The methods that a restorer chooses to use for cleaning smoke and fire-affected content will play a critical role in determining a positive or negative restorative outcome. That’s because, toys, clothing and art are all highly susceptible to being ruined by smoke, and for varying reasons. From safety to aesthetics, clothing, art and toys are a group of structural contents that will require specialized and attentive care. As such, a remediation expert may wish to bring in external help to ensure the proper rehabilitation of delicate and vulnerable items such as these.
Soft Goods and Clothing
When it comes to soft goods and smoke damage, looks can be deceiving. Bearing in mind that smoke particles measure between .1 and 4 microns, it is easy to see why remediation teams can’t always use sight to determine whether or not clothing and soft goods have been affected.
In general, humans can only see particles that are 60 microns and larger. For that reason, remediation specialists must also use smell, along with a few other methods, to determine the level of impact that smoke has had on clothing.
One such method that remediation specialists can use is to locate pieces of white clothing and to look for exposed edges. If there is a light tan or gray discoloration, that can be indicative of regular dust. However, if the remediation specialist notices black specks, there is a greater chance that those clothes or soft items have been affected by smoke.
Bear in mind that clothing and soft items have the advantage of being tucked away in totes, bins, drawers and closets most times. Even so, this does not make them impervious to smoke damage, even if they appear okay at first blush.
Typically, after restoration teams have arrived on the scene, clients are asked to set aside an “emergency load” of laundry composed of clothing that the family or persons of interest will need to wear for the upcoming week or two. These pieces of clothing will be treated immediately and returned within 48 hours. The rest of the clothing will be processed afterwards.
It is important to note that most restoration companies will likely contract out restorative dry cleaning specialists to assist with cleaning and deodorizing clothing. This is not typically something a restorative company would do on their own.
Additionally, remediators handling clothing, soft goods and other items of the home will be sure to never dispose of clothing goods without the consent of the client ahead of time. The client will be asked to assess all clothing items, and may even be asked to separate and categorize them once the initial remediation inspection is complete.
Most clothing is taken off-site and is not typically restored on location. Additionally, clothing is often one of the first few things addressed for pack-outs in fire and smoke situations, as they tend to absorb smoke faster than other items.
Works of art, to many clients, are of great value. As such, remediators must take special care not to add to any damage already done to paintings, sculptures, tapestries and the like. Because of this, restorers will document any and all pre-existing damage to cover themselves against liability. This is likely to be done by taking photos or videos.
Light to moderate smoke affected paintings created by means of charcoal, watercolors or pastels may not prove as restorable as paintings made from oils and acrylics. Because many restorers won’t always have the tools needed to restore artwork, this type of job may also be contracted out to a reputable conservator. Sometimes, it may even be better to simply have pieces of art replaced.
Nevertheless, there are a few tools that remediation specialists do have in their possession, such as HEPA vacuums and air washers, that could technically be used on certain pieces of art, although there is always the risk of damage.
Children’s toys are a highly sensitive topic, and rightly so. Smoke and fire-affected toys have safety risks that should be considered when deciding whether to clean or replace them.
In most cases, children’s toys can be wet cleaned, even in the case of soft toys. Nevertheless, many clients will want smoke affected toys replaced, and the remediator will not argue this issue. Safety always comes first.
For specialty or collector’s items toys, remedial teams may wish to consult with a specialty contractor to ensure proper restoration of the items in question.
Specialized and Cautionary Care
All in all, when it comes to clothing, artwork and toys, some things might be better off left to third party contractors. Nevertheless, remediators will always do their part to ensure that the general remediation process of these items goes smoothly, while also taking client concerns into consideration, whenever possible.