Donna asked: How do I clean smoke damage from outside bricks where a house had been on fire?
When you’re cleaning soot or smoke damage that’s a result of a house fire, it’s important to remove as much of the soot as possible before you start washing. Soot and smoke deposits contain acids and can stain in the liquid form, so for the most effective cleaning be sure to follow all of these steps from the beginning.
You Will Need:
- Chemical sponge (also known as a soot sponge), available at hardware stores
- Shop vac (indoor/outdoor vacuum), can be rented
- Simple Green Multi-Purpose Cleaner and Degreaser or similar product
- Stiff bristled brush
- Eye protection, available at hardware stores
- Garden hose with sprayer attachment
Steps to Remove the Soot:
- Before you begin, use proper eye protection to avoid getting loose soot or spray in your eyes.
- First, use the chemical sponge to remove as much of the soot as possible. These products are available at most major hardware stores. Rub it on the surface to loosen and remove the surface soot.
- Remove any loosened debris with the shop vac. If there is a brush attachment, it can be used as well to work the soot out of the grooves of the brick as you are vacuuming.
- Use the stiff brush to apply the degreaser, scrubbing from bottom to top to reduce the chances of streaking.
- Rinse frequently with clean water. A hose with a sprayer attachment works well for this.
- If the area is large, work in small sections for the best results.
Additional Tips and Advice
- You can use Simple Green in a pressure washer instead of scrubbing with it manually, but you need to use extreme care in doing so. It’s possible to destroy bricks, damage the surface, or chip away at mortar, any one of which will cause permanent damage to the structure. If you opt to use a pressure washer, use a wide, low-pressure spray from a great distance. Stop frequently to check for damage if you move in closer, and never get closer than 2-3 feet from the brick.
- If you don’t have access to a shop vac, use a stiff brush and short strokes to whisk away as much of the loose material as possible before continuing to the washing step.
- When the chemical sponge gets dirty, do NOT wash it out. Instead, use a sharp edge (razor blade or knife) to peel away the outer layer, exposing a fresh layer below. For big jobs, have an extra sponge or two on hand.