How to Clean Clothing and Fabrics that Survived a House Fire
In the aftermath of a fire, it’s important to take immediate action to save your home and its contents. This is especially important when it comes to sensitive items such as clothes, draperies, and other textiles.
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. To properly restore smoke/soot-damaged clothing and fabrics, hiring a professional restoration company is the safest option. 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 to restore smoke-damaged clothing and fabrics. Be warned: don’t try to clean smoke-damaged textiles unless you know proper procedures, or you may cause further damage.
Minimize the Damage
- 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 most of the soot from the air.
- Cover clean fabrics with plastic sheets to protect them.
Sort Out the Fabrics
- Separate salvageable from scorched items. Non-burnt fabrics can usually be saved.
- 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
- Remove the soot from textiles before cleaning.
- 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. Keep it one or two inches away from the fabric.
- Never use a brush tip attachment – it can force soot particles deeper 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.
Remove the Smoke Odor
- Fabrics should be deodorized before they are cleaned, or the smoke odor could persist in the material.
- DIY deodorization is not recommended. Using perfumes, aerosol sprays, or disinfectants only masks the odor temporarily.
- For proper deodorization, ozone treatment is needed. Professional fire restoration technicians use this deodorizing process, which eliminates odor by breaking up each smoke molecule.
- Professionals perform ozone treatment using an ozone generator either at home or at a separate facility.
Clean the Textiles
- Once your clothes and textiles are deodorized, they can be cleaned.
- Send dry clean only clothes to a dry cleaner that’s certified in handling smoke-damaged clothing.
- Wash polyester or cotton fabrics in warm water without bleach solutions.
- Wash bleach-safe fabrics in heavy detergent. Hand-wash your clothes for the first two to three washings to prevent soot oils from contaminating the next few loads of laundry.
- If odors persist, soak the items into 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.
Unless you have the time, tools, and the experience necessary to restore smoke-damaged clothing and fabrics, 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.