As previously mentioned in Part 1 of this series, cleaning can be broken into two categories: wet cleaning and dry soil cleaning. It is important that restorers pay close attention to the type of material they are attempting to remediate, as a successful clean will depend heavily on the sort of cleaning techniques used. Failure to use the proper cleaning methods to address surfaces can lead to damage at the fault of the restorer, as well as wasted time, money, energy and effort on behalf of everyone involved. 

In this article, we will explore other components of fire-affected buildings and the types of cleaning methods that are best suited for materials and surfaces of this type. 

Remember, the following only serves a general guideline of what could be done to remediate a fire and smoke affected home or building. Your restorer will make his or her own judgement call on the best plan of action depending on each unique scenario.

Masonry, Brick and Stone

Depending on the location and type, masonry, brick and stone materials will have to be approached thoughtfully. Other surfaces matching this category of surfaces include block limestone, concrete and marble.

Typically, interior masonry and brick components that compose a wall structure are unfinished. As such, it will likely respond well to scrubbing and media blasting. Prior to that, however, these surfaces will need to be thoroughly preconditioned by the removal of loose particles through dry soil removal. 

Wet cleaning isn’t advised, but may be useful in some situations. Generally speaking, using wet cleaning methods on masonry changes the appearance of the surface, and may even cause the exterior to appear darker than before. 

To ensure that cleaning efforts are successful, remediators will need to allow time to pass so that they can analyze the recently cleaned media after it has dried. Sometimes, there is smoke residue that remains after cleaning that is only visible after the drying of that particular surface is complete. If residuals remain, further cleaning will need to ensue. 

If deemed necessary, aggressive alkaline cleaners or media blasters work well on exterior masonry walls, and tend to be very successful when used. 

Unfinished masonry, brick and stone isn’t the only type of surface that exists, however. Finished versions of these same materials can often be found lining floors. Because of their finished surface, these types of flooring are more easily cleaned. Nevertheless, there may be times when aggressive approaches are necessary. Restorers must proceed with caution and do the appropriate testing in inconspicuous areas before applying cleaners, as using the wrong cleaning method may result in a tacky or sticky floor. 

If it is determined that an aggressive cleaner may be harmful for a sealed or finished floor of this type, remediators may defer to using a gentler approach, such as a non-ammoniated or neutral cleaner, instead.

In worst case scenarios, it may be that preferred alkaline cleaners are not successful in cleaning masonry, brick or stone surfaces. When this is the case, remediation experts have the option of using acid cleaners. Acid cleaners work by removing the surface layer of a material, otherwise known as etching. For this reason, acids have to be used sparingly and should only be considered as a last resort.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper comes in all shapes and sizes, and, depending on its makeup, will require different methods of cleaning. 

More often than not, wallpaper can be found in the following formats: 

  • Uncoated paper
  • Foil
  • Carpet
  • Vinyl
  • Grass cloth
  • Flock

Though less popular than it used to be, uncoated wallpaper can still be found in many homes, structures and buildings. As the name implies, uncoated wallpaper does not have a washable exterior, and as such, will require dry cleaning techniques to restore. These techniques may include, but are not limited to, HEPA vacuuming, dry sponge cleaning and air washing. If wet cleaning methods are used, it will only destroy the paper material.

The most commonly found type of wallpapering is vinyl. It is found in countless modern-day homes, businesses and structures. Thankfully, these wallpapers types can be restored using traditional methods of wet cleaning in many situations. After the remediators have followed typical testing protocol, he or she may use a mild or aggressive alkaline cleaning agent to restore an affected vinyl wall covering.

Other less common wallpaper types such as grass cloth, flock, foil and carpet will be handled on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the restorer. When handling carpeted walls, however, the remediation specialist will need to take added precautions to ensure that the material doesn’t get oversaturated with moisture and can be dried quickly. Failure to do so can lead to the overgrowth of mold and bacteria, as well as other issues. Moreover, any new carpeting installed will need to adhere to specialized fire resistance ratings, all of which the restorer will be sure to observe when attempting to restore carpeted walls.

Wall and Floor Materials Must Be Cleaned Differently

As noted above, whether addressing brick, stone, masonry or wallpaper, the type of material and the location of the material, will determine the means by which restorers will go about rehabilitating certain surfaces. 

Clients should never make assumptions about methods for cleaning, and should almost always hire professional remediation services for help in making determinations about the best restoration methods for their fire and smoke affected brick, stone, masonry or wallpapered structures and homes.