In the aftermath of a fire, it’s important to take immediate action to save your home and its contents. This is especially important regarding sensitive items such as clothes, draperies, and other textiles. In this article, you will learn how to clean clothes after a fire.
Replacing them may cost a lot of money, so it’s best to try to save textiles that haven’t been scorched or severely water-damaged. Hiring a professional restoration company is the safest option to restore smoke/soot-damaged clothing and fabrics properly. They use the proper cleaning solutions, equipment, and techniques to restore contents after a fire.
However, if you don’t plan on hiring a professional restorer, see the tips below on how to clean clothes after a fire. Be warned: don’t try to clean smoke-damaged textiles unless you know proper procedures, or you may cause further damage.
How to Clean Clothes After a Fire
Document the Damage
Maintain detailed records of the damaged clothing for insurance claims, including photos, descriptions, and estimated values. Keep all receipts related to the cleaning and restoration process.
Safety always comes first. Here are a couple of tips to stay safe while cleaning clothes after a fire:
- Ensure that the fire is fully extinguished and that the area is safe to enter.
- Wear appropriate protective gear, such as gloves and a mask, to minimize your exposure to soot and other contaminants.
Minimize the Damage
Follow these tips to mitigate further damage to your clothes.
- If clothes have gotten wet from the water that was used to put out the fire, follow these tips:
- Dry the textiles at once to prevent mold growth.
- Hang clothes and fabrics outside to dry.
- Use fans and dehumidifiers, and open windows for ventilation.
- Change the furnace filter daily until the unit absorbs soot from the air.
- Cover clean fabrics with plastic sheets to protect them.
Sort Out the Fabrics
Here’s how to separate your clothes into categories based on the extent of damage:
- Divide them into three categories: salvageable, potentially salvageable, and irreparable.
- Salvageable items may have minimal damage and can likely be cleaned and restored.
- Potentially salvageable items require more intensive cleaning but may still be salvageable.
- Irreparable items are those with severe damage, such as melted or extensively burned fabrics, and cannot be saved.
- If you’re unsure about the best cleaning approach or if you have valuable or sentimental clothing, consult with a professional fire damage restoration service.
- Organize the restorable items based on their fabric types and washing instructions, such as “bleach-safe” and “dry clean only.”
- Remove any damaged accessories from clothing.
Remove the Soot from Fabrics
- 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.
- Alternatively, use a high-powered vacuum cleaner with a narrow tip. Please keep it one or two inches away from the fabric.
- Never use a brush tip attachment – it can force soot particles into the clothing.
- It’s strongly recommended to get professional help for soot removal from textiles. One wrong move, and you could stain your fabrics permanently.
Here’s how to remove the soot from textiles before cleaning:
Deodorize the Clothing
The next step in learning how to clean clothes after a fire is deodorization. You should deodorize fabrics before they are cleaned, or the smoke odor could persist in the material. We do not recommend a DIY deodorization as perfumes, aerosol sprays, or disinfectants only temporarily mask the odor.
For proper deodorization, ozone treatment is needed. Professional fire restoration technicians use this deodorizing process, which eliminates odor by breaking up each smoke molecule.
Wash Smoke-Damaged Clothes
Once your clothes and textiles are deodorized, you can clean them. Here’s how:
- Send dry clean-only clothes to a dry cleaner that’s certified in handling smoke-damaged clothing.
- Washing machine:
- Machine-washable clothes should be laundered separately from clean clothes to avoid cross-contamination.
- Use a heavy-duty detergent designed for soot and smoke removal. Follow the care labels on your garments for water temperature and washing instructions.
- Wash clothes in small loads to prevent overloading the machine and to ensure thorough cleaning.
- Hand Washing:
- Delicate or heavily damaged items may need to be hand-washed. Fill a large basin with warm water and add a mild detergent.
- Gently agitate the water and clothes, being careful not to rub or scrub too vigorously to avoid damaging the fabric further.
- Rinse thoroughly with clean water until all detergent is removed.
- For heavily soiled or smoke-damaged clothing, you may need to repeat the washing process to ensure the best results. If odors persist, soak the items in a mixture of 4 to 6 tablespoons of trisodium phosphate, 1 cup of bleach, and 1 gallon of water. Let fabrics sit overnight, then remove, rinse, and hang them outside to dry.
- Line-dry your clothes outdoors to allow them to air out and minimize any remaining odors. Avoid using a dryer initially, as high heat can set smoke odors and soot stains.
- After washing and drying, inspect the clothes for any remaining stains or odors. If problems persist, consider professional cleaning services.
For Fire Damage Restoration, Call the PuroClean Remediation Pros!
Unless you have the time, tools, and experience necessary to know how to clean clothes after a fire, always go with a professional company. You will be saving yourself a lot of trouble and money by hiring a company that knows how to handle smoke-damaged clothes and other personal property. For professional fire damage restoration and smoke damage restoration, contact your local PuroClean office.