smoke and soot damage from fire

Asked May 8, 2013, 10:08 AM EDT

Last night my daughter had a kitchen fire in her apartment that left smoke and soot damage. The smoke smell has permeated her clothes and all her belongings. Is there any home remedy for laundering, or must all the clothing get professional dry cleaning? What about leather shoes and handbags?

Rockland County New York disasters clean-up and recovery after the fire disaster disaster recovery

1 Response

I found a few publications that might be helpful and talked to some faculty in the Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design here at Cornell University. The general recommendations are as follows:

  • If your daughter has rental insurance, she could check to see whether that can assist with any major cleaning costs.
  • Get as much ventilation as possible. Avoid using perfume sprays; at best they will temporarily cover the problem, but they might add to the problem.
  • Use odor absorbers such as baking soda or activated charcoal to help remove the smell from the air.
  • Talk to a professional carpet or rug cleaner about cleaning rugs, curtains, upholstery, and walls.
  • Soot is a greasy substance, so be careful not to spread the stains. There are specific instructions about vacuuming loose soot and treating soot stains in textiles in the publications below.
  • Dry cleaning should be used where it is already recommended on the label, but for other fabrics, regular washing will probably be better.
  • For regular laundry, soaking the clothes with an odor remover first might help, as may adding one to the wash cycle. It might take a couple of wash cycles for smoke smells to come out completely. Until the smoke smell has dissipated, hang clothes to dry (where possible) rather than using a heated dryer.
Resources:
University of Missouri Extension: After the Fire is Out: Cleaning Household Textiles and Clothing; http://extension.missouri.edu/p/GH145. (There is a printer friendly version if you click in the upper left corner of the page.)

Univeristy of Florida Extension: "Handling Smoke Damage after a Fire—Getting Soot and Smoke Out"; http://disaster.ifas.ufl.edu/pdfs/chap13/d13-17.pdf.

Texas A&M Extension: "How to Remove Smoke Smell from a Home"; http://texashelp.tamu.edu/004-natural/pdfs/how-to-remove-smoke-smell-from-a-home.pdf.

Iowa State Extension: "Quick N' Easy Stain Removal"; http://www.extension.iastate.edu/publications/pm858.pdf
(smoke and soot on page 6).

Cornell University FSAD: "Removing Stains at Home"; http://www.human.cornell.edu/fsad/outreach/upload/removingstains.pdf
(very detailed instructions for problem stains; soot is classified with grease stains).