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Gatlinburg Wildfires: How to Clean & Remove Wildfire Smoke Soot - ServiceMaster Restore

Smoke Damage
Author: ServiceMaster Restore

GATLINBURG, Tenn. — Fires in Gatlinburg, Tennessee have captured the attention of our country this week, destroying hundreds of homes and businesses and resulting in the death of at least 10 people. The extent of the Gatlinburg fire damage serves as a stark reminder that everyone needs a fire safety checklist in their home. When a fire strikes, you always have to be ready. Because once it's over, the real work begins. The aftermath of any fire is devastating, and figuring out what to do after a fire can be overwhelming. If you've been evacuated, returning to your home can often bring a mixture of hope, fear and dread. It's important to be prepared ahead of time with a clear and comprehensive plan. Victims of the Gatlinburg wildfire will have to deal specifically with wildfire damage, which includes soot and smoke removal. To help, ServiceMaster® Restore created this guide on how to remove soot from your walls and clean smoke from your ceiling safely and effectively. Use our tips, and begin your journey to fire damage recovery today.

What is Soot?

Soot, the black residue left behind after a fire, results from the burning of various materials including wood, plaster, natural fibers, synthetics, foams and plastics. Soot sticks to any surface that’s cooler than the fire, usually walls, ceilings and other hard surfaces. Removing soot from walls is a cleanup job that requires expert attention. Before ServiceMaster® Restore begins soot and fire damage cleanup, however, there are several safety and cleaning tips to remember.

How to Remove Soot: Safety First

Professional cleaning teams know how to clean soot off walls properly without spreading it around and damaging the wall further. Follow these safety protocols before they arrive:

  • Never touch anything during your first inspection of the room to avoid transferring the soot to other surfaces.
  • Always wear gloves, a face mask, and clothing that covers your skin (e.g. long sleeves and pants) when working in a room with soot damage.
  • Keep the room ventilated to minimize breathing in soot particles and to dissipate smoke odors.
  • Remove as much debris from the room as possible to allow for easier cleanup.

Soot Removal Cleaning Tips

When determining how to remove soot from walls, ceilings and other surfaces, it’s important to avoid further damage caused by improper cleaning methods. Typically, the first instinct is to attempt to wash the soot from walls with sponges and soap. Always test a small inconspicuous spot first, or simply leave the cleanup to the professionals. Soot residue left by a high-oxygen fire is best cleaned with a dry cleaning sponge or dry chemical sponge. If wet methods of cleaning are attempted on this type of soot, the result will be smearing and damage. However, a low-oxygen fire leaves soot residue that may respond effectively to wet sponge cleaning methods. A professional evaluation will help you better understand how to clean soot from walls and ceilings without damage, based on your particular situation. If you try vacuuming soot residue from walls and ceilings, always hold the nozzle about one-half inch away from the area you’re cleaning to avoid contact with the surface, which can smear to the touch. Deciding which method of cleanup is right for you can be tricky. Leave the smoke, soot and fire damage cleanup to the professionals so you can focus on rebuilding your life. ServiceMaster® Restore is committed to cleaning smoke damage and removing soot residue and staining from walls, ceilings and other surfaces safely and effectively. Let us handle the cleanup so you can enjoy genuine peace of mind.