How to Clean a Smoke Damaged House

 How to Clean a Smoke Damaged House

If left untreated over a long period, ash and soot can cause irreversible damage to your home. They are acidic and need to be dealt with quickly to avoid any more damage from being done. While you may think that simply using an average vacuum may be effective, these will only redeposit the particles around the building.

Cleaning a smoke damaged house also isn’t as easy as simply leaving windows and doors open and letting the building air out.

If you are wondering how best to deal with a smoke damaged house, read on for some helpful tips and advice.

What You Will Need to Clean a Smoke Damaged House

Most of the equipment needed you may already have around the home. The one item you may have to buy is a dry-cleaning sponge. This item should not be skipped.

Make sure that you have the following supplies and equipment:

  • Rubbing alcohol / paint thinner
  • Vinegar
  • Degreaser / commercial soot remover
  • Strong shop-vac with upholstery attachment
  • Bucket / hot water
  • Dry-cleaning sponge (chemical sponge)
  • Clean rags
  • Sponge
  • Fan (the bigger the better)

How to Clean a Smoke Damaged House

Before anything else, the most important step is to get the home ventilated and get the fresh air circulating. Start off by getting all those windows and doors open and use fans to encourage airflow. Turn off your HVAC system to prevent spreading of the smoke and soot.


You should always make sure that you wear the appropriate protective clothing and equipment when cleaning a smoke damaged house. Trust me, you do not want to be inhaling any soot, smoke or debris from the fire. For this reason you should always wear a respirator during the clean up. Along with a respirator, you should wear long pants and sleeves which will help to keep your skin protected. You should also wear gloves and eye protection.

While cleaning the house you will be freeing soot so it is important that you lay down floor protection and remove any furniture or household objects that are not damaged.


You can use a vacuum with an upholstery attachment during the initial stages of the clean to help remove any loose soot particles.

Lightly brush the area with the brush attachment, vacuuming up the loose particles. Be gentle, and avoid scrubbing, which can make stains worse.

Using a Dry-Cleaning Sponge

Once all the loose particles have been removed it is time to use your dry-cleaning sponge to wipe the soot and smoke stains. These sponges use special chemicals which help to lift the stains from the walls.

You should never attempt to use any soot cleaner or even water before using these sponges as you will spread the soot making it almost impossible to remove even with a dry-cleaning sponge.

  1. Wipe the walls gently with the dry-cleaning sponge
  2. After a few strokes, turn the sponge to a different side so you’re always using a clean surface
  3. When all sides are soiled, slice off the sides with a knife to reveal fresh surfaces beneath.

Never try to scrub the surfaces or you will work the soot deeper, always wipe.

Using Liquid Cleaners

Next up, once as much soot as possible has been removed, it is time to use a clean rag soaked in your preferred cleaner (commercial soot / smoke remover, rubbing alcohol, white vinegar or paint thinner), and wipe the walls throughout the damaged room. It is very important that you wipe EVERY surface, even those that don’t look soot or smoke damaged, and also including light bulbs.

Next, you’ll want to use TSP, dish soap or degreaser in a gallon of hot water to wash the walls with a rag or sponge. A few tablespoons of dishsoap, degreaser or TSP should be enough. Refresh your water if it’s black or smells like smoke. Once you’ve completed washing the room with your chosen cleaner, wipe the walls again with fresh water and a clean rag to remove any remaining cleaning products.

Dry it Out and Deep Clean

You will now need to use a clean rag to dry the surfaces that you have just cleaned. It is very likely that you will still smell smoke as this smell can take up to a few weeks to disappear.

Getting your carpets, upholstery and curtains professionally steam-cleamed can also help with lingering smoke odors. Don’t be tempted to use fragrances as all these will do is mask the smell but not remove it. Don’t forget to replace your HVAC filters, which may be circulating smoky air in your home.

Calling in the Professionals

While cleaning smaller areas of your home can be done yourself using the steps above, for larger tasks it may be worthwhile leaving it to professional cleaners that have specialist equipment.

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