If you have any sort of fire in your home, you know how sneaky—and damaging—smoke is. Because it moves through your house based on the currents in the air, it tends to gather around doorways or on walls. It especially loves higher portions of the wall (remember, heat rises). How to clean up soot and charring in your home after a fire.

Recovering after a fire, especially when dealing with smoke damage, is quite the challenge! The steps to getting soot and charring out of your home are pretty straightforward, and you can find those below. Keep in mind, though, it takes a lot of time to get all of the smoke residues out of your home, so if you feel overwhelmed, that’s ok.

Go ahead and give us a call. We’re experts in fire damage remediation and are happy to help, so feel free to reach out. 

The difference between soot and charring

Step one to fire damage cleanup in your home is to know what kind of damage you’re dealing with. Soot is all of that residue that smoke leaves behind, and charring is when the fire actually burns something, so the damage each leaves behind is a little different. Your biggest concern with charring is usually the paint on your walls. Charred paint either needs to be covered up with a new layer of paint or scraped off and repainted. All of that depends on how deeply the charring goes.

With soot, your biggest concern is cleaning it up safely and efficiently. Set aside a significant amount of time if you’re planning to clean up soot on your own.

How to clean up soot

Before you get to work, you need to know whether or not the fire Marshal has cleared your home for re-entry. Entering your home before it’s been declared safe is never a good idea.

Once you’re back in your home, it’s time to get to work. Cleaning up soot requires a few supplies and an eagle eye. Remember, soot travels through air currents so it can show up in big clumps, but you may also find little patches of it.

After you have found your soot spots, grab:

  • a tarp to lay down
  • some goggles
  • a few fans
  • thick gloves
  • a vacuum

Before you start your smoke damage cleanup, make sure the soot is dry and that you open the windows (if you can) and get some fans going so you can have air circulating through the area. Keeping fresh air circulated will help protect your lungs as you work. It’s best to avoid inhaling soot because it’s not good for your lungs! If the soot isn’t dry yet, your fans should do the trick. 

Lay down the tarp, and then vacuum any loose soot up with your vacuum. If your vacuum doesn’t have attachments, or if it really isn’t doing the job right, then use a dry chemical sponge. A chemical sponge is also a good choice because it basically soaks up the soot as you wipe down the walls. That keeps the soot contained and not on your belongings—or in your lungs!

Now it’s time for the dirty work.

Scrubbing soot off the walls

As mentioned before, charred walls will either need a fresh coat of paint or a total repainting, depending on the extent of the damage. With soot, you need a heavy-duty cleaner and a lot of time.

An effective solution for getting the soot off of your walls is trisodium phosphate (TSP). It is very powerful, so be sure to properly dilute it, use eye and hand protection, and keep proper air circulation going. You only need 1 tablespoon of TSP per every gallon of warm water, a sponge, and a separate bucket of warm water with a rag.

Use the TSP-solution soaked sponge to scrub your walls, then use the rag from the clean water bucket to rinse off your walls. This will probably take awhile, so be patient. Soot doesn’t come off the walls easily!

If the amount of soot or charring is intimidating, or if you have an entire room covered in black stuff, it might be best to pick up the phone and give us a call. We’re experts in fire damage remediation. We even have special equipment that gets all of the soot off every item or surface that’s been affected safely. Don’t forget— if you need it clean, call Intek.