deodorization1Removing smoke odor from household textiles

Smoke odor could remain in clothing, upholstered furniture, carpets and draperies unless it is properly deodorized. Professional fire restorers and some dry cleaners use a deodorizing process that actually breaks up the smoke molecule to eliminate the odor. This deodorization process is called the ozone treatment. The ozone treatment produces an oxidizing agent that creates the same sweet smelling air associated with a rain storm. The ozone treatment can be done by a professional fire restorer at the home with an ozone generator. Sometimes household textiles are deodorized in an ozone room. If the process is done at home, clothing, upholstered furniture, and other textile items are put under a tent while the ozone generator is operating. Clothing and other textile items should be deodorized before they are cleaned; otherwise, the smoke odor could be set in the fabric.

Household deodorizing products are temporary relief methods. Deodorizing with perfumes, aerosol sprays, and disinfectants generally only mask the smoke odor. The smoke odor will still remain after the spray or perfume evaporates. In addition, deodorizing sprays may interact with smoke odor and create an additional odor.

Removing smoke odor from the home

Smoke can enter and remain in and between the walls of the living space. If it is not properly removed, the smoke odor reoccurs from time to time, particularly during damp periods. Therefore, action should be taken to properly remove all smoke odors.

During a fire, the heat will expand pores in the walls and fill the pores with smoke. After the fire, the house cools, the pores close and trap the smoke odor. On warm days the pores will open and release the trapped smoke odor, which could settle on furnishings. Professional fire restorers can eliminate the smoke odor with a process called thermal fogging, which opens the pores in the walls and neutralizes the smoke odor. There is probably no process a home owner could use that would work as effectively as thermal fogging.

Household vents and ducts trap smoke odors. During a fire, smoke drifts through the ducts and becomes lodged on the sides. Since it may be impossible to clean the ducts; some professional fire restorers will use a chemical sealer to secure smoke permanently to the sides of the ducts. This procedure prevents smoke odors from drifting in the air at a later time. If the attic has been insulated prior to the fire, it may be necessary to remove the insulation. Insulation cannot be cleaned; unfortunately, it will need to be replaced because insulation retains smoke odors.

Restoring appearance and removing odor from clothing

Soiled clothing is cleaned by a variety of laundry methods; neither can all fire damaged clothing could be cleaned equally as well by the same method. Sort fire damaged clothing as you would sort any soiled clothing by the recommended care method (found on the permanent care label), color and degree of soil. Some clothing may require dry cleaning because of fiber content, dyes used in the fabric or incompatibility of fabrics such as linings and face fabrics. In some cases, these articles may be subjected to a careful wetcleaning process, even though they are labeled dry clean only. This can be done only with professional expertise when it is felt that the garment will not be wearable unless another process is used.

Sort washable clothing by color (light/medium/dark) and soil (light/moderate/heavy). The majority of clothing items will probably be cottons, polyesters, and polyester/cotton blends. These can be most effectively renewed by using a warm water wash with either a non-built liquid detergent (Era®) or a low phosphate powder detergent and a liquid chlorine bleach (All® and Clorox®). This recommendation is based on the research findings of Cloud, Bondurant and Keith at Louisiana State University in their study of removing smoke damage from apparel fabrics.

The tests were carried out under laboratory conditions and were evaluated after an equivalent of five home launderings; therefore, it may not be possible to reach the desired state of color restoration or whiteness after one or two washings, but visibly smoke damaged clothing should be restored after five launderings.

The researchers evaluated four fiber content fabrics (100 percent polyester, 65/35 polyester-cotton blend, 50/50 polyester-cotton blend and pure cotton) and four cleaning solutions (powder detergent, liquid detergent, powder + liquid bleach and dry cleaning). The fabrics responded differently to the four cleaning treatments.

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