One of the most commonly asked questions during the clean up after a fire is “What do I keep?” With some items the answers will be obvious, but there will probably be a few things that you will be less certain about.
Below is a basic guideline to help when sorting your belongings after a fire.
Medical supplies and cosmetics should be thoroughly inspected to be sure they have not been in direct contact with soot, or other dust and chemical particles that could contaminate them during the fire. If the products were open at time of a fire, it is best to be safe and throw them away.
Depending on the extent of the fire, often clothes and blankets can be salvaged. Be sure to disinfect and clean them thoroughly. Sometimes it can be difficult to remove the smell of smoke completely, so you may have to wash things two or three times. Try adding a tablespoon of vanilla extract to your washer to help with the smell. Be extra careful with clothing and belongings especially for small children and babies, as they can be more sensitive to the smells. Discard anything that was damaged.
Because of the high heat and byproducts, your food could potentially be unsafe, even if the damage was minimal. You should be extremely careful regarding food after a fire. Be sure that none of it was exposed to soot or smoke. Inspect your canned goods for dents. Check to see if your refrigerator has been damaged during the fire. If sealed properly, it should be able to keep your food cold for up to 4 hours. Check to make sure it is still cold, and that no soot has infiltrated it. Frozen foods should be treated carefully as well. If the frozen food still has some ice crystals on it, it may be ok to use. If you are unsure about using it, discard it.
Be sure to disinfect and clean all other items, and insure they are dust and soot free. If anything was damaged, it’s best to throw it away. While this can be difficult with sentimental items or valuables, remember the goal is to eliminate the smoke smell completely. When trying to make a decision, a good rule is if you are unsure, keep it until last and decide then. Sorting through belongings can be a very difficult and stressful time, so it’s a good idea to find a friend or family member who can help you go through things.