After A Fire - Helpful Resources

What to do after a fire 

WHAT ABOUT ODORS? Sometimes there is a residual smoke odor from a small fire that is annoying and lingering. Short of a good cleaning of everything in the house, you can place saucers of household vanilla, vinegar, or activated charcoal about your home to help absorb these odors. Remember that the smoke odor is also inside the heating and cooling ductwork and you get a fresh blast every time your air system is turned on. If insured, consult your insurance company for assistance. If the odor does not go away in about a week, you may, and probably should, call a janitorial supply or cleaning service specializing in restoration of fire damaged property (refer to your yellow pages or search the internet, under Fire & Water Damage Restoration). They have the equipment to scrub out the ductwork and deodorize everything in the house.  

GENERAL CLEANING/SALVAGE TIPS: If insured, contact your insurance company. Professional fire and water damage restoration businesses may be the best source of cleaning and restoring your personal belongings. Companies offering this service can be located in the phone directory. If you are going to do the work yourself, here are some tips you might want to consider: 1. Vacuum all surfaces. 2. Change and clean air conditioner/heater filters. 3. Seal off the room in which you are working with plastic wrap to keep soot from moving from one location to another. Try to keep windows closed.  

SPECIFIC CLEANING/SALVAGE TIPS: First a word of caution before you begin: test garments before using any treatment, and follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully. Several of the cleaning mixtures described in this section contain the substance Tri-Sodium Phosphate. This substance can be purchased under the generic name TSP in paint and hardware stores. Tri-Sodium Phosphate is a caustic substance used commonly as a cleaning agent.  

It should be used with care and stored out of reach of children and pets. Wear rubber gloves when using if you have sensitive skin. Read the instructions for complete details. Also, do NOT use gasoline for cleaning and do NOT mix ammonia with bleach.   

Clothing: Smoke odor and soot can sometimes be washed from clothing. The following formula may work for clothing that can be bleached: * 4 to 6 tbsp. Tri-Sodium Phosphate * 1 cup household cleaner or chlorine bleach * 1 gallon warm water * Mix well, add clothes, rinse with clear water. Dry thoroughly. An effective way to remove mildew from clothing is to wash the fresh stain with soap and warm water, rinse, and then dry in the sun. If the stain has not disappeared, use lemon juice and salt, or a diluted solution of household chlorine bleach. Should you have any questions about the cleaning or preparation of clothing, it is wise to contact a cleaning service. Take wool, silk, or rayon garments to the dry cleaners as soon as possible.  

Cooking Utensils: Your pots, pans, flatware, etc. should be washed with soapy water, rinsed and then polished with a fine-powdered cleaner. You can polish copper and brass with special polish, salt sprinkled on a piece of lemon, or salt sprinkled on a cloth saturated in vinegar.  

Electrical Appliances: Do not operate wet appliances that have been exposed to water or steam until you have had a service technician check them. This is especially true of electrical appliances. In addition, steam can remove the lubricant from some moving parts. If the fire department turned off your gas or power during the fire, call the electric or gas company to restore these services - do not try to do it yourself.  

Food and Other Perishables: Any food, beverages and/or medicines exposed to heat or smoke should not be consumed.  If food was in tightly closed or sealed containers, or in airtight refrigerators or freezers, they may be salvageable. It is cheaper to replace the material than to jeopardize your health by taking a chance. If in doubt, throw it out! To remove odor from your refrigerator or freezer, wash the inside with a solution of baking soda and water, or use one cup of vinegar or household ammonia to one gallon of water.  Baking soda in an open container or a piece of charcoal can also be placed in the refrigerator or freezer to absorb odor.  

Medicines: Prescription drugs can change strength by exposure to heat. Please check with your doctor first before taking these medicines.  

Rugs and Carpets: Rugs and carpets should be allowed to dry thoroughly. Throw rugs can be cleaned by beating, sweeping, or vacuuming, and then shampooing. Rugs should be dried as quickly as possible - lay them flat and expose them to a circulation of warm, dry air. A fan turned on the rugs will speed drying. Make sure the rugs are thoroughly dry. Even though the surface seems dry, moisture remaining at the base of the tufts can quickly cause the rug to rot. For more information on cleaning and preserving carpets, call your carpet dealer or installer or a qualified carpet cleaning professional.  

Leather and Books: Wipe leather goods with a damp cloth, then a dry cloth. Stuff purses and shoes with newspaper to retain shape. Leave suitcases open. Leather goods should be dried away from heat and sun. When leather goods are dry, clean with saddle soap. Rinse leather and suede jackets in cold water and dry away from heat and sun. Wet books can be taken care of as soon as possible. The best method to save wet books is to freeze them in a vacuum freezer. This special freezer will remove the moisture without damaging the pages. If there is a delay in locating such a freezer, then place them in a normal freezer until a vacuum freezer can be located. A local librarian can also be a good resource.  

Locks and Hinges: Locks (especially iron locks) should be taken apart, wiped with oil. If locks cannot be removed, squirt machine oil through a bolt opening or keyhole and work the knob to distribute the oil. Hinges should also be thoroughly cleaned and oiled.  

Walls, Floors and Furniture: To remove soot and smoke from walls, furniture and floors, use a mild soap or detergent, or mix together the following solution: * 4 to 6 tbsp. Tri-Sodium Phosphate * 1 cup household cleaner or chlorine bleach * 1 gallon warm water. Wear rubber gloves and goggles while working with this solution. Be sure to rinse your walls and furniture with clear, warm water and dry thoroughly after washing them with this solution. Wash a small area at one time, working from the floor up. Then rinse the wall with clear water immediately. Ceilings should be washed last. Do not repaint until walls and ceilings are completely dry. Your wallpaper can also be repaired. Use a commercial paste to re-paste a loose edge or section. Contact your wallpaper dealer or installer for information on wallpaper cleaners. Washable wallpaper can be cleansed like any ordinary wall, but care must be taken not to soak the paper. Work from bottom to top to prevent streaking.  

Wood Furniture: * Do not dry your furniture in the sun. The wood will warp and twist out of shape. * Clear off mud and dirt. * Remove drawers. Let them dry thoroughly so there will be no sticking when you replace them. * Scrub wood furniture or fixtures with a stiff brush and a cleaning solution. * Wet wood can decay and mold, so dry thoroughly. Open doors and windows for good ventilation. Turn on your furnace or air conditioner, if necessary. * If mold forms, wipe the wood with a cloth soaked in a mixture of borax dissolved in hot water. * To remove white spots or film, rub the wood surface with a cloth soaked in a solution of 1/2 cup household ammonia and 1/2 cup water. Then wipe the surface dry and polish with wax or rub the surface with a cloth soaked in a solution of 1/2 cup turpentine and 1/2 cup linseed oil. Be careful - turpentine is combustible. * A very inexpensive product, oil soap, (readily available in hardware and grocery stores) is a most efficient product to use on wood, including kitchen cabinets. * You can also rub the wood surface with a fine grade steel wool pad dripped in liquid polishing wax, clean the area with a soft cloth and then buff.   

Agencies available to assist you: 

American Red Cross

 Community Action Center

St. Vincent DePaul

Rice County Area United Way

Goodwill of Faribault

Professional Cleaning Agencies:

CCS Cleaning and Restoration

 Bauer Restoration


Restoration Professionals

 Coit Cleaning and Restoration

Anytime Restoration