A semi-homeless person in San Diego would to know how to get rid of smoke
odors in a house that survived the firestorm. Several "disaster restorers"
quoted from 30,000 to 50,000 to make our house smell as fresh as a daisy. So
The houses around us burned to the ground and contribute to the smoky odor.
There is a very fine layer of soot and ash in the attic and garage. The rest
of the house merely reeks of burned stuff.
Will washing the walls help? I am afraid that the odor will return after a
few days or weeks. Can anyone offer some suggestions for the permanent
elimination of this stink? Some people swear by ozone generators, others say
that they are dangerous and ineffective.
Thanks for any and all input.
I'm sorry for the position you are in; with the fire and all.
Wash walls good with TSP and clean warm water. Place open baking soda
containers in rooms. Bowls of vinegar, left out will help with odor.
This is a beginning. I wish the best for you.
Your area might still smell of smoke for a long time, in the
I'm really sorry about what happened. I have read that ozone generators
are dangerous, it's even mentioned in the latest Consumer Reports.
I have seen it mentioned on a few of those house flipping shows, that
they coat the whole inside with some paint? that contains the odor of
smoke. You know they flip houses that have been burned.
I'm sorry I don't know what the product is, but I bet some googling will
come up with a name. I bet a *whole lot* of people in your area would
be interested ... I would think advice along these lines would be appearing
in your local paper.
Ozone generators are undoubtedly the best solution. My recommendation
would be to make a lot of phone calls and do a lot of searching on the
internet. You will probably need to be come sort of an expert on the
subject. Then decide whether you want to buy a machine or rent one. If
rentals are in short supply, I would give some serious consideration
to buying a good one and then trying to sell it later. Or, perhaps,
you might be able to rent it out to others when you are through with
Your insurance company should offer suggestions and perhaps the rental
cost of an ozone generator. I'm not sure about the risks in using an
ozone generator, but perhaps you can plan a 2-day trip and let the
generator do its thing while you're away. Open windows and allow in
all the sunshine you can get.
I think you need to walk through the house systematically and
figure out exactly what parts and surfaces are going to "store"
* Wash the surfaces that are washable.
* Paint the surfaces that can't be washed and are paintable.
A good sealing primer like Kilz will help.
* Clean all of the fabrics that you can (drapes, bedding
and the like)
* Carpets are a big problem, IMO. They really do absorb and
store odors and it's pretty much impossible to remove.
The chances are high that you'll need to replace any
carpet (and pad).
* I'm really not sure how you're going to deal with the
attic. I suppose I'd start with a vacuum but I'm really
not sure how effective that will be. I'd certainly ask
those disaster restorers what they would propose to do.
Chances are you can do the same thing yourself for a
fraction of the price.
| Malcolm Hoar "The more I practice, the luckier I get". |
Vacuum or mop up all residue. Wash all walls and then most likely you will
need to paint all surfaces with a product like Klltz or Bins to seal any
remaining odor in. If the smell is inside the walls the extreme method is
to remove the drywall, seal the framing and hang new drywall. You may be
able to avoid that with a lot of caulk and effort.
The two products I mentioned are excellent. Two coats over scorched wood
and there was no smell left.
If you have insurance, file a claim. The pos will do a much better job.
My home suffered severe fire and smoke damage in 2000. I was out 6 months
for the restoration. I don't know what chemical was used but I have never
smelled any smoke or fire odors since. I will call then Monday when they
open and let you know if they will tell me. I used TSP you can get from
Lowe's or maybe Wal-mart. I don't know what TSP stands. I thnk it is tri-
sodium phosphate. It is the cheapest type of solution like this. I used
cheap mouthwash for some of the clothes and the odor was removed. The
cheaper the mouthwash the better. Hope it works.
Walter R. wrote:
Have you talked to your insurance company yet? They may cover any
remediation costs you incur.
You also want to clean any electronics. The soot carries some materials
that can corrode electronics over time. I'm told problems can come up in six
months from such a situation.
I'm in the process of cleaning control panels right now using spray on
electronics cleaner. Our business was in a building that had a major fire.
The odor is pretty much eliminated by a good washing with detergents and in
some cases degreaser. Upholstered furniture may keep it for a long time.
Get rid of carpeting. Time also helps dissipate the odor..
You may also want to consider a good insurance adjuster. They have
experience dealing with the insurance companies and assure that you get what
you are entitled to under the terms of your policy.
I hope you come out of this reasonably intact. It certainly was a terrible
So sorry to hear of this but happy for you that your home seems to have
My Mom's way to make money when we were kids was to buy a house, fix it,
then sell it for the profits and move on. Similar to the house shows on
'flipping' only we lived in the house. One of them (South Carolina) was
similar in that the house next door and the surrounding woods had burned
down. It wasnt the level of smoke and soot you probably have, but I'll list
what I recall of the process. Yes, we got the smell out.
