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Knowing exactly what to do immediately following a crisis situation, such as a fire, can help consumers minimize loss of slightly damaged personal property. At the same time, there are a number of steps that will merely result in costly mistakes.

ServiceMaster, a national commercial residential cleaning and disaster restoration service, offers the following "DOs" and "DON'Ts" for salvaging household items damaged by small fires:

Fire and Smoke Damage -- DO:

Blow off or brush-vacuum loose soot particles from upholstery, drapes, and carpets.
Cover carpet traffic areas with towels or old linens to prevent more soiling.
If electrical service is off, clean out freezer and refrigerator. Leave doors propped open or place charcoal in freezer or refrigerator.
Clean formica and chrome fixtures in kitchen and bath to prevent tarnishing, wipe residue from porcelain bath to prevent etching.
Send clothing with heavy smoke damage to a professional restoration cleaners, rather than a dry cleaning company.
Change airfilters on forced hot air furnaces. Tape cheese cloth over intake and exit hot air registers to capture any loose soot in the air.

Fire and Smoke Damage -- DON'T:

Don't touch anything. Soot on hands can impregnate upholstery, walls, and woodwork causing more damage.
Do not wash any papered or flat painted walls. Improper cleaning could compound the soot residue problem.
Do not clean carpets or upholstered furniture. These items should be cleaned by a professional cleaning service that specializes in fire or smoke restoration projects,
Do not use electrical appliances that have been close to the fire or water before having them checked.
Do not use ceiling fixtures if ceiling is wet. A short circuit could result.
Do not eat food that has been exposed to fire.

Washing Machine Hose Breaks
Dryer Fires
Fall Checklist
Wintertime Safety Tips
Furnace "Puff Backs"
Frozen Pipes
Recovering From Water Damage
Recovering From Fire
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