When fire breaks into your home, you will be dealing with the repair and restoration of fire damaged furniture, appliances and fabric materials. It is often emotionally draining to go through your personal belongings and assess which ones you have to throw out and which ones you can still salvage. With the great loss that homeowners suffer during a fire, it is a big help to be able to save those items that you can still use. This will greatly augment the expenses of having to restore your home after a fire.
The fabric of your clothing can be damaged by fire in two ways. First, it may acquire black and stubborn soot which is visible. This is caused by the smoke that comes from the fire. The smoke causes discoloration in your fabric which is oftentimes difficult to remove. The second type of damage involves the smoke odor that sticks to the fabric. While this cannot be seen, it can be very disturbing and may make wearing your clothes uncomfortable. Usually homeowners just resort to discarding fire damaged clothes because it is time-consuming and difficult to restore them to their original state. If, however, you have expensive and valuable clothes that you cannot just dispose of, you should consider employing the following basic steps towards restoring your fire damaged clothing:
1. Sort your clothes and determine which are beyond saving and which can still be used. Do not be tempted to just throw away everything as there may still be a few pieces which you can put back in your closet. Fire can cause a lot of smoke damage on the fabric of your clothes. Smoke stains maybe become visible and may penetrate the material of your clothing. While you have to be more tolerant and patient in sorting your clothes, do not think twice about disposing those that are too damaged to be salvaged. You have to assess whether the smoke and soot can still be removed from the clothing. Keeping clothes that are severely smoke damaged may affect the odor and quality of your other clothes so it will be best to just get rid of them.
When you have chosen the clothes you will restore, bring that pile outdoors and try shaking off the dirt and soot from the material. Some of the soot can be removed by just shaking the clothes. Even if not everything is removed, it will leave lesser dirt for you to take off when you proceed to the other steps. If the soot and smoke odor is still stubbornly there, you can now consider washing or bringing them to the dry cleaners.
2. Vacuuming your fire damaged clothes may do a great deal in removing the soot from the fabric. Choose a high-powered vacuum that has a small nozzle. Avoid using those with brush nozzles as they will just embed the smoke particles even deeper into the fabric. Make sure that you first shake off all the surface soot from your clothes before you use the vacuum. Position the vacuum’s nozzle just above the fabric so it can effectively suck out all the soot and dirt. If you do this thoroughly and repeatedly, you will be able to remove most of the surface dirt. The dry, warm air can also help remove the smoke odors from the fabric. You can do this process before you proceed to washing your clothes as this is a less abrasive way of restoring your fire damaged clothes.
3. Extensively wash your fire damaged clothes using a high powered detergent. A strong detergent will help remove the dirt and the smoke odor. If necessary, soak your clothes in the washing solution up to three times to make sure that it is clean and free from smoke and dirt. You can manually scrub your clothes using a soft-bristled brush to remove all the soot. After washing, make sure you rinse them thoroughly to wash off all the strong detergent that may contain some harsh chemicals. Repeat the washing process until all the signs of fire damage are no longer visible. Hang your clothes outside to dry or put them in the dryer. You have to allow them to completely dry to avoid the growth of molds and mildew.
You may need to sort your clothes before washing them. Certain studies have shown that fire damaged fabrics made of polyester or cotton should be washed for up to five times using warm water. You should also avoid using bleaching solutions for this type of fabric because the bleach can have a severe damaging effect on the clothing. The bleach can cause further discoloration or weakening of the fabric material after continued soaking and washing. If you are unsure of whether your clothes can withstand the bleaching solution, you have to consult the professional fire damage cleaners before you wash them.
4. If you want to save on expensive washing detergents, you can make your own mixture at home. This will also be more beneficial as most of the commercial detergents available in the market have many harmful chemicals that may damage your clothes. To concoct your own cleaning solution, mix six tablespoons of tri-sodium phosphate with two tablespoons of sodium. Once you have created a smooth mixture of these two substances, add a cup of chlorine bleach that you normally use in your household. Dilute this mixture with a gallon of water. After doing this, you now have a perfect solution for washing fire damaged clothes. Soak your clothes in this mixture for at least twelve hours before scrubbing them. After all the dirt and soot have been removed, rinse the clothes thoroughly. You may want to use plastic or latex gloves when washing with this solution as this may be corrosive and harmful to your skin.
5. Assess which of your clothes need to be dry cleaned. There are certain clothes that need dry cleaning before they can be completely restored. This is because the material from which these clothes are made has high fiber content. Some textiles also contain certain type of dyes which are much more absorbent than regular cloth. Regular washing with water will not remove the dirt and may even cause further damage to your clothes. For fabric the necessitates dry cleaning, you have to be careful in handling them and you have to make sure that they are not exposed to water before they are dry cleaned.
When this is the case, you have to bring your clothes to reputable neighborhood cleaners that have sufficient experience in restoring fire damaged clothes. The professional cleaners that have adequate knowledge in this field often employ an ozone treatment in the washing of fire damaged clothes. Make sure to inquire with your cleaners if they offer this type of cleaning service. Do not risk the material of your clothes by leaving them with cleaners that are not equipped with the proper machines and solutions to deal with the problem. While it may be more costly to avail of the services of professional smoke removal exports, this may be the most effective way of avoiding further damage on your clothes.
6. The smoke odor in your fire damaged clothes may stubbornly linger even after several washes. When this happens, avoid resorting to temporary smoke removal methods such as spray-on deodorizers and other commercial disinfectants. While these products may offer momentarily relief, they can worsen the odor and make it permanent. You might think they have worked when in fact they only masked the odor.
You can help remove the smoke by bringing them to the professional cleaners and availing of an ozone treatment service. This type of treatment breaks down the particles of smoke and allows for their easy removal. The ozone treatment can also be performed by professional fire damage restoration companies. The service can be included in an overall package to restore all the fire damage objects inside your home. The process involves putting a tent over your clothes and letting the ozone generator operate inside. Before your clothes are subjected to this treatment, they should have been first washed extensively in order to remove the surface soot and odor.
7. Check all the accessories that come with your clothes such as buttons, beadwork, belts and clasps. If they have been severely burned, you should replace them with new ones. They may get rusty and may be an eye sore if you wear your clothes and keep them there. Most of the damage on these items is irreversible so you have to be very open to disposing of them. Replace the buttons on your clothes to give them a new and fresh look after you have washed and deodorized them. Fire damaged buttons may emit smoke odors and cause further damage to your clothes.
8. Contact your insurance company and inform them of the fire that took place in your home. They can make an assessment of the items your have lost or are now damaged because of the fire. You can have your fire damaged clothes be included in the insurance costs. You fire damage restoration companies can help in dealing with your insurance companies for an accurate insurance assessment. This will entail a thorough inspection of your home and your personal belongings.