Tips for Salvaging Sentimental Items After Fire Damage
House fires can be particularly difficult to recover from because, in addition to the fire damage, there is often damage from smoke, ash, chemicals and water. These tips can help you save some of your irreplaceable sentimental items.
How To Salvage Sentimental Items After Fire or Water Damage
Your priorities when attempting to salvage items after a fire are to stay safe and to get the insurance process started:
- Call your insurance company to file a claim as soon as you can
- Check for structural damage before entering your home
- Do not attempt to salvage items from an unsafe building
- Wear protective gloves, eyewear and face masks
- Do not touch or breath in hazardous materials
- Take pictures of damaged items for your insurance claim
Tips for Handling Damaged Items
Items that have been damaged by flames, smoke, ash or water may be fragile. Improper handling may damage these items further. Handle items as little as possible. Fine particles of soot may be ground into the objects without you realizing it. Ash and soot are abrasive materials that can scratch fragile items.
Pick up items carefully and avoid touching the most damaged areas. Wear latex gloves to prevent the oils in your skin from permanently binding soot residue to absorbent surfaces. Do not apply pressure to surfaces that are blistered or lifting. Store items in supportive plastic containers or boxes until they are ready to be cleaned. Clean objects as soon as possible. The longer soot remains on objects, the more difficult it is to remove.
Do not use water or cleaning solutions to clean items with fire damage. The water will force ash and soot further into the surface of the item. Vacuum ash and soot off your item as soon as you can. However, if a fire hose was used to put out your fire, avoid vacuuming any items that are still damp. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter on its lowest setting.
Do not brush items or touch them with the vacuum nozzle. Vacuum the surfaces of folded items before unfolding them. If the item is not fragile, you may be able to use a soot sponge to remove additional soot.
If you have shelved books that you want to save, they may be burnt on the outside, but undamaged on the inside. Vacuum the edges before you open the books to avoid spreading soot onto the pages. If you find a photo album that is stuck together, do not try to pry it open. Instead, contact a restoration company in Bountiful, UT, to find out if they can restore the item for you.
Heat may cause metal, ceramic and glass items to become brittle. Be careful when handling these items. Fabric items may appear to be intact but may fall apart if not handled gently. Before you give up on items that seem too damaged to restore, consult with a restoration company.
Not every family heirloom that has fire damage is restorable. However, it may surprise you how many of your sentimental items can be saved with careful handling and appropriate cleaning techniques.