Smoke damage in a home may not be easy to see, but it can cause serious health risks that remain weeks and months after a fire is extinguished.
The simplest answer to the question is no. In most cases, staying in a house with smoke damage is not safe. Smoke residue can contain toxins that leach into the air over time. Smoke damage can also affect electrical equipment and make it unsafe to use.
To explain the dangers of smoke damage, this article will discuss what it is, how it poses a danger, and what should be done to ensure safety before the home is suitable for living in.
What is Smoke Damage?
In most house fires, a variety of materials are burned, resulting in potentially hundreds of different chemicals being exuded in smoke. Depending on the materials, amount of oxygen available, and burn temperature, different chemicals can form as gases and soot. Many of them can settle in your home as smoke residue.
This residue will rest as a thin film on every surface in the home, including walls, ceiling, carpet, clothing, books, the HVAC system, and appliances. It often gives off a pungent odor, and it can discolor whatever it rests on. It can also damage electrical equipment and be toxic to anyone who breathes or ingests it.
How Can Smoke Damage Harm People and Animals?
The primary way smoke damage affects health is by capturing toxic chemicals and releasing them slowly into the air or coming into contact with the body by touch or ingestion. The list of harmful chemicals often found in smoke is long, but here are a few of them:
- Carbon monoxide – This colorless, odorless gas interferes with oxygen transport in the bloodstream, resulting in oxygen deprivation in the body’s tissues. Signs include headache, nausea, confusion, and blurred vision. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause brain damage and death.
- Aldehydes – These compounds can cause irritation and severe respiratory symptoms; some may be carcinogenic.
- Nitrogen dioxide – This reddish-brown gas has an acrid odor and causes irritation. It can cause respiratory issues, including pulmonary edema, which can lead to death.
- Sulfur dioxide – It causes severe irritation on the nose and throat, coughing, shortness of breath, etc. It can also cause fluid accumulation in the lungs, which can be life-threatening.
- Hydrogen cyanide – It’s a colorless gas with a bitter almond odor. Like carbon monoxide, it impedes the body’s use of oxygen and can cause fatal damage to the heart, lungs, brain, and blood vessels.
- Isocyanic acid – This acidic gas is colorless but can cause damage to the skin and eyes. Inhaling can cause difficulty breathing and respiratory tract irritation.
- Benzene – Exposure to high levels can cause dizziness, drowsiness, irregular heartbeat, headaches, confusion, and even death. Long-term exposure can decrease red blood cells and may cause cancer.
Smoke damage can damage circuits in electrical equipment. Soot deposits on electrical components can cause short circuits and corrosion, affecting the electrical device’s function. This may be more inconvenient and expensive than dangerous in many cases, but when it comes to medical equipment and communication devices, it could become life-threatening.
How to Get Rid of Smoke Damage?
To start with, if your house has smoke damage, no one should enter it without proper safety equipment, including a respirator mask, rubber gloves, and possibly an airtight body suit.
Smoke residue and the odor accompanying it can be tough to remove, especially from porous materials like paint and carpet. Cleaning smoke damage should be done as soon as possible to avoid residue becoming more difficult to remove and causing corrosion on metal surfaces. This should all be done with sufficient ventilation.
Carpet – This can be one of the most challenging things to remove smoke damage from, and in many cases, it will not be salvageable. It will also likely contain a lot of ash and even water if the fire department was called.
Start by using a vacuum to remove ash and soot – a wet vac if water is present. Then use a carpet cleaner with a cleaning solution formulated for smoke damage to remove the residue and odor. You may need to repeat this process multiple times to get it completely clean.
Walls – You’ll want to go over every inch of your walls and ceiling to remove all toxic remnants of the smoke.
Use a solution of 4 to 6 Tbsp of trisodium phosphate and a cup of household cleaner per gallon of warm water. Wash one small area at a time with a sponge or brush, then immediately rinse with pure water. Lastly, dry it immediately. If the odor remains, you may need to repeat the process.
The HVAC system – These systems can be difficult to reach for a thorough cleaning. But if smoke residue and ash are present in your ducts, they’ll be blown all over your home as soon as the heating or air conditioning is turned on.
You’ll need a strong vacuum, an air compressor, and an air duct whip to remove all debris. An ozone odor neutralizer can remove the smell of smoke from your system. This can be difficult for people unfamiliar with an HVAC system and the cleaning equipment needed.
Furniture – You may need to use various cleaning products suitable for wood, cloth, and leather. This can be a very involved process to clean all parts of your furniture.
Should You Clean Yourself or Call a Professional?
With proper safety equipment and the right cleaning products, anyone can clean up smoke damage after a fire. But that involves gathering a lot of equipment and products, not to mention a lot of elbow grease.
Most people following a house fire have enough to worry about without devoting their attention to ensuring their home is safe for their family to live in again. A fire and smoke damage restoration company will have everything on hand to complete the job well. And in cases where insurance covers fire damage, they’ll pay for professional cleanup services.
Bull Matrix Restoration is Ready and Willing to Help
Surviving a fire is an intense experience, but don’t make the mistake of thinking the worst danger is behind you when the fire is extinguished. It’s essential to take the necessary steps to know your house is safe before you and your family return.
Bull Matrix can come quickly, inspect and repair fire damage, remove unsalvageable material, clean up water and smoke damage, and eliminate the smell of smoke in your home. Contact us 24/7 for emergency service.