How to Clean Smoke Damaged Laundry

When the fire is extinguished and the trucks have left, your home will undoubtedly have significant damage. The flames themselves are responsible for only part of the destruction, as smoke and soot can cause just as much – if not more – damage. Fabric and clothing in your home can quickly take on the smell of smoke and will require professional cleaning and restoration. But there are ways to help mitigate the damage and salvage contents and clothing in the event of a fire.

The first part in every claim is always to document the damage. Maintaining detailed records of the series of events and the damage it has caused can help facilitate your claim. More documentation is better than less, so never feel anxious about collecting a lot of information. But prior to stepping foot in your home, you have to be sure it is safe. Wearing protective gear like masks and gloves will minimize your risk of inhaling or touching contaminants, but also hiring a professional contractor to ensure the structure is free from defects will avoid potential injury when entering the dwelling.

Sorting Through the Fabrics

Sorting through the fabrics is a vital first step in minimizing fire damage to clothes. The process begins with separating the items into two categories: salvageable and non-salvable.

  1. Identify all salvageable items: Many fabrics that aren’t burnt can often be saved, even if they have suffered smoke damage.
  2. Separate the unburnt from scorched items: It’s important to keep these two categories apart to prevent cross-contamination.
  3. Check for color preservation: A priority is ensuring the vibrant hues of your clothes don’t fade during the restoration process.
  4. Take note of fabric type: Different textiles require different cleaning techniques for effective soot removal.
  5. Handle smoke damaged garments with care: These act like VOC and particulate sponges, making them highly susceptible to retaining smoke.
  6. Consider professional help: For severely damaged items, fire restoration professionals who specialize in salvaging scorched textiles may be necessary.

Remove the Soot From Fabrics 

  1. Take the items outside and shake the soot off gently. As soot is oily, it can easily stain fabrics if you don’t shake it off lightly.
  2. Alternatively, use a high-powered vacuum cleaner with a narrow tip. Please keep it one or two inches away from the fabric.
  3. Never use a brush tip attachment – it can force soot particles into the clothing.
  4. It’s strongly recommended to get professional help for soot removal from textiles. One wrong move, and you could stain your fabrics permanently.

Deodorize Clothing

Deodorizing the fabric before they are cleaned will help remove smoke odors from the material. Masking agents should not be used as they will only last for a few days to even a few hours, and then the smoke smell will return. Proper deodorization requires a professionally trained company to use ozone treatments which will break down the smoke molecules and eliminate odor. Misuse of ozone machines can cause serious damage to clothing and even health risks.

Washing Options

Once the clothes have been deodorized, then they can be cleaned. Here are some of your options:

  1. Dry Cleaner – This should be a place where they specialize in smoke damage as not all dry cleaners have been exposed to such a loss.
  2. Washing Machine –  Smoke damaged clothes should be washed separately to avoid cross contamination with clean clothes. Washing in small loads can help clean the clothes better than full ones, and heavy detergent designed for smoke damage should only be used to cut through the smell.
  3. Hand Washing – Delicates or heavily damaged items will need to be hand washed and could take a few rounds to remove odors. Rinsing thoroughly and changing water will also help remove damage as well. Always remember to agitate lightly as not to cause damage to the fabric. Line drying the clothes if available is recommended as the use of a dryer can further damage the fabric due to the high heat.

A fire can be devastating and life altering, so knowing who to call in case of loss is an imperative fire step in the fire damage restoration process. Trusting the wrong company, or “fire chasers,” who only concern themselves with how much they can squeeze out of your claim will make your loss an even greater nightmare. For professional fire damage restoration done right the first time, trust the certified team at MSI. Our fire damage restoration cleanup team is on call 24/7 and ready to get you back to the norm you know in a quick, safe and cost efficient manner because we actually care and take pride in our work.