Saving Fire-Damaged Fabrics

With cold weather comes many ways to heat the home and, unfortunately, more home fires than any other season. The smoke and soot that a fire leaves behind can create damage far beyond that of the original flames.

Smoke residue is made up of particles that were not completely vaporized during burning. Not all fires create the same amount or type of residue. Smoldering ones produce more residue than fast-burning fires because they burn longer and at a lower temperature. Most residue is strongly acidic. Acidic residue can tarnish metal surfaces and trims, as well as cause rust on exposed iron surfaces. Smoke residue can settle on the surfaces of walls and furnishings. Clothing and fabric may suffer color changes and certain types of smoke can permanently affect wood furniture finishes. Once the smoke residue is removed, any chemical action from the smoke is halted. However, it is often impossible to assess the extend of the damage until after cleaning.

Smoke removal involves special cleaning procedures. Smoke particles usually remain on or close to the surface. Improper procedures can cause absorption, which can increase the damage.

If the damaged items are washable, launder them using a powdered laundry detergent and the hottest water suitable for the fabrics. Repeating laundering, perhaps as many as five times, until the soot and/or odor are removed. For stubborn stains, use a bleach safe for the fabrics. As an alternative, soak the items overnight, using a pre-soak laundry product, or soak them for 30 minutes in a solution of water and laundry detergent with bleach.

If the damaged items are dry clean only , check with a dry cleaner. Some cleaners offer a treatment that can remove smoke damage from some fabrics. For furniture, carpets and wallcoverings, it’s important to engage the services of a professional.

If you or someone you know is affected by a fire, we hope you recover quickly and that these tips are helpful.



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