Cleaning & Deodorizing After the Fires Are Out
The recent fires in southern California left 2,000 homes in smoldering ruins. However, the number of homes with damage from smoke, ash and odor numbers into the 100,000s. Restoration contractors are overwhelmed with calls from families desperate to have their homes cleaned. Trained cleaners can not meet the demand for their services.
Other home-owners are trying to solve their cleaning problems themselves, often with less than satisfactory results.
Cleaners who are not involved in fire and smoke restoration compassion for these victims, but may lack the training, experience or products necessary to help. Cleaners are aware that someone will perform these services. The last thing they want is for their clients to be forced to bring in another cleaning company to correct smoke and odor problems. Prepare by attending an IICRC Fire Restoration class or whatever hands-on training is available from your local distributor.
With wild fires, you may be faced with a large number of potential clients who all require your service at the same time.
What advice can you give your clients until your crew arrives to begin cleaning?
- Particles of soot are considered carcinogenic. They need to protect themselves from breathing these small particles. In most cases a dust mask rated at N95 or better will do just fine. However, the very young (less than 2 years old) and anyone with impaired breathing should avoid areas where soot is still present. Dust masks are available at Interlink Supply.
- Give first priority to surfaces that are most easily damaged by soot. These include windows and other glass, chrome, stainless steel and other polished or painted metal including plumbing fixtures and appliances. These surfaces can be wiped down with a clean terry cloth using a alkaline cleaner with no strong solvents such as HydroForce Spinergy 11, ammonia (diluted in water) or some household products for hard surface and/or window cleaning.
- Keep doors and windows closed to prevent more soot and odor from entering the home. Use extensive matting at entry ways to prevent soot and ash from being tracked in.
- Change HVAC filters frequently. Even with windows closed your HVAC is drawing in outside air full of particulates.
- Stone surfaces such as marble, travertine and limestone will also be damaged by acid soot if not cleaned promptly. These floors and counters should be swept and mopped with a neutral cleaner until professional cleaning can be accomplished. Stonetech’s Stone & Tile Cleaner works great for this purpose.
- Upholstery, drapes and other soft furnishings should not be used until they are professionally cleaned. When upholstery must be used, placed covers, bed sheets or other protection over them.
- Home-owners should not attempt to wash painted or wood paneled walls, vacuum or otherwise clean upholstery or carpets. There is a possibility they could damage the furnishings as well as spreading soot into the air and around the home.