How to Clean Smoke Damage on Walls and Ceiling


Smoke damage on walls and ceilings is caused by smoke being sucked through the vents of your house or apartment. Stains from smoke can be yellow, grey, or black in color. The stains are made from soot which was created when flames met wood.

How to Clean Smoke Damage on Walls and Ceiling

These soot particles were tanned when they came into contact with water vapor or heat (like a fire) and became stuck to whatever surface they landed on – like your walls and ceiling. In this article, I will discuss how to clean smoke damage on walls and ceilings. So let us get started.

How is Smoke Produced?

A chemical reaction causes fire. For example, when wood, paper, fabrics, plastics, and rubber are exposed to heat above their flashpoint, they will burn (or catch fire).

When this chemical reaction occurs, it produces smoke and combustion gases, including carbon monoxide gas. Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas, but it can be deadly if inhaled in high concentrations. Smoke also contains other toxic chemicals, such as cyanide, which is released from plastics like polyurethane foam cushions. Before smoking indoors was banned by law, polyurethane foam cushions were popular for furniture upholstery.

Smoke also contains gases like oxides of nitrogen and hydrocarbons. The smoke screen created by these gasses creates a great danger to firefighters while putting out fires.

The gas hydrocarbon has a low flash point and is readily available in the smoke produced over fires. This hazardous gas even exists in common heating sources such as barbecues, wood stoves, and burning candles indoors. It easily combusts when exposed to heat or flame, thus causing an explosion when poured on fire blankets. 

Burning Candle Smoke Damages the Wall

Smoke also contains carbon dioxide that produces heat by absorbing radiation and reradiating it back as infrared light (heat). The naked human skin can sense these invisible infrared waves, especially during winter months but not noticed much during summer months. However, the hot spots created by this radiation cause sunburn for people who stay outdoors for a long time during summer days without wearing adequate sunblock lotion.

How does Smoke Damages Walls and Ceilings?

Smoke damages the walls and ceiling by leaving smoke deposits. Smoke contains gases and particulates from the combustion of household items like papers, wood, plastics, etc. Frequently, soot particles in the smoke are also created as a result of the incomplete burning process. These all components damage your walls and ceilings at an atomic level resulting in discoloration or darkening of the surface.

How to Identify Damage Caused By Smoke?

Smoke damage may be difficult to identify if it appears on light-colored walls because it might blend well with surrounding areas, but the effect on darker colors will be more prominent and thus easier to spot.

Common characteristics of smoke-damaged wall surfaces are the Presence of watermarks where water was used to clean off soot from the walls, discolored or faded colors on certain parts of the wall, and the presence of soot lining.

Smoke damage may appear as watermarks and/or dark streaks in different areas of your walls, depending on what surface you use for cleaning off smoke damage. For example, if you use water to clean up walls affected by smoke, then there are possibilities that it might leave behind marks after drying.

For best results, try using a sponge moistened with vinegar or an all-purpose cleaner formulation containing bleach liquid solution, preferably an oxi-based cleanser. When stubborn stains remain untouched, use household vacuum cleaners fitted with brushes to remove any remaining residue left from soot or charring. After washing away existing residues, try cleaning walls with a soot removal solution and let it dry for some time.

Step-wise Guide on How to Clean Smoke Damage on Walls and Ceiling

The first step in cleaning smoke damage on walls and ceilings is to remove the debris from the property by vacuuming. Next, you need to clean the surfaces with water and a mild detergent mixed with bleach to eliminate all traces of soot.

For those places with bigger particles or residue, scrubbing will be necessary (wear gloves). After using the soap and bleach mixture, do not use plain water as it could leave a film that would attract more dirt.

Remove the Debris From the Property by Vacuuming

This will give you a temporarily clean surface but ensure that you get rid of all odors. If they remain, use an odor-neutralizing spray, as these can help. It would help if you also chose a decent air purifier for your house to ensure you remove all traces of smoke and other fumes.

To dust off the wall or ceiling surface, vacuum cleaning is recommended as it will collect up most of the allergens, including soot. This should be done regularly to prevent dust accumulation on walls and ceilings that have been affected by smoke damage from a fire/attic fire etc.

However, remember not to use high-temperature appliances like iron on these surfaces as they may give out sparks. Similarly, do not place hot items directly onto them either. One last thing before we move to the next section – don’t forget to open windows after finishing clean-up work because this step alone can create odors!

Precautions While How to Clean Smoke Damage on Walls and Ceiling:

  • Open all the windows for ventilation during cleaning to remove smoke smell from the entire home or apartment and prevent fire hazards.
  • Do not use any heater, lamps, or other portable heat sources when trying to eliminate odor. This may re-ignite the fire that caused damage to your house walls and ceilings and can cause serious harm to you.
  • Do not open wet rags filled with water near furnace pipes as these pose an explosion risk due to possible gas leaking out of these pipes, which got damaged in the fire accident, causing smoke damage on walls and ceiling.
  • Use a Fire Extinguisher. If you come across signs of fire, e.g., toxic fumes, dense smoke, etc., while cleaning up after a fire, do not try to extinguish the fire on your own if you are not trained by a professional in using a fire extinguisher. Instead, use an approved portable dry chemical fire extinguisher to eliminate the smoldering and avoid further damage.
  • Use vacuum cleaners with Hepa Filters. Vacuuming up a large majority of the soot particles attached to air ducts and sealing them off at their openings is one way of ensuring good air quality during cleanup after cleanup smoke damage incidents like house fires etc. Using vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters will ensure that all these tiny contaminants are sucked into vacuum bags without causing any harm to your respiratory system as they have NANO technology which blocks 99% of particles from passing it.
Clean the Smoke Damaged Clothes

Frequently Asked Questions

How to Clean Smoke Damaged Clothes?

