Dealing with the aftermath of a fire is costly, time-consuming, and emotionally draining.
Whether it’s a residential home - a jarring, difficult time in your life - or a commercial fire - an expensive and bottom-line-hitting disaster - safe fire restoration is paramount to getting your home and business back on track.
First - minimize damage
Take care of wet items as soon as possible. Water damage might not be what you’re thinking about after a fire, but mold and mildew can be as big of a problem as fire damage. Prioritize dealing with moisture and water damage first.
Get air circulating throughout the building; open windows and install fans wherever possible. If the weather is warm and humid, use a dehumidifier to avoid mold growth. Cold air can help remove moisture, too. With thorough air circulation, you can reduce soot residue and damage over time.
If there are brass or copper elements in the space, remove them and clean them within 24 hours. Smoke can etch brass and copper, and so dealing with these items as soon as possible can help save them from further damage.
Next - dealing with soot
Cover dry, clean items with plastic covers while working through repairs. Fire restoration can stir up dirt and soot, which can damage items that may have been salvaged. Assess items that can’t be covered and decide whether removing them or moving them to storage is a good option for you.
You can rent industrial vacuums (not just vacuum attachments) to clean soot and dirt from carpets, flooring, and porous materials. Ensure you’re using a HEPA-filtered vacuum so that small particulate matter doesn’t escape and recirculate in the space.
Since soot is an oily substance that sticks and yellows walls, paint, and flooring, it needs specific chemical removal. Chemical sponges are available that attract soot oils and can be used to clean staining from walls. You can also use TSP diluted with hot water to remove wall and floor staining.
Finally - lingering odour
No matter how thoroughly you clean up after a fire, fire odours can linger for days or weeks. Since it’s often a combination of permeable surface contamination and soot residue, a good scrub is only the first step of fire odour removal.
Odorox machines deal with odours, but also heavily assist in cleaning. UV-generated hydroxyls are highly reactive with oxygen-containing contaminants, and break down these lingering odorous compounds after a fire. Hydroxyls penetrate cloth and other porous materials, so they can help eliminate hard-to-clean surfaces and materials like furniture and curtains.
Odorox also aids in air circulation, bringing “outdoor clean” air indoors. Because of hydroxyls’ high reactivity, a high concentration of hydroxyls is one of the most effective ways of cleaning up and removing odours after a fire.
Some professional restoration companies will use ozone cleaners. While ozone is a relatively effective cleaner, it’s not as speedy as hydroxyls for cleaning, and the space must be vacated during the process. Ozone is not safe to breathe and can cause headaches and nausea, and in some cases, long-lasting health effects.
You can also hire an industrial thermal fogging company to help remove odour and irritants. Thermal fogging is a machine that dissipates a chemical cleaner in a penetrating fog, which is then dispersed throughout the space. Like hydroxyls, it can get into small spaces and crevices, making it an effective cleaner and odour remover.
Avoid simply covering up stains and smells. While odour-sealing paint and aerosol scents for coverage may seem like a good last step, it is ultimately a band-aid solution that may hide unseen problems like mould.
Long-lingering odours are information, and if you’ve exhausted all of your options it may signal that you need professional cleanup help. There are a number of options you can choose - from Hydroxyl-based air purifiers to commercial fire restoration services to industrial fogging units. Whatever you choose, remember to ensure you’re not breathing in harmful chemicals and prioritizing your clean-up safety.