If you experience a fire, you may focus on the damage caused directly by the flames. However, some of the
worst damage after fires comes from soot and smoke. These insidious threats can linger well after you clean
up or restore any burned items.
In this blog, we guide you through the dangers of and restoration from smoke damage in your home.
What is Smoke?
While “what is smoke?” may seem like a question with an obvious answer, the makeup of smoke, soot, and ash
accounts for the damage they can do. Essentially, smoke consists of particles that weren’t fully consumed by
the flames. Many of these particles stay small, even microscopic, but they occur in high amounts which makes
them visible to the eye.
Once fire response teams smother the blaze, smoke and ash linger. Over time, usually the course of a few
hours, these pieces of unburned but potentially still heated fuel begin to settle on your walls, floors, and
What Damage Does Smoke Cause?
As smoke and its by-products settle, they start to degrade the surfaces they encounter. Common smoke
damage includes the following:
- Corrosion: Soot and ash have acidic properties. Because of this, smoke residue interacts
with many chemicals and materials commonly found in the home, causing corrosion that worsens with time. Soot
can eat through finishes on wood furnishings and cause rust and pitting on metal items.
- Odor: Perhaps the most obvious type of smoke damage is the smell. Smoke leaves a distinct
unpleasant odor that sinks deep into porous items. This odor lingers in cloth fibers of all kinds, including
clothing, upholstery, and linens.
- Stains: As soot and ash settle, they begin to discolor the surfaces they land on. Many
homes with recent fires have stained flooring, yellowed wallpaper, and tarnished appliances.
In some cases, corrosive ash can even burn through flammable materials like wallpaper and upholstery. This
process leaves burns of the same kind as actual flames.
Which Measures Can You Take Yourself?
While you can and should take some immediate measures to protect your home from the effects of smoke, you
should proceed with caution. High concentrations of smoke residue can exacerbate respiratory conditions and
cause other health problems.
Additionally, some types of smoke damage require professional restoration and may actually be worsened by
typical attempts at removal. For example, if you attempt to vacuum up visible soot, you must use a handheld
vacuum. But putting pressure on soot residue forces the particles further into the surface they coat, such as
your carpet, which can result in permanent stains.
Call professionals in as soon as you are able. Before the restoration team arrives, begin the recovery
process by taking these steps:
- Open the windows and doors to encourage ventilation.
- Turn off your heating and cooling system to avoid getting more smoke into the vents.
- Use ceiling and floor fans to remove any smoke lingering in the air.
At this point, you may be able to begin removing anything that isn’t salvageable. Stay mindful of your
safety and any instructions given by firefighters and your restoration expert during this process. If you
can, take any unsalvageable items out of your home entirely to minimize smoke damage.
If you have experienced a fire of any size in your home, contact an experienced restoration team to get
your home back to normal. These professionals can make recommendations based on your specific situation and
the extent of the damage to ensure that you leave all unpleasant reminders behind you as you move on after
For more information on protecting your clothes, property, and furnishings in the case of an emergency
situation, read our other blog posts.