According to the National Fire Protection Association, around 358,500 homes in the United States experience a fire each year. This number causes an average of $21.9 billion in property damage.
Not only does fire cause major unintentional injury at home, but it also damages the personal belongings of property owners. This leaves families to start from square one.
However, if your clothes catch fire, you can still do techniques to save them. Here are several tips on how to get smoke out of clothes after a house fire:
How to Get Smoke Out of Clothes After a House Fire
Did your favorite sweater catch fire? Don’t worry; You don’t have to throw smoke-damaged clothes right away. There are extremely easy methods you can do to get smoke out of clothes without needing the help of professionals.
Save your favorite clothes by following these steps in cleaning smoke-damaged clothing
- Start by separating burnt clothes from non-burnt ones.
- Next, classify each piece of clothing into two: Salvageable and non-salvageable. Use your judgement in this step.
- Take them out and shake any loose soot particles off lightly. This way, you can prevent further damage to your clothes.
- After ensuring that soot particles have been removed, hang the clothes outside and air them out for 24 hours or more. If hanging them outside is not plausible, you may air them inside your home. You can use fans and dehumidifiers too. Open your windows to ensure good ventilation.
- One great tip is to spray a vinegar solution on the damaged clothes. To prepare a vinegar solution, mix vinegar and water following a 50/50 ratio. Continue spraying depending on the severity of smoke damage your clothes have caught. Remember to not let the clothes dry after doing this process.
- Once you’ve sprayed them down with a vinegar solution, immediately toss them off to the laundry while the clothes are still damp.
Before washing, we recommend adding a cup of baking soda to the clothes. Adding a cup of vinegar after works too. After this, launder like usual.
If the clothes still smell smoky and smoke stains remain visible, repeat the process until you are satisfied. Sometimes, it can take up to five washes before the smell and stain are entirely removed.
Removing the Soot from Fabrics
Those black oily spots you see are called soot. Soot particles are the black powdery flakes on your smoke-damaged clothes. These are the main cause of odor and discoloration of fabrics, which is why removing soot is very important before washing your clothes.
Start by taking the clothes outside. Shake the clothes off to eliminate the soot particles. Make sure you do this step gently. Because soot is oily, shaking your clothes too much may cause staining. Be careful when handling clothes that have too many soot particles.
Never use brushes or sponges to scrub out soot. These tools may cause the soot particles to go deeper into the fibers of your clothes. This will make removing the soot even more challenging.
If you think shaking the soot off is not enough, you may use a vacuum cleaner to help you out. Attach a narrow tip for this method and keep it around 2 inches away from the fabric.
It’s important to know that sometimes, you can’t get all the soot out. We recommend washing soot-stained clothes with a heavy-duty detergent mixed with one cup of distilled white vinegar and ½ cup of all-fabric bleach. Follow laundry instructions listed in your clothes’ care labels to prevent further damage to the fabric.
Cleaning Smoke-Damaged Non-washable Clothes
Not all clothes can be washed with a machine. Some types of fabric need special care.
These include the following textiles that should never go in the wash
- Viscose or Rayon. This type of fabric can shrink to extreme proportions if washed using a machine.
- Non-washable Leather. To prevent further damage, better take leather clothing to a professional cleaner.
- Structured fabrics. Some clothes have structured pads that are not machine-safe. These can get dislodged while washing.
- Fur with skin. A traditional fur coat is an example of this. Be wary as machine-washing may cause these types of fabric to shrink.
- Cashmere and Wool. The risk of shrinkage, tearing, and misshaping is high in machine-washing cashmere and wool. It’s better to handwash these types of fabric.
- Clothes labelled as “Dry Clean Only” [6 Steps To Dry Clean Clothes At Home]
These fabrics being non-washable does not mean that you can’t save them, though! You’re probably wondering, how can you save smoke-damaged clothes that are not machine-safe? Our answer: Baking soda!
Baking soda is a great tool available in every household and store. Baking soda can solve clogged drains, tarnished silver, dirty microwaves, and stained coffee cups!
To use this technique, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda all over the damaged garment. Allow it to sit outside for at least a day before vacuuming or shaking it off. This method may take a while, but trust the process! Baking soda can do wonders.
If the clothes still smell smoky or wonky, you can try using commercially-available odor-removing products. These products can help you save time in trying to restore your smoke-damaged clothes.
Getting Help From Professional Fire Restorers
Tired of doing every DIY you’ve researched? Maybe it’s time to get help from the professionals.
Although it’s possible to get smoke out of clothes after a house fire by yourself, Professional Fire Restorers provide great assistance in cleaning and removing bad odor from your clothes. They have every tool and equipment to solve your fire-related problems.
The method these professionals use is called “Ozone Treatment”. If you’re not familiar with this, ozone treatment is a process used to get rid of smoky smelly bits you can’t get rid of with a simple scrub. This process is done with the use of an ozone generator.
Ozone treatment is a great way to sanitize your textiles as it breaks down smoke molecules. This effective way uses fewer chemicals and requires shorter wash cycles.
While there are lots of solutions to getting smoke out of clothes after a house fire, the best one yet is prevention. Preventing a house fire starts from knowing its cause.
Bonus: House Fire Causes and Preventive Tips
One of the biggest threats to homeowners other than natural calamities is a house fire. Did you know that every 23 seconds, a fire is reported to a fire department in the United States? In fact, statistics show that a home fire happens every 87 seconds. Knowing the causes of a house fire can help you prevent them from happening.
Being knowledgeable about how a house fire happens can save you, your property, and your family members.
Let’s look into the 6 main causes of house fires
- Faulty Wiring. Faulty electrical wiring causes the vast majority of house fires. One of the warning signs that your electrical systems have a problem is flickering lights. If you’ve noticed that some of your lights dim, we recommend having them checked by a professional. Other than this, switches or outlets that heat up while in use are warning signs too.
- Cooking. Cooking remains to be at the top of the list of what causes a residential fire. According to statistics, approximately 44% of house fires begin in the kitchen, and most of them happen on Thanksgiving. To prevent fire, never leave things cooking in the kitchen unattended.
- Heating Equipment. If you have heaters, stoves, toasters, and fireplaces at home, make sure to check them regularly. As heat sources, they can be a source of fire too. Make sure that you don’t put any belonging like your clothes near these heating devices.
- Candles. Each time you use a candle, we recommend you trim its wick. This way, you can reduce the risk of fires happening. Most importantly, do not leave your lit candles unattended.
- Cigarettes. Cigarettes dropped onto furniture may start a house fire. Stay away from fire hazards when smoking.
- Appliances. Defective appliances may spark, causing a fire to ignite. This causes fire to spread from one room to another quickly. Besides defective appliances, leaving them plugged may start a fire too. Before heading out, always check your appliances and unplug them if necessary.
If your favorite sweater got damaged, you should not throw it into the dumpster right away. There are quick solutions and easy-to-follow techniques available on how to get smoke out of clothes after a house fire.
Most of these methods use tools that are available inside your home, saving you time and a few bucks. Remember though, before doing any treatment, read and follow your clothes’ care labels. If DIY techniques aren’t enough, you can always consider calling Professional Fire Restorers for help.
Though restoring clothes and personal belongings is only one step to recovery, we hope our listing has helped you jump from square one!
Jessica Oliver is a fashion enthusiast with more than ten years of experience in the industry. She previously managed her own clothing store in New York before becoming a mother of three. With a passion for sustainability and a desire to share clothing care and recycling tips.