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How to Clean Smoke Damage After a Fire


Few people realise just how dangerous a fire can be. It’s not just the flames you have to watch out for. Smoke harms more people than fire, and smoke damage can prove hazardous for long after the fire’s finally been extinguished.

Smoke damage after a house fire is the damage caused by the smoke and soot that is left behind. Even small fires can produce a large amount of smoke, which can cause a range of damage to a building and its contents. The visible signs of smoke damage can include discoloration, soot, and a smoky odor.

In addition to the visible damage, smoke damage can also cause health problems such as respiratory issues, headaches, and nausea. Smoke damage can also weaken structural components of a building, such as wood and metal, which can compromise the safety of the building.

This guide will provide you with some tips on what to do in the aftermath of a fire. It’ll explain the risks of smoke damage before offering advice on how to spot it, and how to clean it.

The Dangers of Smoke Damage

Smoke damage can ruin your furniture, curtains, and upholstery. Anything in your home that gets damaged will likely have to be replaced. But that’s the least of your worries.

Smoke can leave an acidic film on surfaces which, if left untreated, can have a corrosive effect. So should your floors and walls get damaged by smoke and you fail to take appropriate action, the very structural integrity of your home may become compromised.

But apart from that, smoke damage causes discoloration and leaves a lingering odour. Smoke damaged houses aren’t the most pleasant of places.

Smoke damage is not only unsightly but can also pose serious health risks to individuals. Here are some of the dangers of smoke damage:

  • Respiratory problems: Smoke contains a mixture of chemicals, gases, and particles that can cause respiratory problems such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Prolonged exposure to smoke can also increase the risk of developing asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory conditions.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning: Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced by fires. Inhaling carbon monoxide can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and even death in extreme cases.
  • Irritation to eyes and skin: Smoke can cause irritation to the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes. This can result in redness, itching, and irritation, as well as other health problems if exposure is prolonged.
  • Increased risk of cancer: Some of the chemicals found in smoke, such as benzene, formaldehyde, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), are known carcinogens that can increase the risk of cancer.
  • Structural damage: Smoke can also cause structural damage to buildings, including corrosion of metal components and weakening of wooden structures.

It is important to take smoke damage seriously and take steps to address it as soon as possible to minimise the health risks and prevent further damage to the property.

How to Spot Smoke Damage

Different types of fire cause different types of smoke damage. But as a general rule, you should look for discoloration and an acrid film. If any of your surfaces are covered by such a film, don’t touch them. The film is acidic and potentially harmful, but it will also react with the oils on your fingers, which can cause even further damage.

Smoke damage can be easy or difficult to spot, depending on the severity of the fire and the extent of the damage. Here are some signs to look for when checking for smoke damage:

  • Discoloration: Smoke can leave a black, brown, or yellowish discoloration on walls, ceilings, and other surfaces. This discoloration may be accompanied by a smoky odor.
  • Soot: Soot is a black, powdery substance that is left behind by smoke. It can be found on surfaces such as walls, ceilings, and furniture.
  • Damaged or corroded surfaces: Smoke can corrode metal surfaces and cause wood to warp or weaken. Check metal components, appliances, and furniture for signs of corrosion or discoloration.
  • Health problems: Smoke damage can cause respiratory problems, headaches, and other health issues. If you or someone else in the building is experiencing these symptoms, it may be a sign of smoke damage.
  • Lingering odor: Smoke can leave a lingering odor even after the visible damage has been cleaned up. If you notice a smoky smell that persists, it may be a sign of smoke damage.

It’s important to address smoke damage as soon as possible to prevent further damage and health risks.

How to Clean Smoke Damage

Don’t take any action before it’s safe to re-enter your home. For some tips on how to prevent a fire from breaking out in the home, read our fire safety checklist.

Cleaning smoke damage after a fire can be a daunting task, but it’s important to act quickly in order to prevent further damage and ensure the safety of your home or business. Don’t take any action before it’s safe to re-enter your home.

Cleaning smoke damage can be dangerous. Certain cleaning products can react with the smoke residue, creating harmful fumes that can damage your lungs if inhaled. Professionals will know how to act to prevent damage, and they’ll have the necessary gear to protect themselves. It’s simply not worth taking the risk yourself.

Smoke damage is difficult and extremely unpleasant to clean, and the cleaning process will vary depending on the surface and material you’re treating. It’s advisable to get in professional cleaners, but in the interim, here are some steps to follow:

  • Safety first: Before you start cleaning, make sure that the building is safe to enter. If you have any doubts, wait until a professional has assessed the situation.
  • Ventilate the area: Open windows and doors to allow fresh air to circulate and help clear the residual smoke while reducing the unpleasant odors.
  • Remove debris: If there is any debris or ash left behind, use a vacuum cleaner or a broom to remove it. Be careful not to spread it around.
  • Clean walls and ceilings: Smoke can leave stains on walls and ceilings. Use a sponge or a cleaning solution to clean them. Be sure to test the solution on a small area first to make sure it doesn’t cause further damage.
  • Clean floors: If the floors are made of tile, linoleum, or other non-porous materials, you can clean them with a mop and cleaning solution. For carpets and rugs, it’s best to call a professional cleaner.
  • Clean fabrics: Smoke can also leave a smell on fabrics such as curtains, upholstery, and bedding. Wash them in a washing machine with a cup of white vinegar to help remove the smell.
  • Clean HVAC system: Smoke can get into your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system. Be sure to change the filters and clean the ducts to prevent further spread of the smoke smell.
  • Call professionals: If the smoke damage is extensive, it’s best to call a professional cleaning service. They have the experience, equipment, and cleaning solutions to remove smoke damage safely and effectively.

Remember to document any damage with photographs and contact your insurance company to see what coverage you have.

How a Harris Balcombe loss assessor can help you in this situation:

Dealing with smoke damage insurance claims is often a painstaking process that can be emotionally and financially draining. We are here to help.

When you make a fire and smoke damage claim, insurers will appoint a loss adjuster who will scrutinise your situation to find any grounds for them to pay you as little as possible, or even reject liability. They will use a team of trained professionals that may include a forensic scientist, who will aim to uncover any issues that may invalidate your claim.

This experience can often increase the stress you are already under and prolong the period you are out of your home. That’s where our expert team of loss assessors, surveyors and other contractors come in. We have a huge amount of experience negotiating with insurance companies on behalf of claimants, so you can be confident we will get you a fair outcome.

In addition, as part of our comprehensive surface, Harris Balcombe’s loss assessors will source trustworthy contractors to take care of all required renovations on your behalf. We’ll then supervise them throughout the process to ensure they carry out their work to the best possible standards. Our expertise covers the following areas:

  • Organising emergency works to secure your property and protect it from further damage.
  • Coordinating your insurer and their loss adjusters to make sure you get the settlement that you are entitled to, whether that’s reinstatement or cash.
  • Ensuring that disaster cleaning companies do a safe and thorough job.
  • Dealing with all aspects of your claim from start to finish, including any paperwork that needs to meet certain standards.
  • Scrutinising your policy wording and advising you on any issues relating to compliance with warranties and conditions that may affect liability.
  • Getting insurers to accept liability as quickly as possible, so that we can generate immediate interim payments to help you maintain your cash flow.

Identifying the full extent of the damage and uncovering any invisible aspects that could lead to long term problems.




At this point, you would hope that your insurance company is there to help but unfortunately this is not the case. We have known families who have felt intimidated by insurers and have been treated as though they have done something wrong, or are in some way to blame for their situation.

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