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I can't get the smell of smoke (from a fire) out of my house!

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I had a small fire in my house on Monday. Long story short- I was cooking dried beans in a pot, forgot about them, and left my house for a few hours. Came back to a house filled with smoke and the beans turned to charcoal. So the only fire was in the pot, but there was quite a lot of smoke. We have no insurance, so I can't call in any professional company to come get the smell out. I have an air cleaner that I've been running non-stop, I've tried washing my walls, opening windows and turning the fan on, but it just won't go away. I worked hard today trying to get it gone, and by the evening, you could hardly smell it, but a few hours later, the entire place (upstairs and down) smells all over again. I've read online that you need to steam clean your carpets, and have your couches cleaned. But when I smell them, they smell just fine. I have a carpet shampooer so I am going to try and shampoo the carpets tomorrow. I don't know what to do about my couches...

The thing I don't get, is when you smell individual items (like the couches, ect) you can't smell a trace of smoke. You can't see any soot anywhere. And yet the smell is so strong right now, it almost burns my throat. And that is another thing I don't get, why it burns my throat a little. I've been running my air filter machine tons.

I am just so worried about this. I have a horrible landlord who I do not want to find out about this happening and am so worried that I'll never get the smell to leave and he'll find out! I am so upset with myself for forgetting about the beans like I did.

Does anyone have any suggestions of how I can get the smell out???
post #2 of 12
I would sprinkle furniture and carpets with baking soda and leave overnight. Then vacuum it up in the morning.

I don't know if it works on smoke but it's pretty good at absorbing other odours so it seems worth a try.
post #3 of 12
Probably, the landlord's insurance would cover cleanup - of the apartment but definitely not of your furniture.

You can rent a steam cleaner - just be sure to vacuum up the moisture very thoroughly after doing the cleaning.

If you have forced air heat, be sure to change the air filter.

I would run the bathroom vent fan 24 hours a day until the smell went away. (will increase your electricity bill!)

There is also the "Gonzo odor absorber" from Lowes or Home depot. Less than $10. It works for dead mice, so it might help for smoke smells. I would try several in one room, with the door shut - to see if it does any good!
post #4 of 12
Contact a company that specializes in disaster recovery & repair (like ServiceMaster). Or, call a general contractor out of the Yellow Pages and ask them for a referral to such a company (you local Fire department might be a good reference place, too!). Your out-of-pocket price might be cheaper than you think (and, it might be a lot cheaper than what the landlord may do!).

These companies have special machines that use ozone to destroy and absorb the smoke odor out of everything in a home. They can be rented, from what I have read on the Internet. Depending on the size of your home, it could be worth the cost.

We are going to be using this ozone technology on my Dad's house which is contaminated with 38 years of cigarette smoke damage. Our contractor assures us that doing this, combined with sealing and re-painting everything in the house, there will be NO cigarette smoke smell left.

Hope you get it all worked out. Wouldn't it be better to tell the landlord about this instead of waiting for him to find out that you tried to cover it up?? 'Fess up, or he'll really be on your case from now on.
post #5 of 12
I've lived in a home where I have had to deal with the smell of smoke damage. I burned incense almost constantly in every room of the house, sprinkled baking soda on everything that I could, set out bowls of vinegar in the closets, and put open baking soda boxes in the cabinets and pantries. I wiped down the walls most affected with bleach. After awhile (a month or so I believe) the smell went away or faded enough that it could no longer be smelled. I also opened windows and doors as much as possible.

ETA: Heavy incense works best. Sandalwood and vanilla (mostly the sandalwood though) were the ones I used the most.
post #6 of 12
they sell products you can use to get rid of it.

You can get stuff at a head shop that people use to cover pot smell (ozium), or you can get a commercial product for covering the smell of a house fire (google for it) or you can go to the evil WalMart like my dh did when my infrawave caught fire and use that.

I'm very sensitive to odors and he sprayed it while I was asleep. I woke up and the house smelled much better with no funky perfum-y leftover odors. We used the same spray in the trunk of the car when a gas can splashed a little bit and it reduced the smell, too.


post #7 of 12
Silly question most likely but have you gotten rid of the charcoaled beans and even the pot you were cooking in, they aren't siing in a compost bucket or the trash?

My hubby burned a pot of beans years back, reading your post brought the smell right back into my nose.. Phew.. don't ever want to smell that again. it was summer and we were able to leave things open and eventually the smell did go away, took a while though.

Do you have a vent above the stove, if it has a filter, wash it real good, try and clean the fan and the vent pipe as best as you can.
post #8 of 12
I did that last summer with a pot of chicken stock, and I thought the smoke smell would never go away, but after 2 weeks it wasn't noticeable anymore.

Granted, this was the summer and I was able to leave all the windows open all the time, but the smell WILL fade over time. Baking, cooking strong-smelling stuff like curry, just living will all cover over it.