1. Wash everything you can get at with a good wall washing solution. TSP
is what I see the others mention. If you have any unpainted wood, use
murphy's soap solution on those parts. (Dont use murphys soap on drywall,
but it works fine on any wood that hasnt been painted or the floors if
2. Rip out all interior carpets and any undercarpet cushionings. You'll
never really get the smell out of them though you can 'mask it' for short
times with various cleaners. If you have any exterior 'carpet' such as on
an enclosed porch, this may be 'cleanable' if it's a type you can lift up
and take to the back yard then hose down. That stuff that sorta looks like
'astro-turf' can be cleaned and reused. Be sure if doing that to use a
strong murphy soap cleaning solution and a scrub brush, and do *both sides*.
It slightly damaged the color but not enough to be a problem. Mostly it was
a hassle getting all the soap back out but you have to keep at it to get it
all out or you'll have slippery soap on your feet if you walk on it later
and it's wet. We did not have a pressure washer but if we had, it would
have been useful for that exterior carpet.
3. You may want to contract out cleaning the attic? Until you get that
layer of soot out, you will be smelling it. My Mom has a battery operated
hand vacumn unit we used up there in series to et as much as we could. We
also replaced the insulation (fiberglass rolls are easy). Its not fun doing
this in summer. Watch carefully for heat prostration and don't stay up
there more than 30 mins. Fortunately the vacumn cleaner thing would fill in
about 15 so we had to come down and empty it anyways. We'd recharge it and
wait for it to cool down then take another stint. Getting to the eaves was
my job as I was small enough (yet old enough to be safely able to do such).
Once we took out the insulation, we had an electrican come up and look over
all the wiring to mae sure nothing had soot in there that wouldlater cause
problems. He cleaned a few parts but it was mostly ok. If i recall
correctly, the ceiling boxes that had fans underneath were the trouble spots
and all else was ok? Soot had gotten inside them in a fine layer. Possibly
as an after effect as we had been runnig them? Apologies but I was about 11
years old and thats my best recollection on that part.
4. Some of the house had that 70's style flocked wallpaper. That cant be
fixed without destroying the stuff. We removed it and put up new stuff.
Also, we found the vinyl wallpaper in one bathroom had to be replaced. We
thought it would be ok after cleaning but the smell came back (reclesned
twice before we realized it wasnt going to go away). This may have had to
do with that specific brand and perhaps it was a bit more 'pourous' than
others? If you have any like that, try cleaning it and see if it works but
be prepared to have to replace it. (do not cover with another layer, the
smell would come back).
5. No matter what you do, you will have aroma seeping in from outside for a
year though it will go down alot after 6 months. This can't be fixed. We
wnt through the burned lot nex to the house and removed what we could do
reasonably easily then put in tons of little pine seedlings. It may have
helped, or it may have just been 'time'.
You'll probably want to seal the walls with Kilz or a similar primer after
washing, then repaint. In that particular house, the old paint was oil
based so we used a primer for tht, then used oil based paint over it. On
ozone generators, sorry. I know nothing of them other than what the people
here say (dangerous and not very effective). Of course, since none of our
furniture was in there, we didnt have to deal with upholstery issues and
beds (seems to me, you will have to replace those things too but see if
another has any ideas?)
It's possible the contractor planned something like what I've listed but I'd
check really carefully to find out exactly what they planned before going
with them. Sad to say but I can see alot of fly-by-night guys trying to mae
a profit at homeowners expense out there, with ineffective shortcut methods.
I'd want to know exactly how long they had been in business doing that
particular type of job (not just general contracting made to look like this
Good luck Walter and hope this helps.
Walter, I just remembered something else we did. My Mom took us to the
library and set us all to looking for gardening books for pretty and
aromatic plants that would take well to the conditions (fine layer of soot
around yard, deeper layer in burned down wooded area). I mentioned we
replanted pine seedlings in the woods but we also put in quite a few plants
around the house that would help.
I do recall some of the plants didnt take well, and some that werent
recommended for that type of soil condition did actually work (remember, we
were dealing with a light layer, not a heavy one as the fire did not reach
the actual yard, comming at closest point about 15 yards away).
Ones that survived well and fit the growing area, yours too I think?
Azaleas, gardinas, lilac, roses, hyacinths, hydrangea. Some of those were
from the libary book recommendations but I do not recall which were which
after 35 years. We also had several herb gardens in window boxes so when we
opened the windows, we smelled mostly those that first year. Mine and my
sister's bedroom had mint at one window and oregano at the other <grin>. My
brother got the sage. Mom had a rose bush that grew HUGE and up over her
window (trained wild climbing rose).
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