How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

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Muri
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How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by Muri »

We had a house fire last week caused by the dishwasher. We were home, got out, called 911, and the fire department contained the fire to the dishwasher but now we have smoke and water damage. Insurance company is going to pay $6-7K to get our clothes, sheets, towels, etc. cleaned or give us the same amount if we want to clean them ourselves. I don't know that it is possible for us to get the odor out ourselves, so it would really be do we want to throw away our clothes and buy new. But I thought I would ask here if anyone knows of a way to get the odor out first.
Thanks.
oldfort
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by oldfort »

Baking soda + vinegar or hydrogen peroxide can get some odors out. Otherwise, you might need to trash them.
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lthenderson
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by lthenderson »

Muri wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 1:47 pm We had a house fire last week caused by the dishwasher. We were home, got out, called 911, and the fire department contained the fire to the dishwasher but now we have smoke and water damage. Insurance company is going to pay $6-7K to get our clothes, sheets, towels, etc. cleaned or give us the same amount if we want to clean them ourselves. I don't know that it is possible for us to get the odor out ourselves, so it would really be do we want to throw away our clothes and buy new. But I thought I would ask here if anyone knows of a way to get the odor out first.
Thanks.
In my experience you really can never completely get rid of the smell. You can seal it up by repainting all the surfaces and getting rid of anything that absorbed the smell like carpets, upholstery and such. Anything that doesn't absorb like metal and tile can just be washed down thoroughly. I rehabbed a house once that had been in a house fire decades prior and whenever I broke through that sealed layer of paint, I could smell the smoke all those decades later.
tim1999
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by tim1999 »

$6,000-$7,000 insurance payout for clothes, sheets, and towels? Unless you have really expensive tastes, 4+ people in the house, 8 bathrooms worth of towels, etc. I'd just buy all new stuff other than maybe my favorite couple of shirts. If the smell is really bad and doesn't come out from simple home laundering.
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whodidntante
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by whodidntante »

You can remove the odor, but the trick will be to remove the odor without destroying the item. Here are some ideas. Assume they are all terrible.

You can buy pet odor eliminator for the laundry. You use it like fabric softener.

Steam it. You can use a wool steamer. Maybe add some vinegar.

Soak in a pail with diluted vinegar and give it a gentle stir with a stick now and then. Or maybe TSP with baking soda. TSP with vinegar is likely a bad idea because the whole acid/base thing comes into play. Be careful with TSP. It is serious stuff.
https://www.lowes.com/pd/TSP-Deck-Clean ... 23104c777b

I might try this as an intermediate step before the trash.
https://www.amazon.com/Zep-Smoke-Elimin ... 0T16RBVQEN
Topic Author
Muri
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by Muri »

We are thinking the same thing..take the cash and buy new.
barnaclebob
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by barnaclebob »

tim1999 wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 2:05 pm $6,000-$7,000 insurance payout for clothes, sheets, and towels? Unless you have really expensive tastes, 4+ people in the house, 8 bathrooms worth of towels, etc. I'd just buy all new stuff other than maybe my favorite couple of shirts. If the smell is really bad and doesn't come out from simple home laundering.
Clothes add up fast. 6k is only $1500 per person if it were 4 people. I dont think that would replace my wardrobe and everything I own except formal dress clothes and shoes comes from a thrift store.

OP, whenever I have smokey clothes from a camp fire or bbqing, a normal washing takes care of it. A house fire might be a little different but maybe not.
NotWhoYouThink
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by NotWhoYouThink »

There are commercial companies that do smoke damage mitigation. Look up the ones in your area, and check out their reviews to see if people are happy with their services. This is not a DIY job.
Big Dog
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by Big Dog »

barnaclebob wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 3:15 pm
tim1999 wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 2:05 pm $6,000-$7,000 insurance payout for clothes, sheets, and towels? Unless you have really expensive tastes, 4+ people in the house, 8 bathrooms worth of towels, etc. I'd just buy all new stuff other than maybe my favorite couple of shirts. If the smell is really bad and doesn't come out from simple home laundering.
Clothes add up fast. 6k is only $1500 per person if it were 4 people. I dont think that would replace my wardrobe and everything I own except formal dress clothes and shoes comes from a thrift store.