Definitely clean your carpets if you can, and if the pot or any contents are still in the house get them out, but don't stress about it too much.
post #9 of 12
Okay, I did this exact same thing (with chicken broth) a year and a half ago. I forgot a big pot of chicken bones and vegetables, left it on high (!), and went to the park for a couple of hours. I came home to a house filed floor-to-ceiling with thick smoke, the fire alarm blaring, and molten metal leaking out from the bottom of my stock pot. It was horrible. BUT...


I was in a huge panic, calling my insurance, calling the fire department clean-up crew, calling carpet cleaners. Days and days after the fire the house still smelled horrible. I tried scrubbing the walls with cleansers, liting package upon package of incense, running air purifiers...none of it works at all.
Everything reeked of smoke: our clothes, the carpet, the upholstery, the walls... The cheapest quote anyone could give me for smoke damage clean up was $1200.

And then I talked to an amazing man, a guy who does Chem-dry as his business. He heard the panic in my voice, listened when I said I couldn't afford a full clean up, and rather than solicit my business he gave me the advice that saved my butt, which I am now going to pass on to you.

Go to an equipment rental store (the kind that rent tools and such) and rent an "ozone generator." 2 days rental should cost about $50 tops.

Ozone generators work by creating ozone (o3) via an electrical charge. Ozone is very unstable: o3 wanting to become o2. That third oxygen molecule is looking for something else to bond to (think free radical). It bonds very well with smoke, denaturing the smoke molecule and completely neutralizing smoke odor.

It is quite easy. Basically you plug the ozone generator into the wall, set the timer (12-24 hours depending on the extent of the smoke damage) and let it do its thing in your home. After the timer is up you need to let the ozone break down completely into regular o2. (I recommend a full 24 hours). The house will smell a little weird, kinda bleach-like. But that fades completely as the ozone breaks down. Ozone half life is less than half an hour, so giving a full 24 hours will ensure that everything is back to normal inside.

IMPORTANT: The only hard part about all this is that NOTHING alive may be in the house while you are ozoning. It is very, very harmful to breath the stuff in. No people, no plants, no pets... you have to clear everything alive out. Pack up the family and move in with a friend or into a hotel for about two days (one to ozone, one to clear the air of ozone). Once the o3 breaks down into o2 there is no harm.

Also, prolonged contact with ozone breaks down some fibers, rather like prolonged exposure to the sun would. So any precious photos should be taken out, fine art, etc. We didn't notice any damage other than some plastic hair bands became quite brittle after we were done. Everything else was fine. But then, we don't have amazing carpet or brand new sofas, so we really didn't mind if the fibers were affected a little.
I also recommend taking all your clothes and washing them while the house is being bombarded with ozone. A regular washing with strong detergent took care of our clothes. The didn't get the full brunt of the smoke, as the bedroom and closet doors were closed, but they still really stunk.

Anyway, we tried tons of stuff, and the ozone generator was the only thing that really, truly worked. And it was cheap! Aside from the inconvenience of being put out of the house for a few days (we didn't want to be in there anyway: it smelled horrible!) this is so easy to do.
post #10 of 12
PP mentioned an ozone generator....those things work wonders!!!! We had an unfortunate microwave popcorn fire incident...yep that smell lingered for days. If all else fails you might want to try painting sometimes smell seep into the walls. We also had every fabric furniture cleaned and did the carpets. i also washed all my curtains/linens and such. After everything you couldnt smell anything but I really thing the ionizer is what did it.
post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 
I woke up this morning and the smell has faded quite a lot. Every day I've been cleaning more things and it seems to help. Thank you so much for all the great advice! I will definately check into getting an ozone machine if this smell doesn't continue to fade. Even if we don't end up needing one, I'm glad to know how helpful it is in this situation, in case it ever happens again (which I sure hope it doesn't!).

I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who has done this, and not even the only one who did this with beans! lol! Tinuviel_k, your story does sound like it was way worse than mine. I left mine on med, not high, and only for 2 hours, so the pot wasn't melted or anything. There was lots of smoke, but it sounds like it was less than what you had.

Oh, and I did take the pot out to my balcony. I have been able to just chuck it, I keep hoping that I can salvage my pot as it was my favorite, and not cheap. I keep hoping that I can somehow get all that burned stuff off the pot, even though I'm pretty sure it's only wishful thinking...

Anyway, thanks again everyone for all the advice!
post #12 of 12
Ozone sounds like it works great to rid smoke odor but please, please be aware that are going to create chemical reactions with MANY items in your home. That extra molecule can & will create new compounds that may be caustic or toxic. From the EPA: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/ozonegen.html
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Mothering › Mothering Forums › Natural Living › The Mindful Home › I can't get the smell of smoke (from a fire) out of my house!