Smoke can travel and bring ash particles and soot along with it, damaging property while layering surfaces with a harmful but often undetectable layer of pollution.
In addition to odors, wildfire smoke can even deposit carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a dangerous chemical that can cause many health problems, so removing it is essential.
Unlike other forms of pollution, wildfire smoke leaves a clear indicator: the smoke odor left by fine particles. If you live close to wildfires, it’s essential that you understand how to combat the issue and protect your home from the smell of wildfire smoke and smoke damage. Use this helpful guide to removing wildfire smoke smells in the home and smoke odor and you’ll have cleaner air with less smoke residue.
Problems with Wildfire SmokeWhen the smoke damage from a wildfire reaches your home, it can leave soot, smoke particles, and stains as well as a smoke odor. It can also leave your home with a significantly unpleasant odor caused by fine particles.
Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take, but it won’t be easy to remove wildfire smoke. This is because the smoke often gets absorbed into the surfaces of your home, such as the carpet and furniture, embedding itself so deeply that a restoration professional may be needed.
Steps to Getting Rid of Wildfire SmokeBefore you call in the pros, try these simple steps for removing wildfire smoke smells and smoke damage.
1. Place bowls full of baking soda all through your home. Baking soda will absorb smoke odor, just the way it does when you place it in the fridge or microwave. You could also fill the bowls with activated carbon, which is one of the best materials for collecting particles that create pungent smells or air pollution caused by smoke damage.
2. If your clothing has been impacted by smoke from wildfires, wash your garments with one cup of vinegar to remove the smell left by fine particles. Place a cup of vinegar in the washing machine along with your normal detergent. If your clothing still smells, repeat the process until the smell fades and the odor is gone. If the smoke is particularly strong, it may take multiple washes to remove it completely.
3. There is a lot of surface area on the walls and ceilings where the smoke odor can linger. To remove the smell, clean and disinfect all the walls using a mild soap. You can also use cleaning products to remove the smell. Use cleaning products to wipe down hard surfaces such as countertops and table tops to remove soot and odor from these areas.
4. While you are cleaning the walls and ceilings, wipe down and clean all personal items to remove fine particles. Wiping with a damp cloth can help remove smoke smells and smoke particles from picture frames, decorations, and knick-knacks.
5. Cleaning all the fabrics in your home will be beneficial for removing the smoke odor, smoke particles, and smoke damage, making it an important step for odor removal. And when we say all the fabrics, we mean all the fabrics. This should not just include the blankets and sheets, but should also include the drapes, linens, and towels that may have been left hanging when the house was exposed to smoke. This fabric cleaning will also need to include the carpet. You may not have the equipment to shampoo the carpets, so you will likely need to hire someone to complete this service. A professional will be able to effectively clean the carpet and remove a vast majority of the lingering smoke smell. When you think about the surface space of carpet in your home, you can imagine how important this step becomes.
6. Your upholstered furniture will also hold onto smoke odors. You will want to clean them similar to cleaning a carpet however if the smell is deep within your furniture like a couch or recliner, you may want to replace it.
7. While the smoke has lingered into the inside of your home, cleaning the outside can make a big difference for removing smoke smells. Use a power washer to rinse the outside of your home, including all siding, windows, decks, driveways, sidewalks, and other surfaces. If smoke has rolled through, it has certainly settled on the exterior of your home, but power washing can help remove the odors and soot, as well as mitigate smoke damage. Don’t skip this step during odor removal because the exterior odor can seep back into the interior.
2 Ways to Improve Your Air QualityThere are two main strategies to improve the air quality in your home – ventilation and air cleaning.
VentilationAssuming the wildfires are under control and the outdoor air quality is clean then you will want to open your windows to allow this fresh air to circulate through your home. By bringing in fresh air you will push out dangerous smoke gases and also allow your furnishings to air out.
Use Air Purifiers EffectivelyRunning an air purifier in your home will clean the indoor air of wildfire smoke and help you continue to clean your indoor air once the smoke has cleared. By actively removing the particles that create odors in the home, air purifiers make for cleaner indoor air that is not only healthier, but also smells better. It will help remove the odors and well as some of the fine particles that are hazardous.
First, you need to choose the right air purifier. Only select air purifiers that use high efficiency air filters and a strong filter. Don’t purchase air cleaners that release ozone, as this will create its own set of health hazards.
Wildfire smoke is made mostly of soot and ash. This means you need a highly efficient air purifier that goes above and beyond industry standards. It’s best to have one that uses activated-carbon technology, which is extremely effective for odor removal.
A good HEPA filter based media pleated filter will capture the airborne particles however they are not effective for the odor removal. That’s the job of the activated carbon (also known as activated charcoal).
Air purifiers with a high efficiency air filter are helpful for removing smoke and smoke particles left by soot, but you need to be strategic with how you use them. Specifically, you need to place them in the locations where they will provide the greatest benefit.
In most cases, this means wherever you spend the most time, which is often your bedroom. If needed, you can also move the air purifier from one location to another throughout the day to give you the best smoke removal. It may be useful to leave the air purifier off while you do a thorough cleaning of the home, completing all the vacuuming and wiping that we described earlier. After you are done cleaning, put the purifier on high so it will pull in many of the particles that were stirred up when you cleaned.
While each air purifier will have specific instructions, it may be necessary to replace the filter more often than usual if you have wildfire smoke smells in your home. The purifier will be collecting more particles, which means the filter will become clogged faster. Be sure to change all filters, including pre-filters, more often.
Be Careful with Ozone GeneratorsOzone generators can do a good job in smoke odor removal however they produce high levels of ozone that can damage your lungs. They have also been shown to produce a variety of harmful by-products when interacting with many different chemicals.
For example, cleaning supplies or some off-gasing from your furniture when in contact with ozone can produce other dangerous gases or chemicals that you do not want to breathe in.
We do not suggest ozone generators for personal use.
If you are able to move out of your home and have a contractor “shock” your home with an ozone generator it can be beneficial. The key is to be nowhere near your home when this is done. Treat it like your home is being tented for termites and do not return until your home has been fully ventilated.