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The smell of smoke is an unmistakable odor and when it appears in your home, the odor can linger until the proper steps are taken to remove it.  Your home may be affected by smoke odors due to a dramatic event such as a house fire or from something as simple as burning food while cooking. There doesn’t even need to be a flame for there to be smoke and when there is smoke, the odor it leaves behind is likely to linger long after the smoke is gone. Even when there is a fire, in many cases, the house smells like smoke after the fire is out.

If your home is affected by a lingering smoke odor, there are some steps you can take to eliminate the odor.  In this guide, we explain some of the methods you can use to rid your home of smoke odors without involving professionals.  If you cannot remove the smoke odors from your home with these remedies, you should call our fire damage restoration professionals to eliminate the odor with advanced methods.

House Fire Smoke Damage


In many cases involving house fires, more damage is caused by the smoke than by the fire itself. Soot particles and oily residue typically spread throughout the house with the smoke and these materials can settle on surfaces and objects, causing corrosion and etching to the affected materials.  The damage caused by soot and smoke residue can become permanent if the affected surfaces and materials are not treated and cleaned using professional methods.

The odor from the smoke can also be a major problem as the smell is much more than an annoyance. Exposure to smoke odors can cause physical issues like nausea and headaches. The reason smoke odors can linger for a long time is because components within the smoke, such as ammonia, acetic acid, and hydrogen sulfide, adhere to each other and cling to porous surfaces and materials such as clothing, furniture, drywall, carpeting, drapes, and more. 

When faced with persistent smoke odor, many homeowners may try to eliminate the smell using perfumed aerosols or scented candles, but this will only temporarily mask the odor.  You can reduce the odor by increasing ventilation within your home, but this simply dilutes the odor to make it less pungent and does not actually eliminate the odor.  For the smoke odor to be eliminated completely, all odor particles must be fully extracted and neutralized. Thorough cleaning and disinfection of the affected areas helps, but this may not remove smoke odor particles that have gotten into the cracks and crevices.



How to Eliminate Smoke Odors?


Fortunately, there are a number of methods you can use that can help eliminate smoke odors by absorbing or neutralizing the odor particles. Before using any of the following methods, you should first open windows to increase the ventilation and get protective gear, such as a respirator mask, rubber gloves, and safety glasses.  If materials such as carpeting, drapes, clothing, and furniture have absorbed smoke odors and the following remedies are not effective for removing the odors, these materials may need to be replaced.

The following are ways you can help remove smoke odors from your home:

  • Soft surface cleaning: Use the appropriate cleaning products and methods to clean and deodorize soft surfaces such as carpeting, furniture upholstery, mattresses, drapes, and more.  Make sure you are using deodorizing products and not masking sprays. Steam cleaning and hot water extraction cleaning may be necessary to remove smoke odors.
  • HVAC cleaning: Smoke can easily spread through your HVAC system which makes it important to have the entire system professionally cleaned.  The filters should be changed monthly for the first year after experiencing smoke damage.  Installing a fire smoke damper can help protect your HVAC system from smoke and heat.
  • Vinegar: White vinegar naturally neutralizes odors, including smoke odors.  You can use white vinegar to wipe down walls, furniture, and other hard surfaces or leave bowls of vinegar around the affected area for several days to neutralize the odor.
  • Baking soda: Baking soda naturally absorbs odors and can be used to deodorize soft surfaces such as carpeting and furniture. Sprinkle baking soda liberally over the surface and let it sit for 1-2 hours before vacuuming the baking soda with the odor. You can also leave bowls of baking soda around your property and let them absorb the odor over several days.
  • Ammonia: Ammonia is another cleaning agent that can be used to wipe down most hard surfaces. Be careful using ammonia on finished or sealed surfaces because it could wear away the finish, and never mix ammonia with bleach.
  • Activated charcoal: Activated charcoal naturally absorbs odors. Place powdered activated charcoal in bowls around the property to help absorb odors. 
  • Ozone generator: In severe cases, it may be necessary to treat your property with an ozone generator. Ozone generators release ozone molecules into the air that can break down smoke odor particles.  You can buy or rent an ozone generator and you must vacate the home temporarily after treatment. Ozone treatment is highly effective, but it may not remove odors that have become deeply absorbed in carpeting, upholstery, drapes, and other soft materials.

Professional Fire and Smoke Damage Cleaning




A lingering smoke odor is not just annoying, it can also be dangerous for your health and your home.  If there is a smoke odor hanging around your home after a fire incident, you may be able to reduce or eliminate the odor using the strategies mentioned above. Keep in mind that some of these strategies may have to be done more than once for more effective results.  If the smoke odor persists despite your best efforts, you should call our professionals at ServiceMaster S&R Systems.

Our licensed professionals provide complete fire and smoke damage restoration services that include smoke and odor cleaning as well as structural repairs.  We will identify the source of the odor and use advanced methods and equipment to fully extract the smoke particles from affected surfaces, furnishings, and air spaces.  We also offer residential cleaning services such as carpet and upholstery cleaning, air duct cleaning, and hard surface floor cleaning that can help eliminate smoke odors.

You can call ServiceMaster S&R Systems at (630) 896-0030 for our fire damage restoration and residential cleaning services throughout the Chicago area.

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