You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

Cleaning Up after a Fire

Cleaning Up and Removing Smoke Odor
  • Products containing tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) can reduce odors in fabrics. TSP is caustic so be careful! Read the label for directions and safety instructions.
  • Test garments before using any treatment, and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Smoke odor and soot can sometimes be washed from clothing that can be bleached. Measure 4 to 6 tbsp. Tri-Sodium Phosphate and 1 cup household cleaner or chlorine bleach for every gallon of warm water you will use. Alternatively, consider washing clothes in cold water with your usual household laundry detergent, and adding one tablespoon of pure vanilla extract.
  • To remove soot and smoke from walls, furniture and floors, use a mild soap or detergent or mix together 4 to 6 tbsp. tri-sodium phosphate and 1 cup household cleaner or chlorine bleach to every gallon of warm water. Wear rubber gloves. Be sure to rinse surfaces with clear warm water and dry thoroughly.
  • Wash walls one small area at a time, working from the floor up to prevent streaking. Rinse with clear water immediately. Ceilings should be washed last. Do not repaint until walls and ceilings are completely dry. Reduce the chances of growth of mold and mildew by wiping down all surfaces that had gotten wet with a solution of one cup of liquid household bleach to a gallon of water. (Test surfaces to ensure that the bleach solution will not discolor these surfaces. To conduct this test, wipe a small area of the surface with the bleach solution, and allow it to dry at least 24 hours.)
  • Washable wallpaper can be cleansed like painted walls, but do not wet through the paper. Use a commercial paste to repaste any loose edges or sections.
  • Other Cleaning Tips
  • Consult a professional about replacing drywall and insulation that has been soaked by water from fire hoses. It can not be dried out and maintain structural integrity or resistance to mold and mildew.
  • Pots, pans, flatware, etc., should be washed with soapy water, rinsed and then polished.
  • Wipe leather goods with a damp cloth, then a dry cloth. Stuff purses and shoes with newspaper to retain shape. Leave suitcases open. Leather goods should be dried away from heat and sun. When leather goods are dry, clean with saddle soap. Rinse leather and suede jackets in cold water and dry away from heat and sun.
  • Wear protective clothing, including leather gloves and heavy soled shoes.
  • Learn more about how to clean up after a home fire, including the supplies you’ll need, how to deal with contaminated food and water, and how to repair smoke and water damage.
  • Follow public health guidance on safe cleanup of fire ash and safe use of masks.
  • Wet debris down to minimize breathing dust particles.
  • Don’t just repair your home, build in fire-resistant features to help protect against future damage:

  • Install hard-wired, interconnected smoke alarms with battery back-up on every level of the home, outside each sleeping area, and inside each bedroom. Wire alarms together so that if one sounds, they all sound.
  • Select building materials, furnishings, and plants that resist fire.
  • Fire icon
    Donate Now to Home Fires

    Prepare, respond and help families recover from home fires.