OP, whenever I have smokey clothes from a camp fire or bbqing, a normal washing takes care of it. A house fire might be a little different but maybe not.
Same here. I'm curious why a good washing (or dry cleaning) won't do the trick? In any event, $7k would not cover new in our house. My Burberry rain coat alone is $2+k to replace. (bought it years ago at a close out sale)

For furniture and the cabinets/walls, agree with NWYT, call a mitigation company and ask their advice and fees. Heck, your carrier should have a firm on retainer. When we had water damage at our office, the mitigation company was outstanding. Took care of everything: drying out, carpet clean/replacement, dry wall patching, mold/mildew checks, etc. All contained so we could still work on the other half of the office floor.
surfstar
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by surfstar »

My camping clothes would smell of smoke. Then I washed them. Smoke smell gone.
Works for wood campfire smoke - is a housefire that different? Sure plastics, etc might burn and have a worse odor. But it was confined to the dishwasher.

I'd invest in some air filter/purifiers with activated carbon and have those running for at least a few weeks/months to help with overall odor.

If you do replace - please wash and donate the old ones, at the least. :sharebeer
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Sandtrap
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by Sandtrap »

lthenderson wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 1:58 pm
Muri wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 1:47 pm We had a house fire last week caused by the dishwasher. We were home, got out, called 911, and the fire department contained the fire to the dishwasher but now we have smoke and water damage. Insurance company is going to pay $6-7K to get our clothes, sheets, towels, etc. cleaned or give us the same amount if we want to clean them ourselves. I don't know that it is possible for us to get the odor out ourselves, so it would really be do we want to throw away our clothes and buy new. But I thought I would ask here if anyone knows of a way to get the odor out first.
Thanks.
In my experience you really can never completely get rid of the smell. You can seal it up by repainting all the surfaces and getting rid of anything that absorbed the smell like carpets, upholstery and such. Anything that doesn't absorb like metal and tile can just be washed down thoroughly. I rehabbed a house once that had been in a house fire decades prior and whenever I broke through that sealed layer of paint, I could smell the smoke all those decades later.
+1
smoke odor out of clothing and linens, mattresses, etc, is a problem best solved with direct replacement.

j :D
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illumination
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by illumination »

A long time ago we had a house fire, there are places that specialize in this. It just depends on what level of smoke it was exposed to, but I would just throw out the cheap stuff like towels and sheets and just focus on the nicer clothing items and see if they can be salvaged. FWIW, the place the insurance company used for this type of service was something of a scam operation.

Just make sure the insurance company is properly taking care of the inside of the home, when our fire happened, they were promising a few weeks and we'd be back inside. The reality was the house was nearly pulled down to the frame and took around a year. It would not have been much more money to have leveled the place, the smoke damage was that bad.
gtd98765
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by gtd98765 »

I have friends whose house was extremely smoke damaged in the California wildfires. They sent all fabric items to a specialized cleaning service, but the service could not get the smoke smell out of many of them. I would send a sample of items to a service and see how they do. If you are satisfied with the results, send the rest; if not, use the rest of the money to buy replacements.
Katietsu
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by Katietsu »

I have been able to remove pretty ingrained smells. But it takes a lot of time. I tried different combinations. But I think the important part was that I used multiple 2+ hour soaks. And I threw in some time in the sun. I would be selective as to what was worth the effort. I have no experience with professional services.
Caduceus
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by Caduceus »

Unless it's something really special or sentimental, I'd be inclined to toss them and replace. Getting rid of the smell doesn't mean the clothes are clean. I read a paper a while back, since I inherited some really beautiful but smelly textiles, about the byproducts of smoke being extremely hard to remove. Basically, even museums have a really tough time getting it off after multiple washes. Even after they've stopped smelling, there are still residues that can contribute to deterioration and that do come in contact with your skin.

In my case, because tossing antique textiles wasn't an option, the thing that worked for me was a combination of many things. I washed them with conservation grade soap (no agitation, just floating in a large basin, basically), then re-floated them many times in distilled water, then aired them out flat (no hanging) with fans blowing (not directly at them though - just for circulation), then took the risk of sunning them for a short while (sunlight is great for getting rid of mold, mildew and funky smells, one of the most powerful natural disinfectants you have, but it can fade colors, so not recommended for anything too old or valuable). Then I placed them in an airtight box with a small packet of silica gel and lots of activated carbon.

