How to get smoke out of your garments

It has been a while since my last post. As you may have seen on the news, Santa Barbara had a devastating fire called the Jesusita fire. Over 30,000 people were evacuated and 80 homes were lost. This event touched the lives of everyone in Santa Barbara.

Now the cleanup process is underway. One aspect of the cleanup is textile restoration services. What is that? Well, if your home survives but was in close proximity to a fire, you will most likely have an insurance claim. And your claim will likely include smoke damaged clothing and linens.

When you call your insurance company and place a claim, you will be assigned an adjuster. Normally the adjuster will come out to take a look. The adjuster will then hire several contractors to clean up and repair your house. Typically the adjuster will hire what is known as a "contents remediation company." That would be a Service Master, Serve Pro, Qwik Response or one of many other company's.

Then there is the contents. There are 2 options for cleaning up your textiles (linens, clothing, curtains, rugs, etc). They can be written off (total loss) or taken to the cleaners. This decision can be made by the homeowner, adjuster or remediation company. Sometimes the adjuster calls a restoration drycleaner, and sometimes they call it a total loss. Other times the remediation company (Service Master, etc.) will call a drycleaner or take the clothes to a drycleaner.

It is good for homeowner to understand, your insurance can recommend vendors - BUT HOMEOWNERS CAN CHOOSE THE VENDORS THEY WANT!

So now, how do we restore fire damaged clothes?

Smoke Smell: Often, because the entire house smells of smoke, the homeowner is unaware of the smoke smell until they are removed from the location. They may not believe they have smoke odor that requires remediation until weeks or even months later. Let your adjuster be your guide in this case. Usually their recommendations are based on experience.

Smoke odor (actually, any odors) do not come out in regular drycleaning. The items must be treated with special chemicals, washed with special detergents or put into an OZONE chamber before (and sometimes after) cleaning. This process is more time consuming than your normal drycleaning, and since there is normally a large volume of clothes, can take considerable time.

Fire Damage: Houses in close proximity to fire not only are inundated with smoke, but the temperatures go way up too. Often a garment looks like it has soot on it that should come out in cleaning. After cleaning, the garment is shredded - and the garment is ruined. What happened? The extended period of high temperature caused a slow burn, the clothes did not catch fire, but the fibers did turn into carbon during the extended period of heat. No drycleaner can prevent this damage. It was already there

NonCleanable: There are items that are not cleanable - or at least cleaning is not recommended. You may have brand new items in your home that had not yet been used, items that had prior damage from use, or items with card board or special embellishments that do not clean well - drapes, chenille blankets, pillows, etc.

We typically clean 2000 pcs a day - last week we had calls for over 140,000 pieces!
If you have a fire restoration drycleaner to your home you will be asked to select a RUSH order. That is enough items to keep you comfortably clothed for a month! This order should be returned to you in a week or less. Many times, people want the items back sooner - but the smoke removal usually requires multiple cleaning and 24-48 hours in the ozone. 3 day turn around may lead to the smoke odor still in the clothes.

Also, because of the amount of work created in a general disaster, vendors come in from miles away. In SB I know that drycleaners came from San Diego to San Francisco. They fill trucks with textiles and drive them back to their plant - often 5 hours away! This sort of service is necessary to process the huge amount of work. If you are in this situation Please Ask where your clothes are going to be cleaned and how you can contact them. I have found that since I am business aquaintence of most of these drycleaners - they use my name. Unfortunately, the homeowner is under the mistaken impression that my cleaners is doing the work.

The rest of your items will be returned several months later - or even over 6 months later. Often delivery is dependent on the repairs of your home. Because of the size of the catastrophe and the amount of people and textiles involved - there is no way to process in a faster way.

Communication, as always, is key in these situations. The restoration companies should be sensitive to your needs and work with you in every way. They should be asking the right questions and helping you select the rush order, etc.





4 comments:

NicoleS said...

I never knew that a special dry cleaning process was required to restore clothing. I always thought that dry cleaning was enough. Thanks for saving me the trouble!

John Kenly said...

Very informative post

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cosmomixer said...

I, too think the post is very informative. I would have never even thought to ask a dry cleaners what to do for fire damage. I would have just dropped them off.

Ablitt's Fine Cleaners said...

Thanks for the feedback!