Understanding Smoke Damage: Types and Cleaning Methods

types of smoke damage

Smoke damage can be unsightly and harmful to your health. If you have smoke damage in your home, it's important to clean it up as soon as possible. There are several methods that you can use to clean smoke damage, but the most effective method will depend on the severity of the damage. Understanding the different types of smoke damage, effective cleaning methods for walls, ceilings, fittings, furnishings, contents, and the benefits of hiring professional restoration services is crucial for successful restoration. 

In this blog, we will explore these key aspects to equip you with the knowledge necessary to navigate the challenges of smoke damage restoration:

What are the different types of smoke damage, and how do they affect different materials?

Smoke damage can be caused by a variety of sources, including fires, cooking accidents, candles, and even cigarettes. The degree of smoke penetration can vary depending on the source of the smoke, heat, and the length of time the smoke was present. All types of smoke and fire damage can be harmful to your health if inhaled or ingested. Smoke is a complex mixture of toxic gases and particles which are generated from heat or actual fire. The smoke is the result of incomplete combustion. All smoke and heat will particularly affect metallic and glass surfaces and fittings, as smoke particles are magnetised and carry electrical charges; therefore, restoring quickly is a priority to prevent pitting and rusting.

Different Types of Smoke Damage

There are 3 general categories of fire-related soot/smoke residues:

  1. Protein residues are derived from over-cooked (burned) meat, fish, or poultry. The colour of the resulting residue ranges somewhere between yellow and brown and the texture is wet, greasy and sticks to most surfaces. To effectively clean this type of residue, water-based cleaning solutions are utilised as long as the surface is wet cleanable, and will not be compromised by water.

  1. Natural substance residues come from burned materials such as paper or wood and sometimes originate from a traditional fireplace. These residues are usually grey or black and have a dry, powder-like texture. Natural soot residues can be removed easily at first by vacuuming with a HEPA filter and other dry pre-cleaning before wet cleaning techniques are used. Natural soot residues are less complicated to clean when compared to the other two types.

  1. Synthetic residues result when the burned material is synthetic in nature, like plastic. When burning, all synthetic material will produce a thick, heavy, black, smeary residue. If left undisturbed on a surface, the soot may be easily HEPA vacuumed away. However, touching or rubbing it will smear it into a surface, creating more work to restore. Synthetic smoke produces tell-tail ornate smoke webs throughout the area, that mimic cobwebs. This is a quick indication that synthetic materials have been involved.

Smoke can also leave behind a strong, unpleasant odour that can linger for days or even weeks. The odour can be caused by a variety of chemicals that are released when materials burn. 

What cleaning methods are most effective for removing smoke damage from walls and ceilings? 

It's important to act quickly if you have smoke damage, the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to remove the soot and odour. 

Here are some general tips for removing smoke damage from your home:

  • Open all the windows and doors to ventilate the area. This will help to remove the smoke smell and prevent the soot and tar from spreading.
  • Cover furniture and other belongings with sheeting to help protect them. 
  • Wear gloves and a mask when cleaning to avoid direct contact with the smoke damage.
  • Start by vacuuming up any loose soot. Use a HEPA filter on your vacuum cleaner to prevent the soot from being spread around.
  • Baking soda is a natural odour absorber and can be used to help get rid of any smoke smells.
  • Depending on how bad your smoke damage is, you might need to have a professional come and service your HRV system to stop smoke from being circulated in your home.

Understanding the unique characteristics of each type of smoke damage helps determine appropriate restoration approaches for different materials and surfaces. It is essential to test any cleaning method on a small, inconspicuous area before proceeding with larger sections to ensure compatibility with the surface material.

There are two cleaning methods that can be used to remove light natural substance soot damage from walls and ceilings. Most situations will require a combination of methods.                                                                                                                                     

  1. Dry sponge cleaning involves using dry cleaning sponges specifically designed to attract and lift away smoke residue without water or cleaning solutions. This gentle method minimises the risk of surface damage while effectively removing soot and smoke particles.
  2. Wet cleaning utilises specialised cleaning solutions and damp sponges or microfiber cloths to break down and dissolve stubborn smoke residue. This method is effective for surfaces with heavier smoke deposits.

For minor protein smoke damage, you can use a solution of one part vinegar to two parts warm water to clean the area. Using a soft cloth or sponge, dip it into the vinegar solution and gently wipe the affected areas. Take care not to oversaturate the surface. Rinse the cloth frequently and change the solution as needed. For stubborn residue, a mild dish detergent can be added to the vinegar solution. Continue to wipe the walls and ceilings until the residue is removed. Once the cleaning is complete, rinse the area with clean water and pat it dry with a clean cloth.

If you have more severe fire damage, tar from greasy severe protein smoke damage or toxic synthetic smoke, these can be difficult to remove with DIY cleaning methods. In these cases, hiring a professional smoke and fire restoration company will be your best bet to ensure your home is restored to its original condition. If you have smoke and fire damage to carpet and upholstery, this also requires specialist restoration from a professional.

What are the benefits of hiring a professional restoration company versus attempting restoration on your own?

Expertise and experience
Professional restoration companies have trained technicians with expertise in assessing damage accurately and developing tailored restoration plans. Their experience in dealing with various types of smoke damage ensures efficient restoration processes and optimal results.

Comprehensive services
Professional restoration companies offer comprehensive restoration services. They possess specialised equipment, tools, and techniques necessary for thorough and effective restoration.

Time and damage mitigation
Prompt response and quick action are vital in smoke damage restoration. Certain chemical reactions occur after a fire which means, if left for a few days, some of your belongings may be unable to be saved. A quick call to a professional fire damage restoration company, like JAE, gives your belongings the best chance of being restored.

Safety considerations
Restoration projects often involve potential hazards. Professionals adhere to safety protocols and possess the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure their safety and the safety of property occupants.

Smoke damage restoration requires a comprehensive understanding of the different types of smoke damage and their impact on different materials. By utilising appropriate cleaning techniques, and leveraging the expertise of professionals, you can navigate the restoration process effectively and achieve optimal results. 

At the end of the day, smoke and fire damage restoration companies, like JAE, are experts when it comes to the cleanup after a fire event. JAE can clean and restore any area of your home or business affected by smoke and soot damage. JAE use experienced, qualified fire technicians who maintain certification to international standards. They can help treat floor coverings, walls, ceilings, upholstery, soft furnishings, mattresses, drapery, and even household contents for smoke and fire damage.

For commercial or residential fire restoration, check to see if the damage is covered by your insurance provider, and if not, get in touch with your local JAE team today.

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