offered to help residents in completing this task. While it can be confidently said that with the extinguishing of the fire, fickle public attention will now switch to the next new drama that is unfolding on the horizon, the residents who continue to live in the area still need some solutions to their questions — and cleaning their smoke damaged homes is still a high priority for the home owner.

With this in mind, the following tips are offered as a possible solution to the outcry for information on cleaning their homes. Air should be circulated throughout the home during the smoke damage cleaning process with the help of fans and open windows, if possible. A dehumidifier should be used as well.

Glass surfaces should be cleaned using a combination of dishwashing soap and water and then a plain water rinse. Brass and copper items must be removed and cleaned during smoke damage restoration, as they can be irreparably etched by the smoke in just 24 hours.

Toxic soot removal is a major task in smoke damage cleanup. Toxic soot can stain textiles, carpets and other items, and its oiliness makes it tenacious. A professional smoke restoration service might be able to remove soot using a heavy-duty vacuum, where a home use personal vacuum cleaner may not be enough.

Smoke damage also produces an acrid smoke odour in clothes and fabrics, which must be taken care of during smoke damage removal. A smoke damage cleanup service may be consulted about applying counteractants that can remove smoke odour. The counteractant may be applied by a smoke damage removal professional to furniture, carpets and draperies. An ozone treatment, professionally applied, might also be necessary to eliminate persistent smoke odours.

Most household deodorising sprays and disinfectants that are marketed to repair smoke damage provide only temporary relief from the problem. In fact, some deodorising sprays might even react with the smoke, producing further odours. If clothing or textiles cannot be professionally treated during smoke damage cleanup, the following steps might come in handy:

Mix one cup of dishwashing detergent with a gallon of warm water. Check to make sure that the dishwashing liquid does not contain any percentages of a corrosive — chlorine-based products will apply to this category. Completely submerge the affected items and allow them to soak all night in the washing machine. The next day, they can be drained and laundered as usual.

For bleachable items, 4 to 6 tablespoons of Trisodium Phosphate can be mixed with 1 cup of Lysol or household bleach and a gallon of water. Add the clothes, rinse with clear water and dry. Trisodium phosphate is a cleaning agent, lubricant, food additive, stain remover and degreaser. It is a white, granular or crystalline solid, highly soluble in water producing an alkaline solution.

The next step in the smoke damage removal process is cleaning household linens and textiles. Non-washable clothes should be taken to a dry cleaner for traditional or special dry cleaning. Regular clothing must be washed in warm water using a liquid detergent. Carpets need to be cleaned twice, both before and after smoke damage cleanup. Wash out ash, dust particles, and any light weight airborne debris as soon as possible with a hose for patios and other external areas; and mop cloth or sponge for the inside. Start cleaning from the top floor or upper limit of toxic smoke contamination and work downward. It is recommended that all bedrooms and bathrooms be the priority rooms.

Temporarily remove wallboard, plaster and panelling where ever possible to allow for ventilation of the inner walls. Wallboard and other wall panelling acts like a sponge when reacting to smoke vapours. Plaster usually does not need to be replaced, though it will have to be cleaned.

Some panelling may have to be replaced if the saturation persists after cleaning. To remove surface contamination on walls or ceilings, use a mildew surface cleaner (available at paint stores) or: scrub the area with household detergent, then scrub with a solution of a quarter of a cup chlorine bleach to one quart water. Rinse well with clean water. Once fully dry, if there is any discolouration of the surface, you may consider applying a coat of paint. To remove surface contamination on floors and woodwork, use a phosphate cleaning solution such as powdered automatic dishwashing detergent available in hardware stores. Rinse thoroughly with water, and allowed to dry.

Another important step in repairing smoke damage is cleaning smoke damaged walls. Smoke damaged walls may have soot stains, which have to be cleaned and removed. Be prepared to let smoke damaged walls, ceilings and floors retain an odour for several weeks if cleaning is not done. A chemical sponge from a cleaning company should be able to remove the soot.

Alternately, paint thinner and alcohol may be used to clean smoke damaged walls, but caution is required due to the potentially toxic fumes that will result from the combination. Rubber gloves are a must, and windows must be fully opened to provide proper ventilation during the process.

Smoke damage restoration requires removing the odour of smoke completely from the house, as smoke permeates walls and can even become permanently trapped. Additionally, attics, if you home has an attic, will retain high quantities of smoky vapours, and therefore must be ventilated immediately that has retained a good deal of smoke may need to be replaced. A process known as thermal fogging can be done by smoke damage removal professionals to completely neutralise the smoke odours. Thermal fogging uses a special solvent-based deodoriser that is heated and applied as a dry fog. This makes it easier to use and is safer on most surfaces than a water based deodoriser, and it is far more effective against nearly all odours.

If restoration work is matter of personal urgency rather than allowing for a natural process, there are some alternatives that may be used to speed up the process. If correctly done, self inflicted structural damage to your home during cleaning may not occur, and therefore the need to repaint walls or replace new wall coverings will become unnecessary. Caution must be taken when cleaning walls, inner ceilings, floors and windows, to reduce or avert any discomfort or illness to family members who have allergies.

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