What Can Be Saved From Smoke Damage?

by Allied / Thursday, 01 July 2021 / Published in Fire Damage Restoration

Have you ever had the misfortune of having your home catch fire? If so, you’ve probably considered if any or all of the things subjected to smoke damage were worth keeping.

The short of it is that certain items may still be usable after thorough cleaning and fire damage restoration‒possibly more than you think. But on the flip side, there are also things that you should get rid of after they have been exposed to heat and smoke for several hours. 

We’re going to go into more detail later on. For now, suffice it to say that you can generally keep things that: a) aren’t edible or meant for consumption, and b) aren’t meant to be used on your person. That means you should probably throw out pretty much all food, food-based products, clothing, and beddings after a fire. 

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. But items belonging to the above categories have the highest likelihood of causing adverse reactions and illness when used after they have been through a fire. No matter how these things are treated or cleaned, there is just too much risk of adverse effects if you continue to use them. 

Smoke-Damaged Items You Can Keep 

It might be safe to keep the following items even after they have been damaged by smoke: 

  • Furniture
  • Appliances
  • Electronic devices 
  • Kitchenware and dining ware
  • Clothes and beddings 
  • Toys
  • Tools 
  • Household fixtures 

Of course, you will have to clean these items of smoke damage thoroughly, making sure to remove all traces of soot and smoke deposits. Burnt sections or those covered with heavy layers of soot and firefighting chemical residue should be cut off, discarded, and replaced. 

As for electronic devices, extra care should be taken when operating them for the first time after recovery. You should pay particular attention to batteries, whether they are disposable, rechargeable, or built-in lithium-ion designs. If the battery is deformed or bulging or leaking fluid, take them out and dispose of them responsibly before turning on the device. 

Use your judgment when determining which of these types of items to keep. If they smell like smoke or give off a harsh chemical odor, it would be best to throw them away rather than risk potential health or safety issues. 

Smoke-Damaged Items You Should Throw Away 

Some items should not be kept or used under any circumstances after they have been exposed to heat, smoke, or firefighting chemicals. These include the following: 

Non-Perishable Food Items.

Discard all non-perishable food that has been stored in porous or absorbent materials such as cloth, paper, cardboard, or plastic. There is a good chance that these have been exposed to smoke, soot, and debris. 

Food stored in cans or jars is always suspect. Although they might seem okay on the outside, they may have been subjected to extremely high temperatures, making them inedible or even toxic. Bulging at the tops and bottoms of cans is a dead giveaway, but look out for rips, holes, and dents as well. 

Perishable Food

Any food that has been left at room temperature for too long should be discarded. Even if it hasn’t been exposed to smoke or soot, it could have developed bacteria that make them unpleasant to the taste or even toxic. 

You may be able to consume refrigerated and frozen food safely if the fridge hasn’t been subjected to high temperatures. If the food is still cold or frosty, it might be safe to eat unless:

  • The inside of the fridge smells like smoke 
  • There are apparent signs of soot inside 
  • It has an unpleasant or unusual odor 
  • It was previously frozen and is now thawed out entirely or no longer cold 
  • It smells strange when cooked 

Medicines and Cosmetics

Medicine cabinets and makeup kits provide almost no protection from soot and high temperatures. If you see warping or deformed sections on the packaging or containers of the items stored in them, throw them out immediately and don’t even bother to salvage the contents. 

Smoke Damage on Clothes and Beddings

Fabrics that have incurred minimal smoke exposure may be salvaged after a thorough cleaning and disinfecting. But if some sections are burnt, it is best just to discard them, especially if they are for children’s or infants’ use. 

The Bottom-Line   

It is always better to err on the side of caution when deciding whether to salvage smoke-damaged items or throw them away. As always, use your better judgment and don’t begrudge the cost of replacing damaged items if it will spare you and your family from illness or other negative consequences.