How to Clean Carpets and Upholstery After Fire and Smoke Damage

On November 28, a devastating fire ripped through Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The blaze burned thousands of acres, many of them in beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park. According to USA Today, it also damaged or destroyed 2,460 structures—including many homes and businesses.

DPM Care was a part of the cleanup effort in Gatlinburg after the fire, helping to clean carpets and upholstery in several hotels in the area. While we hope that you never have to face the effects of such devastation, it might be helpful to know what to do if you need to restore a building or facility after a fire. We hope that our experience in Gatlinburg can be helpful to other companies.

Cleaning Commercial Carpeting After a Fire

When it comes to cleaning after a fire, many businesses don’t know where to start. Here are some answers to key questions that may be on your mind:

1. How difficult is it to clean or repair carpets and upholstery after fire damage?

It really depends on the type of damage. For carpet or upholstery with smoke damage only, the cleaning process is fairly simple and straightforward. For damage that involves water, debris, and smoke, the process is more complex. Damage from heat in most cases is irreversible.

2. What is the process for restoring carpeting that has fire and smoke damage?

At DPM, our process include cleaning, sanitizing and neutralizing damage caused by smoke and debris left behind from a fire.

To begin, we sanitize the carpet and upholstery with SaniClean. This process neutralizes organics (fungi and bacteria) while removing dirt and debris left in the fiber. With proper dwell time, this process will reach into porous areas like some carpet backing systems, cushion, and other hard-to-reach areas. As an added benefit to the environment, the chemistry used in SaniClean is Green Seal certified.

The final step is to remove the smoke odor by applying DPM’s Odor-X – Fire & Flood chemistry designed to neutralize smoke and other odors present in the carpet or upholstery.

3. At what point is the carpet or upholstery no longer salvageable?

Carpet or upholstery that has physical damage from heat, water, or a chemical used to treat the fire may not be salvageable.

For carpeting, excessive water will usually create a bond issue for adhesives that hold the carpet to floor and in some cases can cause damage to the carpet. Excessive water can saturate carpet padding—which usually results in replacement.

High heat can create irreversible damage to nylon fiber. For upholstery, the same applies for the padding and fiber. Most upholstered goods have metal and wood parts that may have irreversible damage such as bowing, cosmetic damage, and other damage structurally.

4. How quickly does the carpet need to be cleaned after the fire or smoke damage?

After a fire, it is imperative to get the carpet dry. The longer carpet stays saturated with water, the more damage occurs. After the carpet is completely dry, it is time to clean it. In most cases, a restoration contractor will be drying the space to ensure the entire space is dry.

5. What can companies do right away to minimize the effects of fire or smoke damage?

A company needs to call a professional trained to deal with this type of damage. Most insurance companies will have a representative to recommend a restoration company if you don’t already have an existing relationship with one.

In the case of the fire in the Smokies, DPM Care worked on three hotels that had smoke damage as a subcontractor under Belfor Restoration. A large restoration contractor, Belfor was contracted to repair the damage internally and externally to each hotel.

While none of the hotels we worked on had any fire damage internally, they all had extensive smoke damage. Fortunately, we were able to salvage all the carpeting and upholstered chairs.

A Final Note on the Gatlinburg Fire…

As with any fire, it is never a good situation. After seeing the effects of the Gatlinburg fire, we were shocked at the magnitude of the damage and the work that lay ahead to get this community back on its feet.

Our work helped to get three hotels open for business. We’re incredibly proud to have been a part of that. But what was most amazing to us was seeing how the community and people from across the country came together to help. That was truly inspiring.