Cleaning up after a fire can be difficult, time-consuming, and sometimes even dangerous. However, following a few specific precautions and guidelines can make the process significantly easier. Here are some initial steps that you should take when getting started on fire damage cleanup.
Step 1: Inspect
When cleaning up after a fire, it’s important to begin by determining the extent of the damage. If the fire was a large one, you may want to ask a technician to inspect your property, as they will be able to identify structural damage or other possible dangers. Regardless, you will want to check your property for places and objects that have minimal or no burn damage. If you notice any items that are unscathed, you should put them in a secure, protected place where they won’t become covered in soot as you clean.
Additionally, if the damage to your property is widespread, you may want to make a list of repairs to complete, as doing so will allow you to prioritize the most important projects first.
Step 2: Protect
Be sure to protect yourself! When dealing with fire damage, always wear the appropriate gear, including protective clothes, goggles, and a respirator (if necessary). Make sure the electricity is off if you are going into a wet environment, will do any type of demolition, or if there are exposed wires.
Step 3: Get Rid of Odors and Residue
After you’ve stored away your clean, undamaged belongings, the next step is to start clearing away the odors and residues that remain on your property. Typically, it will be easiest to get rid of smoke and soot at the same time using substances designed to tackle both.
For walls and floors, mix 4-6 tablespoons of tri-sodium phosphate with a cup of bleach or other household cleaner. Be sure to wear rubber gloves while handling this mixture, as both tri-sodium phosphate and bleach can cause skin irritation.
Next, gently scrub the solution across the surfaces that need to be cleaned. Work on one small area at a time, and be sure to rinse the surfaces thoroughly with warm water immediately afterwards.
Additionally, wash ceilings last, and be particularly careful when working on wallpapered areas, as soaking through the paper may cause even more challenges.
Finally, after you’ve rinsed the surfaces, thoroughly dry them to prevent mold and rot from developing.
The tri-sodium phosphate and bleach mixture can also be used to remove soot and smoke from bleachable clothes and other fabrics. For non-bleachable fabric items, utilize cold water with your regular laundry detergent and one tablespoon of vanilla extract.
Steps 4 and 5: Replace and Restore
After inspecting your property, protecting yourself and your belongings, and clearing away smoke and soot, the final major step in cleaning up fire damage is replacing and repairing what you can.
Repainting walls, floors, and ceilings can eliminate the final remnants of smoky odors and soot, though you will want to ensure the surfaces are dry before painting them. Furthermore, while it may feel impossible to restore your property to its previous condition, replacing carpets, appliances, and other personal objects will likely help improve both your property’s appearance and your own sense of closure.
The fire damage cleanup process may be difficult, but it is not impossible, and every small step in the right direction will add up in the end.