Most people assume fire damage is limited to whatever the flames touch. But smoke damage can be even more destructive and widespread within a commercial building. Learn more about the characteristics of smoke damage from a fire, how to remove smoke residue and odor, and other things to know about commercial smoke damage.
How Smoke Affects Your Property
Smoke can devastate a building and its contents. Black streaks, splotches, fine black dust, and discolored surfaces may appear even if a nearby fire was extinguished relatively quickly. Even the very structure of your building can be affected. One of the worst problems occurs when microscopic particles settle in tiny cracks and crevices in the walls and floor. This creates a lingering smoke smell that can last for months.
The ash and soot released when carbon-based materials burn can spread an incredible distance, especially if the smoke finds its way into the building’s ventilation system. Tiny smoke particles can even pass through ceilings and walls, leaving a smoky smell in rooms untouched by flames. Because of these factors, you may find smoke residue far from where the fire burned.
Types of Smoke Damage
The smoke damage your property sustains depends on the fire temperature, oxygen level, and materials burned. The most common types of smoke damage include:
- Dry smoke: Hot, fast-burning, high-oxygen fires leave behind dry smoke residue, making cleanup relatively simple.
- Wet smoke: Low-heat, smoldering, low-oxygen fires tend to leave behind wet smoke residue, which is much more difficult to remove.
- Protein residue: This results from low-heat fires that burn organic materials or occur in the kitchen.
- Oil residue: Burning petroleum-based products can result in an oily smoke residue, which complicates the cleanup process.
How to Get Rid of Smoke Damage After a Fire at Your Business
Severe smoke damage is nearly impossible to eliminate using retail cleaning products. If your building has suffered significant damage, skip to the final section in this guide to help you choose a reputable smoke damage restoration company. Otherwise, read on for tips to remove smoke damage from various materials.
Even though the fire has been extinguished, safety is still the top priority during smoke damage restoration. Not only can smoke particles stain your clothing, but they can irritate your eyes and lungs. Therefore, you should put on the following protective gear before attempting to clean up smoke damage:
- NOSH approved respirator
- Shoe covers
- Rubber gloves
While you’re at it, gather the tools and supplies you’ll likely need when cleaning up smoke damage from a commercial building. These include:
- A vacuum cleaner with HEPA filter and attachments
- Carpet shampoo and carpet cleaning equipment
- Mop and floor cleaner
- Drop cloth
- Dry chemical sponge
- Trisodium phosphate
- Regular sponge
- Bucket of soapy water or a solution of water and white vinegar
- Glass cleaner
- Paper towels
- Commercial smoke damage cleaning products
- Baking soda
- Commercial-grade laundry detergent
- Soft, dry cloth
Ventilate the Building & Pack Out Loose Items
Lingering smoke odor is very common after a fire. That’s why it’s important to begin the smoke damage cleanup process as quickly as possible. To increase the chance of salvaging items, ventilate the building by opening windows and doors. This encourages smoke particles to blow outside instead of settling on surfaces within the building.
Then, clear a space to perform fire and smoke damage cleanup by removing furniture and other items. If possible, put them in secure storage until they can be restored.
How to Clean Smoke Damage from Carpet
Tread lightly upon entering your business for the first time since the fire. Loose soot, ash, dust, and smoke particles may cover every surface, especially the floor. Stepping on them can grind the particles deeper into the carpet.
So before going any further, vacuum the floor thoroughly to remove as much loose debris as possible. Just make sure you use a vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter to trap fine smoke particles. An old bagged vacuum may simply redistribute soot into the air.
Next, shampoo the carpet to give it a deep clean, and let it dry completely. If a smoky smell lingers, contact a professional for help. Commercial-grade carpet cleaners may do the trick, but be prepared to replace the carpet if necessary.
How to Clean Smoke Damage from Tile & Hardwood Flooring
The best-case scenario is that mopping and deodorizing your tile or hardwood floor removes all lingering smoke odor. Be sure to dry the floor quickly after cleaning to avoid water damage. If the smoke damage is extensive, be prepared to refinish the floor or replace it entirely.
How to Clean Smoke Damage from Walls & Ceilings
When presented with a soot-stained wall, you may be tempted to break out a roller and paint over it. However, the stain affects the paint’s ability to stick to the wall. Plus, the smoky odor will remain and continue to degrade indoor air quality.
Before attempting to remove smoke damage from walls and ceilings, be aware that you’ll most likely need to replace porous ceiling tiles and wall panels. To clean smoke-damaged drywall, follow these steps:
- Lay down a drop cloth to protect the floor.
- Remove loose soot using the brush attachment on a HEPA vacuum cleaner or a dry chemical sponge.
- Remove soot stains with trisodium phosphate, a degreaser effective at removing smoke damage from walls.
- After you degrease the affected area with a top-down motion,scrub the drywall with a sponge dipped in soapy water or a solution of water and white vinegar.
- If you still aren’t happy with the results, seek help from a licensed disaster restoration company.
How to Clean Smoke Damage from Windows
Cleaning smoke stains off windows and other glass objects is less complicated than cleaning porous materials like wood floors and drywall. Simply wipe down the glass with regular glass cleaner and paper towels. Then, use trisodium phosphate or a solution of water and white vinegar to remove any remaining residue.
Figure Out What Items Can be Salvaged
Once you take care of the structural components, it’s time to assess the items you packed out of the building. Consider cost, sentimental value, and the ease of replacing things as you decide what to attempt to salvage. Here are some smoke damage cleaning tips for items typically found in a commercial setting:
- Wood furniture: Salvaging wood can be tricky because a harsh cleaner could strip the stain and varnish or rust metal components. Ask a professional restoration company for help choosing the right commercial smoke damage cleaning products for your wood furniture.
- Upholstery: Vacuum the material with the flat brush attachment on a HEPA vacuum cleaner. Then, sprinkle the upholstery with baking soda, a natural odor absorber. After letting the baking soda work for at least 24 hours, vacuum up the particles. Repeat as many times as necessary.
- Other textiles: Check the manufacturer label for cleaning instructions. Some fabrics are dry cleaned only, of which you will need a professional. For machine washing, still check the label, but Place any loose, smoke-damaged fabrics in a washing machine and fill the drum with water. Then, add several cups of white vinegar to the batch and let it sit for a few hours. Drain the water and launder the fabrics like normal. Depending on how strong the lingering odor is, you may need to rewash textiles with commercial-grade laundry detergent.
- Electronics: Soot is acidic, making it especially destructive to electronic equipment. Start by unplugging the devices and wiping away visible residue with a soft, dry cloth. Do not turn devices back on until you have consulted with a disaster restoration service provider.
How to Choose a Commercial Smoke Restoration Company
In most cases, smoke damage cleanup is best left to the professionals. But how do you choose the right smoke restoration company for the job? Just follow these tips:
- Ask your insurance adjuster if they can recommend a particular company.
- Find out more about the service provider’s smoke removal process.
- Ask to see examples of their previous work, keeping an eye out for scenarios similar to yours.
- Pay attention to how company representatives treat you during your initial interactions.
For top-notch commercial smoke damage services in Maryland and Washington, DC, turn to BYLT. Our disaster restoration company has years of experience restoring properties after a fire. We offer professional soot cleanup, smoke removal, and deodorization to restore your building to its pre-incident condition. With our help, you’ll get back to business in no time.