Smoke is an inevitable by-product of fires. We may think of it as simply a dark cloud, but smoke also contains finely dispensed liquids and gases. In fact, the most dangerous components of smoke are the invisible gases present during the fire.
After the fire, the gases disperse but the smoke solids and liquids remain on exposed surfaces. These deposits are more accurately called "fire residues" than smoke, because they are no longer the same as the heated cloud generated by the fire.
Fire residues vary in character. Some appear as dry particles, others as smeary flakes; still others are sticky and viscous. The type of residue depends on the items that burned and their rate of combustion. Smoke residues often emit obnoxious odors that persist long after the fire.
Questions of toxicity arise, particularly when the odor is intense. Off-gassing from fire residues may cause eyes to tear, particularly in confined spaces. While no studies have been performed on the effects of breathing fire residues after a fire, it seems obvious that they cannot be healthful. It is important to remember, however, that fire residues are not the same as the fire gases and therefore do not pose the same threat to health.
In typical residential fires, the introduction of outside air by direct ventilation will temporarily lower odor levels as well as allergic responses. Complete and permanent return to pre-damage conditions requires both removal of burned components and effective restoration procedures. Thorough cleaning with appropriate detergents does neutralize and remove fire residues.
Occasionally fire residues seem to penetrate finishes or stain-absorbent surfaces. These are permanent changes in the materials themselves rather than loose fire residues. Because fire residues are often acidic, prompt removal from exposed metals is important in order to minimize corrosion.
It is important to note that, in an overwhelming majority of cases, prompt and effective restoration can return smoke-damaged items to their original attractive and wholesome state. We can analyze the character of the smoke residues left after your fire, as well as provide the expert restoration work required.