A fire of any size is scary and potentially devastating, and cleaning up after a fire often requires a little more than some cleaning solution and a few paper towels.
Cleanup After a Fire May Require Professionals
Sometimes a fire may create a toxic environment, so it’s essential that you don’t jump into cleanup without understanding how fire impacts the home.
Advice From the American Red Cross
There are some areas of the home where you can perform cleanup on your own, but even innocuous items like clothing stained with soot and smell from smoke could pose a danger. If the fire impacted your walls and dirtied them with soot, the Red Cross recommends:
Use a mild soap or detergent or mix together 4 to 6 tbsp. tri-sodium phosphate and 1 cup household cleaner or chlorine bleach to every gallon of warm water. Wear rubber gloves. Be sure to rinse surfaces with clear warm water and dry thoroughly.
However, if the fire damage went further than the surfaces of the walls and impacted the insulation or drywall, the Red Cross suggests getting a professional involved:
Consult a professional about replacing drywall and insulation that has been soaked by water from fire hoses. It can not be dried out and maintain structural integrity or resistance to mold and mildew.
A professional can clean any level of debris and soot from a fire, but any significant damage definitely warrants caution if you’re apt to participate in “do-it-yourself” projects.
Advice from the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC)
The IICRC warns homeowners that after the flames are doused and the fire no longer burns that the danger isn’t gone from the home. If you don’t get a cleaning professional to look at the space and start cleaning as quickly as possible, the following may occur:
- Permanent discoloration of surfaces impacted by ash
- Growth of mildew and mold which increases cleanup costs
- Lingering odors on furniture that might necessitate replacement instead of cleaning
Your cleaning professional will be able to give you a simple rundown of the cleaning processes required to return your home to a state of normalcy.
Don’t Forget to Call Your Insurance Company
Whether you embark on some of the cleaning on your own or you hire a professional to help in the process, you’ll want to contact your insurance company as soon as possible. The United States Fire Administration, which is a branch of FEMA, suggests that you have a conversation with your insurance agent and ask the following questions:
- What to do about the immediate needs of your home? This includes pumping out water and covering doors, windows, and other openings.
- What you should do first. Some companies may ask you to make a list of everything that was damaged by the fire. They will ask you to describe these in detail and say how much you paid for the items.
The USFA also offers a helpful pamphlet on returning to “normal” after a fire. One of their most important pieces of advice is:
Do not eat, drink, or breathe in anything that has been near the fire’s flames, smoke, soot, or water used to put the fire out.
Need Help Cleaning a Big Mess?
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