How to Clean Smoke and Soot Damage After a Fire

Smoke damage and soot damage are usually the result of a house or building fire. However, this damage can also occur from a fireplace or wood stove. No matter what the cause of the smoke and soot damage, cleaning the area can be a difficult task. Fire and smoke leave behind an oily residue--also known as soot--that normal cleaning usually does not remove. The soot can stain a variety of surfaces, including walls, flooring and fabric. The quicker you deal with smoke and soot damage, the higher the chance of restoring the item.

Remove all items from the walls. Place mirrors, pictures, and other wall decorations in a safe location.

Put on a pair of rubber gloves.

Fill a 5-gallon bucket with 1 gallon of warm water. Add 1 tbsp of TSP--also known as trisodium phosphate--into the water and mix thoroughly. Fill a second 5-gallon bucket with cool water.

Submerge a sponge into the TSP-water mixture and wring out the excess liquid.

Scrub the walls with the sponge. Begin at the bottom and work upward, scrubbing in a circular motion. When the sponge becomes dirty, rinse it in the clean water, and then submerge it again in the TSP-water mixture.

Continue scrubbing the walls until you remove all smoke and soot. Allow the walls to air-dry.

Secure a long-handled attachment to your vacuum's hose. Turn the vacuum to the ON position.

Begin at the top of the draperies, and move in a straight line down toward the bottom. Alternatively, start at the side of the carpet that is farthest from the entrance, and move the long-handled attachment toward the entrance.

Move the nozzle back at the top next to the area you started, and move in a straight line toward the bottom.

Continue in this manner until you have removed all soot from the draperies and carpet.

Shampoo the carpet using a carpet shampooer, available for rent at local home improvement and grocery stores. Read and follow all directions and warnings for the carpet cleaning machine. You can also rent the upholstery attachment for the shampooer, and use it to clean upholstered furniture and draperies.

Fold several paper towels in half and lay them on a flat surface. Lay the clothing on top of the paper towels with the stains facing upward.

Pour rubbing alcohol into a small container. Saturate a sponge in the alcohol, and wring out the excess liquid.

Blot the stains with the sponge. Start at the edge of the stain, and move inward toward the centre.

Rub a prewash stain remover into the stained area, and allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

Launder the clothing in your washing machine set to the warmest setting allowed for the clothing's fabric, while using a mild washing powder. Allow the washer to complete a full cycle. Remove the garment from the washing machine and air-dry.


During the smoke and soot cleaning process, open doors and windows to provide better air ventilation and circulation.

Things You'll Need

  • Rubber gloves
  • 2 buckets
  • TSP
  • Water
  • 2 sponges
  • Long-handled vacuum attachment
  • Vacuum
  • Carpet shampooer
  • Paper towels
  • Small container
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Prewash stain remover
  • Washing powder
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About the Author

Amanda Flanigan began writing professionally in 2007. Flanigan has written for various publications, including WV Living and American Craft Council, and has published several eBooks on craft and garden-related subjects. Flanigan completed two writing courses at Pierpont Community and Technical College.