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Recently had a fire in or near your home? Got a piece of furniture that was used by an avid smoker?

Smoke is a very difficult thing to completely remove from any given area. Furniture, walls, carpet, rugs, it’s all the same in terms of a hassle to clean and remove the scent. However, it’s not impossible to remove the smell of smoke. In fact, it can be done on your own, DIY style. On the flip side, it’s incredibly time-consuming, tedious, and takes a LOT of cleaning supplies.

Let’s start things off by going over what you shouldn’t do if you’re trying to remove the scent of smoke.

What Not to Do When Smoke Lingers in Your Home

Homeowners can make mistakes when smoke residue is permeated throughout the home. It’s easy enough to fall behind in the process of smoke odor removal when the fire recently occurred. However, the sooner you start removing the smoke smell, the better.

  • Don’t wait to air out the room, do it immediately.
  • Don’t wait to start cleaning every inch of the house, start now.
  • Don’t leave soot and ash lying around.
  • Don’t mask the scent, extract it.
  • Don’t assume you’ll have to replace all of your household belongings, this may not be the case.

Continue below to discover what you SHOULD be doing.

How Do You Remove the Smell of Smoke After a Fire?

Kitchen fires, wildfires, and just about any fire is difficult to clean up in the aftermath when it comes to smoke.

Completely removing the smoke smell may take a professional, depending upon what was burned in the fire. Plastics, chemicals and any other sort of material that uses a chemical is dangerous when burned. The smoke particles are not healthy to breathe in.

Did you know: Wood smoke particles are smaller than even bacteria?! They are 1 micron in diameter. That’s extremely small.

This is why it’s such an arduous process to fully remove the smell of smoke from ANY surface. Smoke doesn’t want to go away. The particles are so small that they literally hide within materials anywhere within the house where the smoke passed through. Cleaning up after a large fire is even worse, especially if more airflow allowed the smoke to move throughout your home.

Here’s a graphic showing you just how small a smoke particle from wood looks when compared to human hair.

graphic of a particulate matter comparison by microns showing sand vs human hair
Image source: EPA

If you still smell smoke in your home after you follow these DIY tips, you’ll need to get a professional fire damage restoration company involved to assist in the cleaning and restoring of your home. If you’re in the Gunnison County, CO area, we’re just a phone call away!

Remove All Ash and Soot Immediately

Person cleaning off soot from a tiled wall

We recommend removing any source of smoke immediately so the smell can’t have an active source, causing the smoke smell to linger. Everything we discuss after this will be affected if you still have ash and soot in your house since they are origins of smoke particles. You will still smell smoke in your home unless both ash and soot are completely cleaned and removed.

Air Out the Room

Did the fire affect the entire home or just one room? No matter what, you should air out the affected living spaces so new air circulates the smoke-filled air. So long as you remove all of the smoke from all surfaces, the fresh air will help with extracting and filtering out the smokey air.

Professional restoration experts like us suggest using an air mover by installing it next to a window, this will help circulate old air out with new air. True, air movers are most notably used for water damage projects, but they work just the same for fire damage jobs.

Neutralize the Smell, Don’t Mask It

Don’t put a bandaid over the smell, that’s not going to eliminate the problem you’re facing. Using aerosols, candles, diffusers, etc are all patches to the larger issue. Face the issue straight on by neutralizing the scent of the smoke. What we mean is: Extract and clean up the smoke odor at the particle source.

There are a few options you can use to mask or extract the smell of smoke. It can help as a quick fix but it won’t solve your problem.

White Vinegar Mixture: A well-known fix-all application, white vinegar soaks up odors and kills them. While the smell of vinegar is unpleasant to some, it does do the job of assisting with smoke particles. You can use a part-vinegar, part-water mixture to dilute the scent of the vinegar while making it spread further. Wipe this on all surfaces or put it in open containers around the house where the smoke smell resides. Using white vinegar only removes the scent in the air, it doesn’t remove smoke particles on surfaces.

Use Activated Charcoal: Charcoal is known as a detoxifying agent and can absorb scents. Powdered charcoal (activated charcoal) is recommended to place around the house in opened containers so it can absorb the particles in the air. However, this only removes the scent in the air, it doesn’t remove smoke particles on surfaces.

Sprinkle Lots of Baking Soda: Generously sprinkle baking soda all throughout your carpet and let it sit for 24-48 hours before vacuuming it up. The idea is to allow the baking soda to absorb and extract the smoke particles from the carpet fibers. Again, this only removes the scent in the air, it doesn’t remove smoke particles on other surfaces.

Clean Off Everything & Deep Clean Upholstery

Cigarette smoke or fire smoke are difficult to extract and clean, but it’s got to be done. Simply doing the aforementioned tactics with vinegar or baking soda won’t cut the smoke out of your home, it will only help remove the scent for a moment. What you truly must do is clean every surface that the smoke touched.

When we say everything, we truly mean everything. You’ll need to clean your cabinets, inside the cabinets, the walls, the toilet, every little thing can be holding smoke particles. Use white vinegar on surfaces to help kill off the scent.

This process will take hours or even days, but it will be well worth it to you to have the smoke properly cleaned out.

Steam Cleaning is Very Effective in Extracting Odors

Someone steam cleaning an oven with rubber gloves

Steam cleaning is looked upon as the ultimate cleaning strategy for stains and odors. The hot vapors dilute the adhesive of the smoke particle, allowing the particle to come loose and detach from the area where it was stuck. You can steam clean the upholstery, furniture, carpets, walls, and ceilings to extract the smoke scent.

Replace Your HVAC Air Filter

Our air filters catch particles of various sizes. Depending upon the filter’s MERV rating, it could have caught the smoke particles. The denser the filter’s mesh, the more particles it captures. However, when the HVAC system pushes air into the house, it could force the scent particles to release into the air. Replace your air filter to keep the airflow clean.

Repaint Your Walls

As we said, you shouldn’t put a bandaid on anything if you truly want to extract the scent of smoke from your home, furniture, or even your vehicle. Repainting your walls after you’ve cleaned off all of the walls, every inch of them, isn’t a bandaid but rather a preventative measure.

Paint, unfortunately, absorbs odors. The paint in your house could be the source of the smoke scent. This being the case, you should clean then paint over the walls with fresh paint and an odor-blocking primer. Apply a shellac-based primer to block the scent of smoke.

In conclusion, just clean off every surface imaginable since you don’t know officially where the source of the smoke odor is emitting from. Clean the floors, walls, ceiling, appliances, clothes, desks, chairs, etc. All items could hold the smoke particles, so leave no stone unturned. If you can’t remove the scent yourself, call on the pros to get the job done right, quickly and efficiently.