After a fire, you may be elated when you find that your favorite sweater has made it out alive. Until you smell it. Clothing that has survived the actual fire will very likely be seriously damaged by soot and smoke. But if you’re a person who uses words like “elated” when talking about sweaters, you’ll be thrilled to know that some items of clothing can be brought back to life with a little work.
- Lose the Soot. First, you need to gently remove any soot attached to the fabric’s surface. But this is a tricky job! The soot is oily. (Definitely do not just throw the clothes into the washer.) The best technique is to use a vacuum. Just be careful to not rub the vacuum nozzle or brush directly against the fabric. This will smear the mess all over, grinding the soot in and causing permanent stains. Instead, hold the vacuum as close to the fabric as possible without touching it and let suction work its magic.
- Get Rid of the Smoke Odor. As with the soot, resist the temptation to throw everything into the wash. That will only make matters worse. That’s because once your smoky clothes come into contact with the water, a lot of that odor will be released, and you’ll end up with smoke soup. And the rinse cycle will ensure than the smell becomes evenly dispersed throughout every stitch. The key is to get rid of the smell before you get the fabric wet. So, in most cases, that will require dry cleaning.
- Wash the Clothes (Finally). Once the soot is gone and the dry cleaner has removed most of the smoke odor, you’re ready to return to your friend, the washer. But not so quick! You likely have a whole closet full of clothes to wash, and it’s going to take up to five washes per load to really get things back to normal. So, better dig some quarters out from under the couch cushion because you’re going to the laundromat. There, at least, you’ll have access to the big industrial washers that can do a more thorough job. Don’t overload the washer, though. Packing it too full (or adding too much soap) will prevent you from getting a good rinse, and you’ll be left with dirty detergent all over your clothes.
Now, all this said, you could save a lot of time, trouble, and money by hiring a fire restoration professional. They are experts in restoring all kinds of fabric. Their special high-powered vacuums can easily pull the soot off without smearing it into the fabric, and their dry cleaning process uses oxidizers and ozone treatments to disintegrate and remove the odor at the molecular level. And – the best part – after they get the soot and odor out, you won’t have to still spend three days doing laundry. Let Michaelis Corporation be your fire restoration professional. We would be honored to help.