When it comes to developing a cleaning schedule, most people plan for the day-to-day and the ‘once or twice per year’ deep clean. Nobody wants to – or plans to – develop a response plan for wildfires, but unfortunately when tragedy occurs, caring for your facility becomes more than simple checklists. Fire, smoke, ash, and soot are a deadly and destructive combination. The fire is the first and most threatening variable, but the unfortunate fact is that the possibility for loss of life and property extends long beyond when the flames die down. Initially, smoke poses the first threat, followed by ash, and then soot. Understanding what each of these are is the first step to understanding how to clean fire, smoke, ash, and soot damage, and begin restoring your home or business – and your life – back to some semblance of normal.
Fire damage can be the most catastrophic, and the most likely to cause complete and total destruction. However, for whatever is left standing, there may be a chance to recover if you understand how to respond. For most people, this will involve the help of a professional who is trained to identify the true scope of the damage – some things may appear to be relatively untouched, but still be compromised enough to be a total loss; on the other hand, some things may appear damaged beyond repair, but actually remain salvageable. The help of a professional will ensure you know which is which so you can respond accurately, and keep repairs as cost effective as possible.
Smoke is comprised of microscopic debris that didn’t actually burn in the fire – which is why it’s visible to the eye. It may not appear to be solid, but it’s important to understand this is the case, and adjust how you respond accordingly. Smoke can be cleaned with mild soap, detergent, or special cleaners, if the damage doesn’t require professional support. Smoke is most damaging to highly porous materials, and other objects that it can permanently discolor – like certain counters or bathroom fixtures. For many things, fortunately, it is possible to clean and repair smoke damage.
Ash is what smoke debris becomes once it settles on the ground with the rest of the damaged remains following the fire. It’s important to note that, as mentioned above, despite its microscopic size, it is a solid – this means certain materials can be scratched and damaged by scrubbing. It’s important to do research on the items you’re cleaning before getting started, so that way you know the best methods to remove the ash without causing additional damage.
Soot is a black, powdery substance that is the result of certain materials not fully burning, and it can travel by air or humidity before landing on all surfaces. Soot can be dry or greasy, and that can change from room to room as you clean. Make sure to adjust your strategies accordingly, using a plain cloth for dry soot, and a mild degreasing agent for oily soot. The most important thing to know about soot is that it build layer by layer, and becomes hardened like a lacquer if not removed immediately, meaning that time is truly of the essence.
Cleaning the effects of a wildfire can be a technical process, and require either significant personal research, the help of professionals, or both. We encourage anyone to reach out if we can be of assistance during these challenging times.