After the Fire: Dealing With Smoke and Mold Odors

There are over 350,000 house fires per year in the United States, according to data from the National Fire Protection Association. Fortunately, many of them are small and the homes survive — but that doesn’t mean there are no damages.

Bad odors, like smoke and mildew, can sometimes resurface weeks or months after a fire — especially if homeowners attempt restoration and cleanup without professional assistance. Learn more about what causes these problems and how to deal with them.

Smoke Odors

The most obvious odor that lingers in the home after a small fire is smoke. Smoke odors can resurface when you shut windows and doors for winter or if you perform any remodeling in the area that was affected. Smoke odor can even permeate rooms that weren’t directly impacted by the fire.


Smoke odors are pervasive. Smoke contains many tiny particulates called soot that can coat any surface that was exposed to the smoke. This means that smoke odors can get into wall boards and air ducts or that the odors may seep deeply into carpets and textiles.

Smoke may even get into the walls via small openings. The final result is a home that looks clean but has a smoke smell that still periodically resurfaces.

Restoration Methods

Smoke odor removal means addressing the cause — the sooty smoke film that is hiding in your home. Fortunately, a restoration technician can hunt down the source of the odor and use odor eliminating cleaners to solve most issues. If the odor persists after cleaning on semi-porous surfaces, like wood and drywall, then replacement or painting to seal in the odors may be necessary.

Homeowners sometimes give up on carpet and upholstery, since smoke seems to resurface from these items frequently.  Before you settle on replacement, consider professional restoration. A pro has the equipment and knowledge that may enable them to save your textiles.


Smoke odor isn’t just unpleasant; there are also health concerns related to it. Soot contains small particles, many of which are carcinogenic or small enough to cause lung problems. You may expose yourself to health issues if you attempt to clean it up yourself.

Musty Odors

Smoke isn’t the only odor that can surface long after a small fire. Mold and mildew can also invade, permeating your home with a musty odor.


Mold is a direct result of the water used to put out the fire. Even small fires can result in hidden water damage, particularly to the walls and floors surrounding the burn site.

Water tends to soak through materials like drywall and carpets. If you attempted the initial clean up on your own, chances are only the surface areas were dried completely. Unfortunately, mold can grow on the damp under- and back-sides of walls and carpets, out of sight. Failure to dry the damaged site quickly will result in mold growth.

Restoration Methods

As mentioned above, DIY restoration efforts often fail to fully extract water and dry everything thoroughly. A professional will use water extractors on carpets and large industrial fans to finish drying out wall boards and the carpet. Without moisture, mold can no longer grow or reproduce.

The next step is killing the mold spores that remain, which is typically achieved with specialty formulated mold killers or with a bleach solution. Unfortunately, mold may be growing in the carpet padding or behind the drywall if it has been some time since the fire, so you may need to replace these items.


Mold can lead to respiratory problems in sensitive individuals, so breathing and eye protection is necessary. Even if you aren’t usually sensitive, direct exposure and disturbance while cleaning can cause coughing or eye irritation. A safer option is to leave cleanup to a professional.

Contact Apex Contracting and Restoration for more help with your post-fire restoration efforts.

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