How To Tell What Type Of Smoke Damage You Have

19 May 2015
 Categories: , Blog

The three major types of smoke found in house fires today are wet smoke, dry smoke, and protein (or kitchen) smoke. The type of smoke damage in your house will dictate the cleaning methods used. Whether it came from a tiny toaster fire or a disastrous house fire that had you calling a damage remediation team that same day, educating yourself about smoke damage is crucial. Here are three steps to determining what type of smoke caused the damage in your home. 

1. Find out where and how the fire started.

If you were in the kitchen cooking and know the fire started there, it was probably a protein fire. If you were asleep when the fire started, you may have to do some investigation. A fire that starts with a sudden flare-up and burns quickly is likely to produce dry smoke. Wet smoke (often considered the most damaging type) comes from a slow-burning fire or one that can't get enough air circulation. This can happen if the fire starts in a closed-off area and grows rapidly. It uses up all the oxygen in the air and then can't get enough to burn properly, so the soot it produces is greasier and less cleanly combusted. 

2. Look for "soot tags."

Soot tags look like smoke-covered cobwebs, but that doesn't mean you should be embarrassed about your housekeeping skills. If you have soot tags, it's not because you had cobwebs before the fire. The soot actually creates its own cobweb-like structures in the corners of rooms. This generally happens when circulation is low, which probably means the fire was producing wet smoke.

3. Analyze the residue.

If there are no soot tags, try touching a bit of the soot to find out what texture it has. If it smears, it's probably from wet smoke. If it crumbles instantly, it's probably from dry smoke. Wet soot is often smellier than its dry counterpart as well. However, if it's super smelly but there doesn't seem to be much (or any) visible residue, you may be dealing with a protein fire.

Once you've discovered what type of residue you have, you can begin to determine how to deal with it. If you have dry soot and only a little of it, you may decide you can perform the remediation yourself. (Be warned, though; dry smoke can be very hard on books.) Wet smoke, however, is more insidious and very frustrating to clean, so it's probably best to call in the professionals. This is also a good idea with kitchen fires; although protein smoke leaves no visible soot, the unseen residue is there, and the strong smell can linger for a long time. But whatever you decide to do for remediation, diagnosing the type of smoke damage is a crucial first step toward starting your cleanup.

For more information, contact Serclean Inc. or a similar company.