Content cleaning relates to the restoration of any hard or soft objects or contents within a home or structure. As one might imagine, the methods that are used to clean and restore objects will vary greatly, depending on the severity of the damage, as well as the material affected. Because of this, restorers must use extra caution when attempting to rehabilitate items using particular cleaning methods, as some will work well to remove smoke and soot while others may prove to do more harm than good. 

Dry and Wet Cleaning Techniques

There are two basic cleaning techniques utilized by fire and smoke remediation teams: dry soil cleaning and wet cleaning. Wet cleaning can be viewed as cleaning in the traditional sense, and typically incorporates water-based formulas. 

Dry soil cleaning, on the other hand, does not involve water, but rather, may involve the use of tools like dry sponges and HEPA vacuums.

In either event, both types of cleaning prove effective for various types of surfaces. In some cases, both methods will need to be utilized. 

Wood Furniture

Finished Wood

When working to restore any material of any type, the least aggressive method of cleaning should always be applied before taking a more aggressive route. As such, remediators may make use of terry cloth or microfiber towels to gently restore fire and smoke damaged finished wood, in tandem with a water-based vegetable cleaner and an odor-reducing agent. If microfiber or terry cloth methods prove unsuccessful, remediators may have better luck using fine steel wool along with the aforementioned cleaners.

If water-based vegetable cleaners aren’t working, your remediation specialist may choose to amp the cleaning process up a notch. He or she can begin to gradually work towards using more aggressive cleaners, depending on the need of the situation. The next step up from water-based vegetable cleaner is a mild alkaline cleaner.

If neither of the above steps work, remediators may choose to use a wood restorative cream or gel to lift stains and damage from finished wood. Doing so will require technicians to agitate the wood and then, applying a restorative gel, compound or cream. This compound will then work to soften the wood’s surface, causing stains and contaminates to release. Once this happens, restorers will gently rinse the surface with a vegetable-based solution, and polish the surface. 

Neglecting to follow the above steps can result in further damage done to an already damaged furniture item or other interior content. Furthermore, remediators and clients should be sure not to stack any items on top of the cream, gel or compound treated wood, as doing so can permanently alter the appearance of the finish.

Unfinished Wood

Unfinished wood, though not impossible to work with, will require more skill, expertise and caution as remediators attempt to rehabilitate items composed of it. When restoring unfinished wood content, it may be, at times, necessary for remediators to acquire permission and a signature before going about the remediation process. Oftentimes, the methods used to restore unfinished wood can cause the wood to darken, or may require invasive procedures that the client may or may not be comfortable with.

Having said that, the general process for restoring unfinished wood typically entails preconditioning methods followed by dry cleaning techniques. These dry cleaning techniques do not involve the use of dry cleaning solvents, but rather, tools like art gum erasers, dry sponges, air washes and crumbly dough. 

Following dry cleaning procedures, a wet cleaning may ensue. In many cases, a mild alkaline cleaner paired with an odor deterrent will do the trick. Any deodorizers that contain petroleum-based ingredients, however, will need to be consented upon by the property owner, as this is one of the cleaning products that may work to darken unfinished wood surfaces. 

Lastly, if remediators find that the smell of smoke still seems to be lingering past the final cleaning stage, a clear shellac may be applied to further restrict any odors. 

Area Rugs

Area rugs are often items of great value and sentiment, and as such, ought to be handled with care. Your remediator will likely go to great lengths to attempt to restore an item such as this, as long as it is deemed salvageable. 

Before taking on an area rug cleaning, restorers will want to gain some general information about the rug. This may include the general construction of the rug, what country the rug was manufactured in and what fibers the rug is made up of. 

Moreover, your remediation technician will seek to document any and all pre-existing conditions prior to beginning the cleaning process. This will include taking note of any bleeding dye, fraying edges, shrinkage, spills, pet urine and even past cleaning attempts. 

Once all of this information has been gathered, the remediator may use wet cleaning methods when attempting restoration, if the construction of the rug allows. Whether or not the rug will be cleaned on-site or off-site will depend largely on the amount of smoke damage incurred and the policy of the restorative entity.

Upholstery

Upholstery cleaning presents its own set of challenges. Due to the nature of this type of fabricated content, upholstery often absorbs odors to a greater extent than other types of content. Technicians will need to address each upholstery cleaning scenario on an individual basis, according to the need and to the extent to which damage was done. 

Cleaning Fire-Affected Content Will Take Patience, Caution and Skill

As can be observed, much of the content cleaning process that follows a fire and smoke event takes careful consideration, and sometimes, even written permission from a client, before full restoration can be made. While some restoration practices may permanently alter the appearance of certain content, other content may be readily restored to its previous condition or better. Ultimately, it will be up to the client and the restorer to determine what contents deserve an attempt at rehabilitation, and what items might be better off replaced.