Cleaning Soot from Surfaces
Soot is a residue that can be on any surface in your home. It can come from sources such as your furnace system, a fireplace, candles you burn, and other combustible sources that don’t burn clean.
Some soot is dangerous, such as from a fire or furnace puff-back. Skin contact with these types of soot should be avoided, as they may contain hydrocarbons that are classified as human carcinogens. Outdoor soot is even regulated by the EPA, classified as a criteria pollutant.
Soot is usually handled by restoration professionals as it is often a by-product of a disaster event, although it may be minor, such as extra smoke from a fireplace.
But many types of soot, such as found in your kitchen or from candles, light soot, can be handled with regular restorative cleaning. Just be smart when deciding to clean soot from surfaces. Wearing appropriate personal protective equipment is a must when restoration pros do it, so keep that in mind and wear protective gloves, eye protection, and anything you need to keep the soot residues off of your skin and out of your lungs.
The first step with soot is with simply dry wiping. It may come off the surface easily, especially if the surface is non-permeable. You will still need to wet clean that surface for final residue.
Most likely, the soot needs to be cleaned with hot water and detergent, since it is often greasy. Applying some detergent solution and allowing approximately 10 minutes of dwell time should loosen the soot and you can wipe it away. There are also special cleaning products for soot-type greasy soils. The same cleaning principles would apply.
But if the soot is on a vertical surface, your approach needs to be more careful. Clean from the bottom and move up, just a few inches at a time. If you start at the top and work down, any wet residue that runs down the wall may create permanent stains. So manage the moisture and soot removal from the bottom going up, and you won’t have this issue.
If, after cleaning, soot stains remain, it may be time to think of repainting.
Of course, soot cleaning is really something that restoration pros can handle. Do the right thing. Call your favorite restoration company. After all, it pays to call a pro!
Grease Fires During the Holiday Season
If there is one event to avoid at all costs, it is a grease fire in your kitchen as you prepare delicious meals during the holiday season.
But it can happen. You are working feverishly around the kitchen and you have something cooking on the stovetop. The temperature reaches a critical limit, a flame pops up, and soon gets out of control. Another issue is when cooking grease or oil inadvertently escapes the pan and hits an open flame, and that flame follows the grease or oil trail back to the pan.
Panic can strike and you may overreact to the event, and even cause more harm than good as you attempt to put the fire out.
Preventing grease fires is fairly easy as long as you remain in the kitchen while cooking and stay alert to the level of flame on the stovetop and the temperature you are using to prepare your meals. Stir carefully and avoid spills at all costs. Monitor any excessive smoke coming from the pan as that is often an indicator of something to come.
But when a grease fire does occur, keep calm and implement these practical tips.
Control the heat
When you detect smoke, turn off the heat source (whether gas or electric) and very carefully remove the pan from the burner if it is electric, if possible. But if you see a flame, do not move the pan. You will most likely splash grease or oil and fuel the fire even more. Never use water to put out a grease fire. This will splash and cause the fire to spread.
Starve the flame
If a flame is visible, very carefully put a lid on the open flame. This is the best, safest way to extinguish the flame as it will be starved of oxygen and go out.
Extinguish the flame
If a fire does start, and you can’t cover it with a lid to starve it of oxygen, you can pour baking soda on the flame until it is extinguished.
If the flame grows, use an appropriate fire extinguisher for kitchen grease fires. Check with local fire authorities if you aren’t sure which type to purchase.
If the unthinkable happens, and a grease fire does get out of control and cause damage, you will need special restoration work performed in your home. Do the right thing and reach out to your favorite disaster restoration company. After all, it pays to call a pro!
Remediation of Smoke Odors
One of the toughest odors to remove from any surface is from tobacco.
While smoke odors are always pesky and challenging to remove, cigarette and cigar odors are especially tough because they have a powerful odor and they tend to linger. The particles are small, and they cling to and embed into any type of surface, especially fabrics. In automobiles, there are an issue especially when a car is being sold.
One promising rule of thumb when it comes to removing tobacco odors is time. With fresh air and plenty of time, the odors dissipate on their own — for the most part. But many people don’t want to wait it out.
Cleaning the surface is the first step in smoke odor removal. If you can launder an item, that’s the best way to remove odors. But some fabrics, such as rugs, furniture, and of course the interior of your car, you can’t put in the washer. Professional cleaning is always best, but there are a few tricks you can implement in the meantime.
