Smoke damages not only home furnishings but also contribute to the general health profile of the occupants of a certain home. What makes smoke damage particularly alarming is that there are many possible sources of smoke.
Smoke is virtually transformed volatile gases that are emitted after a series of chemical reactions. Thus, smoke is gas that contains the many individual chemicals that comprise the burned matter. Smoke can come from various sources such as those coming from fires to simple cigarette and cigar smoking to fumes in our exhaust pipes.
Understanding the Behavior of Smoke
Smoke is the result of the chemical reaction between combustible materials, oxygen in the atmosphere, and the heating element. This chemical reaction releases very unstable and explosive gases into the air. Although the majority of these gases are composed of oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon there are other chemicals that we should be wary of.
Before we can start to comprehend the effects of smoke, let us first understand its birth. Since smoke is a by-product of a combustion process, it is safe to start with learning about fires.
· Fire occurs because of the interaction between three basic elements which are oxygen, fuel load, and heat. Removing any of the three and you will never have fire.
· Fire begins when a heating element such as a lighted matchstick, candlelight, lightning strike, or even electrical spark, interact with both with oxygen in the air and a highly combustible material.
· Fire continues to burn as long as there is readily available fuel load such as organic matter and the like. Furthermore, as long as there is fuel load, heat further increases, and this further fuel the fire in a vicious cycle.
The End Product of Smoke
A black residue is almost always formed after the combustion process. This happens when the burned materials or fuel load are not consumed completely by the fire. The by product is called soot and is almost always present in materials that have hydrocarbons in their molecular structure.
Soot is ever-present in almost all the things we use every day and the environment around us. Soot has known commercial uses especially in the production of pigments. Such commercial uses include pigments for lampblacks and carbon blacks found in the black color of rubber tires. Soot is also used in the toners for photocopy machines and laser printers.
Nonetheless, soot is an airborne contaminant that comes from a variety of sources but may always be the product of fires. Soot is a microscopic matter which is dangerous or hazardous to one’s health especially when it gets to the individual’s respiratory system.
Normally, soot particulates are less than five micrometers in diameter. This makes them relatively unfiltered by the various trapping mechanisms in the airways. Once the soot particulates reach the alveoli they readily dissolve into the bloodstream. They then get carried through the various tissues of the body where it awaits pathogenic proportions.
Soot has been identified to produce polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which have been implicated in several cases of mutation of a select group of genes. These mutagenic effects can cause a variety of child birth defects and have been also tagged as a possible cancer-causing agent.
The average cigarette is essentially composed of four parts namely the cigarette filter, the tipping paper, the rolling paper, and the tobacco blend. The tipping paper is the covering of the filter while the rolling paper covers the tobacco blend.
The cigarette filter is made up of cellulose acetate, the same compound found in highly combustible fuel loads. Additionally, the cigarette butt also contains chemicals that have been filtered from the tobacco blend and the process of cigarette smoking. Studies have shown that cellulose acetate and carbon particles have been implicated in lung cancer formation.
Furthermore, smouldering cigarette butts have been implicated in triggering fires. Isolated residential fires and even major forest fires have been started by the indiscriminate disposal of live cigarette butts. In all these incidents, major property damage and loss of life as well as disruption of essential services have been recorded as the major effects.
Smoking and Smoke Damage
Although the damage from smoking cigars and cigarette in the home is not readily evident, there is still damage. The damage to property from cigarette and cigar smoking can build up over time. Homeowners are therefore left with residual smoke or ‘musty’ smells that fill their homes especially if they do not regularly clean their carpets and pieces of furniture.
The problem with smoking homeowners is that they do not attempt to remove the smoke. They often think that the pungent odor from smoking can be masked by the use of sprays and deodorizers. What they fail to comprehend is that the aerosol spray that was used to ‘cover’ the odor eventually gets mixed up in the gases from the cigarette smoke. This produces an entirely different set of problems for the homeowner.
Just how does cigarette smoking exert its damaging effects on furnishings?
· Since smoke can exert its effects over a long period of time, it is important that smoke be immediately removed from your home the instant you recognize its presence.
· The very noticeable effect of smoke on furnishings is its distinct odor. The problem with this is that it cannot be simply removed by ordinary washings. Furthermore, no amount of household cleaning can ever completely remove the odor from fumes emitted by cigarette smoking.
· Cigarette smoke fumes cling on to walls and permeate upholstery, draperies, clothes, and other furnishings. Cleaning them will only cleanse the surface but will not remove the deeply ingrained smoke particulates. This is where the damage brought about by long term cigarette and cigar smoking really is.
· With the odor that permeated the very fabric of the furnishings come volatile gases that can condense to form an entirely different form of chemical. The different molecules that make up the furnishings are arranged in such a way that they render the furnishing fully functional.
· With the addition of unwanted chemicals brought about by smoking, the delicate structure of the molecules becomes adulterated. The result is that the furnishing loses some of its properties. It may lose its firmness, its elasticity, its pliability, and all other characteristics that make it as such.
· What further complicates the smoke damage is the odor that is very difficult to remove.
Managing the Smoke Damage
Knowing the role of prolonged cigarette smoking in permeating smoke damage to your furnishings is only the first step in minimizing such kinds of damages to your property. What becomes a crucial next step is how to manage such damage.
· Never attempt to restore the smoke damage to your furnishings yourself. Remember that cleaning and restoring smoke damaged furnishings yourself will only be superficial at best. Calling professional restoration services may prove costly for you but they are considered the most efficient way to manage smoke damaged furnishings. Remember, too that these professionals employ state-of-the-art equipment to rid furnishings of even the most stubborn smoke remnant.
· Remove soot from carpets, draperies, upholstered furnishings and clothing before having them deodorized. If at all possible, vacuum clean the soot and remember not to scrub the soot because it will only stain. Make sure also to cover carpets with plastic after removing the soot from furnishings. This prevents accidental grinding of dirt into the carpet.
· Deodorize smoke damaged articles with perfumes, aerosol sprays, and disinfectants. These products however, only offer temporary relief from the odor by masking or covering it. You should very careful in choosing deodorizing sprays because they can interact with smoke odor and produce an additional odor.
· If you want real deep-seated cleaning, consider professional help. They will use a special deodorization process known as ozone treatment. This method produces an oxidizing agent that breaks up the smoke molecules in order to eliminate the unwanted odor.
· Remember to include cleaning the spaces in between wall surfaces. Keep in mind also that smoke odor can recur from time to time especially during damp periods. Sometimes, smoke particles can get inside open pores of walls especially during the hot summer months. Once these pores close in the cold months, the smoke gets trapped only to be released in the summer where the pores open again.
· This cycle can inevitably lead to cyclical smoke damage. This is why it is important to call for professional help so that thermal fogging can be performed to effectively eliminate smoke molecules from the inside of walls.
Removing soot and smoke damage from furnishings like carpet, draperies, upholstered furniture, and other articles can be facilitated by using the right chemicals. Add to this the use of appropriate technology and equipment as well as sound judgment that can only come from experience.
One very important tip for homeowners in managing smoke damage from cigarette smoking is never to begin cleaning until all visible soot and smoke odor are eliminated.
Calling for professional help therefore can greatly help in this case.