A Handyman's Guide: Cleaning Smoke Damage From Your Ceiling

September 18, 2020

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If you need to clean smoke damage from a ceiling, it’s vital you understand how to do this job properly and effectively, and why it needs to be done quickly as well! A homeowner would also do well to check out some simple but important tips for fire damage cleanup and repair, water damage cleanup, and mold remediation, all of which are typically needed after a house fire!

Simply Put, Here's How to Clean Smoke Damage from Your Ceiling:

To clean smoke damage from a ceiling, start with a tri-sodium phosphate mixture or diluted white vinegar. Use this to sponge off smoke and soot stains; for stubborn stains, use paint thinner or rubbing alcohol, but be prepared to repaint the damaged areas after cleaning as these both tend to strip or thin paint and other surfaces.

Fire damage cleanup and repairs are often more complicated than homeowners realize, and can mean loosening airborne soot, ash, and other debris. It’s also easy to simply spread those materials around a room’s ceiling or walls rather than cleaning them away if you don’t follow proper cleaning procedures!

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Before you start sponging down rooms in your home, note some step-by-step tips for fire damage cleanup and especially how to clean smoke damage from a ceiling and walls. Remember to discuss your concerns with a fire damage repair contractor near you as well, so you know when to leave this work in the hands of a pro and when to call them for added water damage cleanup and mold remediation services.

How to Clean Smoke Damage From Ceilings and Walls

Since smoke damage is typically harder to clean than you might realize, consider all these steps before you begin. This will ensure you know how to manage proper cleaning while also keeping you and your home safe from added smoke damage and inhalation!

  • Be sure you protect yourself before you clean smoke damage from ceilings and walls. Use eye protection and a breathing apparatus, as well as thick rubber gloves. It’s also recommended you cover your hair and wear old clothes you can dispose of after cleaning, or invest in protective clothing.
  • As you clean smoke damage from a ceiling or wall, you might spread some of that soot and ash as well as paint debris, dirt, dust, and other residues. To protect your home, put down a protective tarp under the area you’ll be cleaning; consider taping protective tarps over nearby walls as well.
  • Ventilate the space as much as possible, but use caution about using fans and appliances that circulate air so that you don’t start spreading around dust and soot while cleaning. Instead, open windows and turn on the kitchen stove ventilation fan, as well as a bathroom ventilation fan.
  • Remove as much furniture and other items from the room; cover remaining items with protective tarps or newspaper.
  • Chemical dry cleaning sponges (i.e., Mr. Clean Magic Eraser) soak up smoke, soot, ash, and other debris and residues. You might invest in a few of these sponges, available at most hardware and home improvement stores.
  • If your dry cleaning sponge isn’t sufficient, try a tri-sodium phosphate mixture. TSP is also available at local home improvement or janitorial supply stores; mix a tablespoon in a gallon of warm water and use a clean, everyday sponge to blot the smoke stains.
  • Alternatively, consider using a 50/50 white vinegar and water solution along with a clean, everyday sponge. Soak the sponge in the solution and blot the smoke stains. It’s often recommended that you allow the stained area to dry completely before trying this process again, so you can see which areas need a second or third cleaning.
  • The last option you want to use for cleaning smoke damage from a ceiling or wall is paint thinner or rubbing alcohol. These materials tend to strip paint so you will need to be prepared to repaint the area after cleaning!

If none of these procedures work, it’s recommended you call a fire damage restoration contractor for deep cleaning. Avoid simply painting over that smoke damage or soot and ash stains, as paint often doesn’t adhere well to stained ceilings and walls and those stains might simply bleed through. Paint also does little to get rid of smoky odors.

How Do You Get Rid of Smoke Damage Odor?

After a fire, smoke damage odor often lingers for days if not weeks. Covering up those odors with candles, air fresheners, and other simple tricks is typically insufficient and might only result in even more unpleasant smells in the home! Remember, too, that candle release fumes while air fresheners use chemicals to create certain smells, so using these after a fire can mean even poorer air quality inside the home.