If you are cleaning countertops, wood furnishings, or other non-permeable surfaces, you are in luck. Those surfaces usually are easy to clean, and smoke odor removal is often successful. Simply use an approved hard surface cleaning produce you can find at any department or grocery store, wet the surface, allow several minutes of contact time so the product can work, and then wipe away with a clean cloth or paper towel. Repeat until you see no more soil transfer. Adding a little deodorizer afterwards, and wiping it off, adds a pleasant, lingering scent.
Now we are getting into the real challenge, removing odors from fabrics. As said previously, laundering an item is the best way to remove odors. It may take several launderings to get the best results.
While cleaning non-launderable fabrics is tough without proper equipment and experience, you can dry vacuum soils and that helps. You can also allow fresh air to do its magic. And putting a few drier sheets under cushions will help as well. You can stuff drier sheets in other areas, as well, such as in automobiles, to help with the odors over time.
The real way to get rid of smoke odors from fabrics? Call a professional fabric cleaning or disaster restoration company. Restoration companies are highly skilled at the task of smoke odor removal. They have the equipment, products, and expertise to thoroughly clean and deodorize odor-causing substances. They also have special processes designed to remove tobacco odors.
Do the right thing. After all, it pays to call a pro!
Electric Heater Safety Tips and Advice
You may have already detected a chill in the air. For some parts of the country, wintry weather will be here soon. For others, a milder but still chilly season is coming.
To help stay warm, some supplement their main home heating system with an electric space heater. While considered safer than fuel oil space heaters, they still require special care and consideration so you can stay warm and safe during colder weather.
According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (EFSI) organization, safety should always be a top consideration when using space heaters. While being warm may be at the top of your list of creature comforts, a fire, electric shock, or personal injury must be avoided.
Here is what the EFSI suggests that everyone consider when using space heaters.
Should You Test for Mold?
Recently, we discussed mold that can be found in unlikely places, such as in the bedroom, bathroom, and the kitchen. After all, most report mold in basements or crawlspaces, but mold can actually grow virtually anywhere.
There is one thing we can all agree on. You do not want hidden mold growing in your home. If there is mold somewhere, anywhere, with the potential of causing health issues with your family, you want to know about it so you can remove it and keep everyone safe.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has much to say about the need for mold testing. “In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary,” according to a statement on the EPA website. And what the EPA says makes sense. If you can see the mold, you do not need to take samples and run tests because you know the mold is there. The professional restoration company that removes the mold will figure out what type it is and proper procedures for your specific case.
But what if you can’t see the mold but you feel something is there?
Then it’s time to engage mold sampling and testing. According to the EPA, surface sampling may be useful to determine if an area has been adequately cleaned or remediated.
Who should do it?
Sampling for mold should be conducted by professionals who have specific experience in designing mold sampling protocols, sampling methods and interpreting results. Sample analysis should follow analytical methods recommended by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), or other professional organizations, says the EPA.
Regulations and guidelines
Standards or threshold limit values (TLVs) for airborne concentrations of mold, or mold spores, have not been set. Currently, there are no EPA regulations or standards for airborne mold contaminants.
But if you have mold, you no doubt aren’t driven by regulations or guidelines, or lack thereof. You want to know if there is mold and if there is, what you can do to remove it.
One option is to purchase a do-it-yourself mold testing kit, something that you test surfaces with and send in for testing at a laboratory.
Another is to contact an industrial hygienist who is an expert with issues such as this, and have professional testing conducted.
No matter what you do, if you do have mold growth, do the right thing. Turn the work over to your favorite restoration company. After all, it pays to call a pro!
Mold in Unlikely Places
Many people have a fear of mold and what it can do to your health, especially if you have sensitivities or allergies to mold spores.
When you think of mold growth and contamination in your home, you assume it would apply to dark, damp basements and what can occur after a pipe breaks or other water damage situation. And you would be right, most of the time.
But there are other issues that can come up that involve mold, and it doesn’t have to be in a dark basement or after a water damage event. If you have moisture, a food source, and especially dark conditions, mold can grow.
As scary as it may sound, it’s true. Mold can grow on and even inside your mattress. As you sleep, you perspire, and that moisture can be all that mold needs to start to grow. While you can clean visible mold from the surface of your mattress, it is very difficult to get clean what is inside the mattress. A professional cleaning company may be able to help. But prevention is what you should concentrate on, and an appropriate mattress pad/cover will help.
