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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

How to Remove Smoke Damage the Proper Way

12/10/2019 (Permalink)

Obviously, the smell of smoke is caused by a fire. There’s truth in the saying “where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” after all. Now, the smell of smoke could be caused by a fire in your kitchen because you forgot to turn off the stove. It could be burnt food because your partner can’t cook to save his/her life. It could be smoke from a cigar or cigarette. A smoke smell can be from extinguished candles or incense.

It can even be from your friendly neighbor who is nice enough to burn something right outside your open window. It doesn’t really matter what the source is (though you do need to locate the source for safety purposes, ok?) because it all boils down to one thing – the smell sticks to your house and belongings like glue. And eliminating that smell is just a small part of the problem.

Any kind of smoke that is caused by burning carbon-based materials such as wood, paper, oil, gas, or food can produce carbon monoxide. If you don’t know this yet, this is an odorless, colorless gas that kills hundreds of people each year. Of course, small amounts are not enough to cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

But you should note that lots of household appliances produce this gas, particularly those found in your kitchen so adding to that small amount isn’t going to do your health any favors. That’s not all. Burning organic substances also produce polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that are believed to be carcinogenic. It’s pretty safe to say that it’s important that you don’t just eliminate the smell, you’ll need to make sure that the air that you’re breathing no longer contains these particles.


When it comes to smoke odor removal, there are several options available. Some may use scented candles, air fresheners, and sprays to get rid of smoke odor or any kind of unpleasant smell.

However, they’ll soon realize that there is only so much scented candles or sprays can do for the problem. In fact, they can make matters worse, as they simply combine with the smoke smell and leave behind something quite unpleasant. Even opening your windows and letting fresh (read that as also polluted) air in won’t be getting rid of the smoke odor completely.

A lot of people believe that a good scrub will be enough to get rid of the smell of smoke in a house. And they’re right in a sense. You can scrub your walls plus your ceilings with ammonia and water to get rid of the smell of smoke, especially if it was just a small amount and the room wasn’t exposed too long to the smoke. You probably won’t be able to smell it anymore. However, it won’t be cleaning something more important – the air you breathe.

Vinegar and baking sodas are natural odor neutralizers and another good option. You can place some vinegar in the room and baking soda in the carpet to start eliminating the smell of smoke. It’s going to work but it’ll take time and several repeats to get the smell completely out.

While using these may be tedious, they’re a lot cheaper than choosing a professional. In fact, if the smoke particles have had time to sink into the upholstery, curtains, and even your clothes, washing them with vinegar and baking soda is your best bet.

But vinegar and baking soda still leave one problem behind – the remaining invisible-to-the-naked-eye smoke particles still hanging around in the air. Plus, since you used ammonia in cleaning the heck out of your walls and ceilings, you may have now added chemical fumes to your indoor air. The world is such a scary place, ain’t it? But there’s no need to panic. Take a deep breath (or not) and calm yourself. There is a way out of this dilemma.


While all the other solutions we gave are handy, they won’t completely clean your environment of harmful gases and chemical fumes. The next step to ensure that your indoor air quality is top-notch is to get yourself an air scrubber.

What is an air scrubber? Well, it’s a portable air filtration system that makes use of a series of filters to capture contaminants in the air and recirculate the clean air in an enclosed space.

Air scrubbers come in a variety of sizes with different features and capabilities. But most of them will operate using the same basic principle – the motor will power a blower or fan that will draw in the air, letting them pass through the filters.

The first stage is the pre-filter stage where the large particles in the air are trapped. The second stage will contain a carbon filter which captures the gas and vapor molecules – the odors that we smell including the harmful smoke particles in the air. The third and final stage is the primary filter which is a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, able to capture 99.97% of particles in the air that can be as small as 0.3 micrometers.

Once it passes through all three filters, the decontaminated air will be exhausted. What all that means is that the smell, as well as the source of the smell, is completely eliminated. It’s not masked. It’s also not just decreased to undetectable amounts, it’s completely gone.

Take note that an air scrubber “scrubs” the air. Any smoke particles that get trapped in the surfaces of walls and inside fabric will remain there. Which is why you’ll still need to use a little elbow grease to wash away the smell of smoke on your belongings.

Aside from the fact that an air scrubber will clean your air of smoke particles, is there any other benefit to getting one? Good question. There are, actually. First of all, using an air scrubber gets your air clean in a few minutes. You don’t have to do anything but plug it into a power source, place it where the smoke is most concentrated, and switch it on. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to operate this machine.

The second benefit is that it doesn’t only filter out smoke odors. It also filters out mold, dust, pollen, and pet dander. Any particles that could potentially trigger any allergies are eliminated along with the smoke. And the ultimate benefit of an air scrubber is a simple fact that you can “clean” your air every so often. Indoor air pollution is no joke. Just ask the EPA While smoke odor may be the impetus you needed to get this cool tool, it won’t be the last time you’ll be needing it. That’s for sure.


Aside from adding an air scrubber to your arsenal, you might be delighted to know that you can also do one more thing to help continuously improve the indoor air quality of your home.

Based on research conducted by NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors Of America, several common indoor plants are able to remove certain chemicals that can be found in our homes such as trichloroethylene (adhesives, paints, printing inks), formaldehyde (paper bags, facial tissues, paper towels, synthetic fabrics), benzene (detergents, dyes, drugs, pesticides), ammonia (window cleaners, smelling salts, floor waxes), and xylene (leather, rubber). So, if you love plants and indoor gardening, you might want to add this to your list of must-haves.

Taking out unpleasant odors in your home, particularly smoke odors, isn’t easy. And if you don’t act fast, you may end up replacing beloved items that are no longer salvageable. Fortunately, technology and nature have made it possible for us to get rid of this pain-in-the-ass smell and breathe quality indoor air. Now, if only we can do something about outside air…call SERVPRO Of Des Moines for all air quality needs!

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