After that, the smell was 90% gone. Time took care of the other 10% and now I can't smell a thing. So I think that process would work for you. But I am pretty sure if you looked under a microscope there would still be a lot of nasty stuff. The thing about the smell is that it's a symptom of something nasty. I was advised to get rid of the smoke smell from the textiles because the acidic products would harm the textiles (and already had harmed the textiles) over time and needed to be removed.
GrowthSeeker
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by GrowthSeeker »

What worked in the past for me for mold smell in clothing (I don't know about smoke smell) was vinegar in the washing machine. At the time, I did some Henderson–Hasselbalch equation calculations for acetic acid, and it appeared that the pH of the final mixture is not very strongly dependent on the amount of vinegar you add. So I didn't add much, maybe 4-8 ounces to a large load (not one of these water sparing machines). For most clothes it worked very well. Some were more stubborn and I put through the wash more than once. Longer presoak if it was a repeat item.
For the most stubborn, when drying, I added a wet wash cloth to the dryer load and put maybe 1/2 ounce of vinegar on the wet wash cloth. What happens then in the dryer is the water evaporates before the acetic acid, so you end up with a high concentration of acetic acid vapor inside the dryer.

The chemical composition of mold VOCs is different than the VOCs that make up smoke smell, so I don't know how well it will work on smoke.

A completely unrelated idea is ozone. I assume this further oxidizes some of the products of incomplete combustion.
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squirm
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by squirm »

I would try soaking them in hot with soap, drain then wash cycle.
random_walker_77
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by random_walker_77 »

Ozone treatment might be worth a try. If you DIY, be aware that ozone does quickly damage rubber and certain other materials. It's also really bad to breathe in, so you'd want to let it completely dissipate before re-entering the area. Ozone generators are fairly inexpensive on ebay or amazon, or you could hire a pro to do it.

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Katietsu
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by Katietsu »

Just reread the original thread and saw that the fire was contained to the dishwasher. In that case, I would be more inclined to try to clean the clothing. I have had smoky smells in the house from a microwave on fire. And I have had a ton of smoky clothes from doing a lot of outside burning. The former took 6 weeks to go away, though I did nothing to speed it along. And clothing smell has always washed away. Though an old fashioned top loader with tons of water works better than front loader or any high efficiency washer, in my experience.
bogledogle
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by bogledogle »

I would get professionals to do this. Why dabble with chemicals or home brew solutions when this can effect your quality of life and potentially resale value?
beerloin
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by beerloin »

Sorry that you had to go through this. We had a fire almost 25 years ago and I still remember the smell of smoke on my clothes. We had ours professionally washed multiple times, but nothing seemed to get rid of it. There was always a hint of burnt plastic.

Best option IMO~ throw them away and get new ones.

You can always negotiate- do a cost analysis and show the insurance company that the cost/value was more than their offer.

Going through this is a traumatic experience and starting fresh with new clothes can help with the healing process. (Obviously, shop for value to start to rebuild your wardrobe).
SwampDonkey
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by SwampDonkey »

If you have a swimming pool, let them soak in the pool for a week (or more).
5280Tim
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by 5280Tim »

Rent an ozone machine. This is how people get rid of the smoke smell in a car that has been smoked in. It will take a while since you can’t do all of the clothes at once, so I would follow the advice of clean your favorite clothes and replace the rest.
Benbo
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Re: How to remove smoke smell from clothes after a fire?

Post by Benbo »

gtd98765 wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 9:48 pm I have friends whose house was extremely smoke damaged in the California wildfires. They sent all fabric items to a specialized cleaning service, but the service could not get the smoke smell out of many of them. I would send a sample of items to a service and see how they do. If you are satisfied with the results, send the rest; if not, use the rest of the money to buy replacements.
This. We went through the California wildfire a couple of years ago. We had soot & smoke all through the house, but no actual fire in the house. We had our clothes professionally cleaned by a service that specializes in smoke damage, they got all the smell out. Your situation may be worse if your smoke was from plastics & other man-made materials. Best of luck.
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