How to get rid of smoke odor

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 they say.
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.
--
Walter
www.rationality.net
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newpaper articles from the san diego and oc area.
good luck and god bless
what a nightmare you've been through!
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wrote:

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 surrounding grounds.
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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.
nancy
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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 it.
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wrote:

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.
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I think you need to walk through the house systematically and figure out exactly what parts and surfaces are going to "store" the odors.
* 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". |
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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.
Good luck.
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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:

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Betty Boop


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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 situation.
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"Walter R." wrote in message

So sorry to hear of this but happy for you that your home seems to have survived.

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 wood).
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 type).
Good luck Walter and hope this helps.
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"Walter R." wrote

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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Thank you, all.
I dumped the whole problem in my insurance agent's lap.
Now I will move out for 5 days and, hopefully, come back to a de-smoked home. :-)
--
Walter
www.rationality.net
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wrote:

Congratulations!
I'm glad for you.

Oren
"Painting is the art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather and exposing them to the critics."
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attaboy
good luck, here's to better days, cheers
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wrote:

And that's how a good insurance company should work--taking the sting out of a catastrophe. If you wish, I'd like to hear how they de-smoked your house and the name of your insurance company.
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