Common areas that can experience mold growth are around the base of toilets, shower stalls or bathtubs, and under sinks, such as in cabinet areas. It’s no surprise when you spot some mold in those areas. However, mold can also grow on cleaning supplies that haven’t been used in a few days, and even on toothbrushes such as those left unused because of a trip away. Anything you use that involves moisture (brushes, scrub pads, buckets) and especially stored in a dark place, be sure to clean and dry them completely.
The kitchen is a mold playground, because of all the food sources combined with potential moisture. There are so many places mold can grow they can’t all be mentioned here, but obvious ones include inside and behind the refrigerator, under the sink, and in cabinets. Mold growth inside the refrigerator goes against logic that mold requires warmth – it is obviously not always true. Frequent inspections of dark areas where mold may grow unnoticed is important, such as under sinks and where there are pipes that can leak or simply have condensation on them.
If you do find mold, do the smart thing and call your favorite restoration company. After all, it pays to call a pro!
Air Conditioner Overheating Prevention
While water damage in a home is a common issue many have faced, a fire in your home is probably the most devastating.
Statistics show that the leading cause of house fires is cooking, usually spawned by open flames on the stove and also high heat from the oven, usually when unsupervised. Many of you have cooked on a stovetop using some type of oil and in an instant, you have flames dancing above the pan. Those situations can quickly escalate into a major house fire.
Fires from appliances is also an issue, because of overheating, faulty power sources, and other issues.
One source of house fires that many don’t think about is from your air conditioning system. And this is the time of year, as summer heats things up, when it’s time to consider some safety precautions.
While a central air conditioning unit sits outside your home and rarely overheats, it can happen. What happens more frequently are overheating issues with what we call window units. If the properly sized unit is not used, such as a small AC unit trying to cool a large room, it can overheat as it struggles to keep up with the demand.
Many who use window units will run an extension cord to it if a wall outlet isn’t nearby. This is not recommended as that can cause overheating issues as the power load can heat the cord and cause it to melt and cause a fire.
A very common and easy-to-ignore issue are the condenser coils. They can become dirty and when that happens, they struggle to keep up with demand. The entire AC unit can overheat and be a possible cause of a fire. The same applies to any air filters being used — make sure they are clean and in good condition.
Your AC units should be installed according to the specifications of your home and the number/sizes of the rooms.
Lastly, having an annual inspection by a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning company will help ensure that all your air conditioning units are operating safely and effectively.
But if the absolute worst thing happens, and a fire is ignited, do the right thing. Don’t attempt cleaning up a fire and smoke damage situation yourself. Call your favorite disaster restoration company. After all, it pays to call a pro!
Battling Tobacco Product Odors
For those who use tobacco products, they may not notice the lingering odors that hang around in the air and stubbornly invade porous materials such as carpet, upholstery, fabrics and more.
But for non-smokers, those lingering odors are a nuisance, and many valuable hours have fruitlessly been spent on attempting to remove them. Smoke odors from cigarettes, cigars, and pipes are tough to remove because microscopic smoke odor particulates embed onto and into everything. Over time, these carcinogenic residues release odors.
These steps will help eliminate, and may totally eliminate, odors from tobacco products, depending on how much time and effort is spent on restoring surfaces back to pre-smoke condition.
Fresh air brought into a home or building naturally helps remove foul odors from the air. Keeping the furnace and A/C filter clean is important.
Thorough cleaning and washing of surfaces is an important process. If you can launder items, that will flush out residues. Using detergent helps the water you use for cleaning to penetrate surfaces, which means better cleaning.
Open containers of baking soda or charcoal are known to absorb malodors, so having them in your home will help. Be sure to refresh them by mixing or replacing every few days. There are professional grade absorption products you might obtain from a cleaning and restoration supply house.
After cleaning, applying a smoke-odor deodorizer will help destroy more odor-causing residues that you might have missed.
For surfaces that you can paint or seal, this will lock in odors from tobacco products. Painted walls will hold residues that cleaning may not penetrate deep enough to remove.
One complete and proven method for removing smoke odors from any source (once cleaned) is by using ozone. Ozone machines remove odors by chemically changing the structure of odor-causing molecules, oxidizing them and destroying them so no more odors are released.
Ozone can be dangerous if used in occupied spaces, so be sure to do your research and be completely safe if you choose to use this option to remove smoke odors.
Most ozone treatments are handled by professional restoration companies, although you can buy or rent small units.
While smoke odors from residues is tough to remove, your favorite cleaning and restoration company has professional solutions that really work. Ask them what they can do for you. After all, it pays to call a pro!