When clothes are covered in smoke or ash for long periods of time, they begin to smell. Dampening the smoke-covered cloths and allowing them to dry is an effective way to eliminate the odor. The dampened cloths should be hung on hangers with enough room between them to allow airflow.

The clothes need to remain damp until you can wash them by hand. Once the cleaning process begins, put all affected garments into a pile; don’t mix clean clothes with dirty ones, as you could transfer soot onto your other clothing items.

Once you have removed as much soot from each garment as possible, spread it out on a tarp or another large piece of plastic to air dry. Check each item every few days and remove items as soon as possible because an odor worsens the longer it is on the clothes.

Alternatively, you could clean a load of dark-colored clothing together with a full load of whites (to take advantage of the hot water). This will ensure that all garments receive enough agitation during the wash cycle and are not sitting in soapy water for too long.

If your washing machine has a sanitized cycle, use this function instead of adding bleach or detergent containing bleach. If any odor is left after washing, wear them until they have dried completely before putting them away again.

It might also help if you put your smoke-damaged clothes in a laundry bag lined with activated charcoal or baking soda.

If you have only one or two items that need to be cleaned, hand-washing is an effective way of getting rid of the soot. Fill your washtub with warm water and add a few drops of liquid dish soap. Gently submerge the clothes in your tub and allow them to soak for a few hours; wear rubber gloves during this process as soot can easily stain skin!

After soaking, gently rub the clothing against itself using your fingers to get most of the debris out of it. Next, wash the garment(s) by hand using cool water if there is still any soot. Remember not to wring out the item as this can lead to more stains.

Gently Rub the Clothing

How to Reduce Smoke From Candles?

Candles bring a creative touch to our special occasions, but sometimes they can prove dangerous. If you burn candles frequently, you should know how to reduce their smoke. To reduce the amount of smoke from candles, place them in an open area on your dining table or kitchen countertop.

This will allow more air to flow around the flames and soften the blow of hot air being emitted during combustion. Also, make sure that no flammable items are situated next to where you plan on placing your candle holders so that any potential fire is easily controlled before it becomes too big for extinguishing. 

What Can I Use to Clean Smoke Damaged Walls?

Cleaning smoke-damaged walls are very difficult and require a lot of effort. Hiring professionals for this job is better to help you get the best results in the shortest time possible.

Many products can be used to clean smoke-damaged walls like:

1. Ammonia-based cleaners: These cleaners can be used with a wet cloth or vacuum cleaner and make removing the stains on your walls easier.

2. Oxygen-based cleaners: They can also be applied using a spray bottle, but they should not be used near electrical appliances as these may cause short circuits.

3. Disinfectants kill bacteria, viruses, and mold spores in contaminated areas and make it easier to clean up after an accident or disaster such as fire or flood damage.

How Do You Get Black Smoke Off Painted Walls and Ceiling?

There are many ways to get black smoke off painted walls and ceilings. The most popular way is using a vacuum cleaner. You can also use a wet cloth or put the paint on the floor and use your foot to scrub it into the carpet or any other hard surface that you have available.

Can You Paint Over Smoke Damage?

You cannot paint over smoke damage, but you can do a lot to clean it up. The best thing to do is hire an expert specializing in smoke damage restoration.

Some of the things that you can do yourself are:

1. Take out all the things from your house affected by the fire and leave them outside until they are completely dry.

2. Vacuum and mop the floor with a wet cloth or use a wet/dry vacuum cleaner if there is no moisture (use one with HEPA filters).

Mop the Floor With a Wet Cloth

3. Sweep or wipe down all walls and floors with a damp cloth to avoid adding more dirt or debris to your home.

Can Smoke Damage Be Removed?

Smoke damage can be removed. However, the process of removing smoke is a lengthy one and will require a lot of time and effort.

First, you need to clear the area that has been affected by smoke. This may include:

• Vacuuming up any ash or dust particles.

• Disinfecting with a bleach solution.

• Washing down walls with a mild soap solution and water to remove any soot or debris.

• Applying cleaning agents like “Dawn” dishwashing liquid on surfaces damaged by smoke to remove the smell of smoke from them.

How Much Does It Cost to Clean Smoke Damage?

Many factors can affect the cost of cleaning smoke damage. For example, the size and severity of the fire, whether or not there was water damage, and how long it took to extinguish the fire will all factor into the price.

A general rule is that a fire caused by careless smoking or cooking should be treated as a small-scale (less than $1,000) residential disaster.

Smoke can penetrate walls and floors, so in most cases, we recommend treating this type of fire as an interior clean-up only because you cannot see what has been burned in some places due to smoke obscuration.

The initial assessment should include taking photographs of areas with heavy smoke/fire damage for insurance purposes; documenting your findings; contacting neighbors to share information about the fire/smoke event; taking samples from areas with heavy black soot deposits for lab testing, and sending samples for other tests such as carbon monoxide testing if needed.

Areas With Heavy Smoke Damage


I hope this article has been beneficial for learning how to clean smoke damage on walls and ceilings. Thank you, and have a nice day!

Jennifer Branett
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