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One important step in getting rid of smoke damage odor in the home is to change the furnace filter as well as filters in any air purifiers you have in the house. These filters no doubt trapped smoke, sooth, ash, and other fire debris; as long as that debris is in the filter, you’ll have a smoky odor in your home.

If odors still linger after cleaning smoke damage from ceilings and walls, use diluted ammonia to rinse them, rinse them again with plain water and allow the surfaces to dry completely, and then prime the surfaces with an odor-blocking paint primer. Use latex paint over the primer to refinish the surfaces and block unpleasant, lingering odors.

If your paint job still doesn’t remove smoke odors, it’s time to call a fire restoration contractor for professional odor neutralizing services. A fire damage cleanup company will often use ozone generators, air scrubbers, and other heavy-duty equipment to literally neutralize the chemicals that create odors in the air, for a fresh and healthy atmosphere in the home.

Can You Clean Smoke Damage From Appliances?

First note that fire-damaged appliances might need new wiring and other such repairs before they’re usable. If your appliance has been exposed to flames or high heat, have it checked for damage and needed repairs before turning them on and especially for gas stoves, as damaged gas lines can leak and cause health and additional fire hazards!

If your appliance is safe for use and only needs surface cleaning, start by mixing baking soda in water until it forms a runny paste. Use a damp rag or sponge to rub this paste onto the smoke-damaged area and then another clean, damp rag or sponge to rinse it away. If this isn’t sufficient, use a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water along with a damp rag to wash away soot and smoke stains.

If smoke stains still linger, note that you can typically paint over those stains using appliance paint. For stainless steel appliances, choose liquid stainless steel, a type of coating meant to cover stainless steel or give household appliances the look of steel! Ensure your appliances dry completely after painting before you use them again, especially a stovetop.

When to Call a Water and Fire Damage Repair Contractor

While a homeowner might clean minor smoke and fire damage from their home, it’s vital that you know when to call a water and fire damage repair contractor instead, and leave cleanup in the hands of the pros! One important reminder is that firefighters often use copious amounts of water to extinguish a blaze; drywall, carpeting, and a home’s framework all absorb that water easily, leading to softened wood and damaged surfaces.

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If your home’s fire required large amounts of water to extinguish, or even if you used small amounts of water over carpeting, it’s recommended you call a water damage cleanup company near you. Extracting excess water requires more than standard vacuuming and other household tools and equipment, as carpets might need to be pulled up and dehumidifiers used in the space as well.

A homeowner should also call a fire damage cleanup company if there is soot, ash, and other residues trapped in wall finishes, carpeting, or floor tiles. Trying to vacuum those residues often does nothing more than spread them around the home, or make them airborne and a breathing hazard! It’s also difficult to extract soot and ash from deep in carpet fibers and all those pits and pores of tile and stone surfaces.

What Is Mold Remediation and Why Is It Needed After Fire Damage Repairs?

Along with damaged surfaces, excess water, and moisture in the home increase the risk of mold growth! Mold grows quickly along damp, dark surfaces, sometimes forming within 48 to 72 hours; it then spreads just as quickly, damaging surfaces and potentially becoming a health hazard.

Mold remediation is different than mold cleanup; remediation refers to correcting something wrong or deficient. Mold remediation then refers to correcting an environment at risk of mold growth, reducing, and even eliminating that risk.

In a fire-damaged home, mold remediation typically begins with an evaluation of humidity levels in the air including spots hard to access, such as behind walls. Those humidity levels are lowered as needed; a mold remediation contractor might use dehumidifiers and even lights, to make your home less hospitable for mold spores.

If your home holds extra dampness and moisture after a fire, call a water damage repair company for mold remediation. They can also help if you’ve tried to clean smoke damage from ceilings and walls and those stains remain. A fire damage cleanup contractor ensures your home is clean and pristine and safe for reoccupation!

A Word From Our Pros:

When you require fire services in your local area of Georgia, our team of qualified technicians is there to help you will all fire damage and clean up needs.


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