Smoke Damage: What Can You Save And What Should You Replace?

After the initial shock of a house fire has worn off, the stressful task of assessing damage begins. Even if you don't have to worry about damage to the structure, you'll still have to evaluate which damaged items are worth saving and which should be replaced due to discoloration or odor. Because some items that have been through a house fire can put off gas toxic fumes, it is best to have a fire restoration professional like Serclean Inc help you assess damage and the safety of keeping each item. A good professional will take into account both the extent of the damage as well as monetary and sentimental value.


Food that has been through a fire should be approached with caution. Anything that has come into contact with the chemicals or water used to control the fire should be discarded. Due to smoke and soot's carcinogenic properties, open food should be discarded as well. Packaged food can be kept if it was stored in original, airtight packaging, but the outside of the containers should be scrubbed with soap and water before they're returned to your pantry. The contents of your refrigerator and freezer may or may not be alright to keep; check the interior of the fridge for a smoke odor, and if any food looks or smells off after cooking, discard it. If the refrigerator's power has been off, follow USDA guidelines for what food is safe to eat and what should be tossed.

Soft and Upholstered Objects

Luckily, many soft items like clothes, curtains, blankets, pillows or stuffed animals can be cleaned. If the fabric item has been visually damaged by soot in addition to smelling like smoke, use a vacuum cleaner to remove soot from the object before cleaning it further. Don't scrub the object or use brush attachments with your vacuum as these will rub the soot deeper into the fabric. After the removal of soot, the items must be cleaned to remove any odor. Professionals will have access to ozone cleaners, which should be used before laundering the item to remove odors. If you don't have access to a ozone cleaner, simply laundering the items is often successful.

Kitchen Utensils and Appliances

Most ceramic and metal kitchenware such as bowls, plates, spatulas and cups can be washed just as you would wash them after using them. Plastic items are more porous and may have to be thrown away if they retain an odor. Kitchen appliances that have been exposed to water or steam should be checked by a professional before being used again. They may have been undamaged internally and may not be safe to use.