A recent wildfire in Herriman, Utah (20 miles south of Salt Lake City) caused well over 1400 families to evacuate their homes. It took firefighters several days to bring the blaze under control and only 4 homes were actually lost. The families who were able to return to their homes were faced with a daunting task. Even if their homes didn’t suffer actual fire damage, many homeowners were completely unprepared for the huge job of restoring and cleaning up the smoke, ash and carbon residue that covered every inch of everything they owned in their homes and around their property.
Here are 9 tips for cleaning up your home and property after a fire.
- Pressure wash or scrub all exterior surfaces including walls, walks, drives, decks, windows and screens.
- Wash all interior walls and hard surfaces with a steam cleaner. Don’t forget inside cabinets, drawers and closets. Steam undersides of furniture, tables and chairs.
- Launder or dry clean all clothing, linens and bedding.
- Wash all movable items, including picture frames, knick-knacks with a steam cleaner and a soft microfiber cloth.
- Disinfect and deodorize all carpets, window coverings, upholstered furniture and mattresses with steam.
- Upholstery, fabric window treatments, etc. can be spray-treated with deodorizing products available at most supermarkets, but do not use odor-masking sprays – it just covers up the problem and doesn’t last long term. Steam actually melts the tar and neutralizes the odor and carbon film left by forest fire, cigarette smoke or wood burning fireplaces and stoves.
- Have heating, ventilating and air-conditioning units and all ductwork professionally cleaned to remove soot, ash and smoke residue. Change filters when you first return to the premises and at least once a month for the first year.
- Vacuum up dry aerial fire retardant or firefighting foam residue from inside the house or car. Pressure wash the home/car exterior and use a steam cleaner to remove the stuck on residue from inside surfaces.
- Ash and soot on the ground and in your landscaping will continue to generate smoke odors and airborne particles when the wind blows so water it down regularly. Until the ash and soot are diluted and absorbed into the environment, run an indoor mechanical air filtration system to help minimize the uncomfortable and potentially health-threatening impact of these pollutants.
Most of these tips can be completed with a few power tools – an outdoor pressure washer for the outside of your home and a steam cleaner, dishwasher or washer/dryer for the inside of your home. If you’re new to steam cleaning, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised how fast, easy and effective it is at getting into all those nooks and crannies that regular cleaning chemicals and techniques can’t.
You may not get all these tips finished in one day but once you’ve laundered, steamed or pressure washed from rooftop to foundation and from floor to ceiling, you and your home will no longer smell like a camp fire.
Tips taken from FEMA’s website and elaborated on.