With so much of California under a cloud of wildfire smoke recently, the task of clean-up staggers the imagination. Just think about it—even the homes and businesses that escape the flames are layered with ash and soot. The air quality in a home exposed to intense smoke presents a hazard to health. The lingering smoke particles are especially harmful to young children, the elderly, and anyone suffering asthma and respiratory ailments. The longer the exposure to smoke, the more deeply the odor will be embedded.
Clean up is not just a matter of dusting off surfaces and covering up the odor with air freshener. The smoke odor will never dissipate. Every porous surface holds smoke odor and has to be thoroughly cleaned. Obviously, laundering towels, bedding and clothing is easier than dealing with a smoke-saturated couch or carpeting.
Removing the odor of smoke from carpeting is very difficult, but there are a couple of things you can try if you want to do it yourself. Placing bowls of distilled vinegar throughout the structure will help absorb some of the odor, just remember to keep it out of reach of children and animals. Sprinkling a big box of baking soda all over the carpet will also help. If you want, you can add a cup of dried lavender to scent the baking soda. Let it sit on the carpet for at least eight hours—all day is great—and then vacuum…and vacuum…and vacuum. When you are working in a smoke damaged environment, it is helpful to wear a mask. And, when vacuuming, always use a vacuum equipped with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate absorbing) filter.
In the end, the best choice is probably to skip the DIY and call a professional steam cleaner. There is no substitute for hot water extraction when dealing with something as stubborn as smoke odor. That way you can be assured that your carpet is free of soot and clean.