How to Clean Smoke-Damaged Vinyl Windows

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The aftermath of a fire can leave your home covered in soot and odors and leave you wondering where to begin in your cleanup efforts. Although some fire damage may require the use of a professional, you may be able to clean smoke-damaged vinyl windows yourself with a few professional items and some "elbow grease." Vinyl takes special care, for it is prone to damage from the harsher chemicals normally used to remove smoke damage from surfaces. Be sure to replace vinyl windows that show signs of bubbling or other damage that cannot be restored from a mere cleaning.

Things You'll Need

  • Face mask
  • Goggles
  • Rubber gloves
  • Vacuum cleaner with duster brush
  • Chemical dry brush
  • 2 buckets
  • Large sponge
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Mild dish detergent
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • 2 soft microfiber cloths
  • Terrycloth towel(s)
  • Baby shampoo (optional)

Wear a protective facial mask, gloves and goggles before beginning work. Remove any drapery, blinds or window coverings before beginning. Windows should be cool before attempting to wash.

Begin by vacuuming the excess soot and debris off the window frame, glass and sill with a duster brush attachment on a vacuum cleaner. Open windows to get in between window openings where soot may have fallen. Remove as much from the nooks and crannies as possible and repeat on the outside of the windows, as needed.

Use a chemical dry brush on all the vinyl areas of the window, beginning from the top and working down. Remove as much of the staining as you can before proceeding to step 4.

Add one tbsp. of mild dish detergent to a bucket of warm water. Fill an additional bucket with plain warm water to rinse the sponge from excess soot and residue, changing the water as needed.

Dip a large sponge into the detergent, wringing the sponge out well. Wash the window, beginning at the top of the frame and working toward the bottom in sections. Be sure to rinse the sponge often in order not to redistribute the grime.

Clean the window latches and mechanism with the sponge and a small soft-bristled brush to lift ingrained debris in hard-to-reach areas. Continue cleaning the tops, sides and bottom of the window before beginning on the glass.

Wipe the glass with a microfiber cloth and the soapy water solution. Dry the window, glass and frame with a clean terrycloth towel.

Empty the soapy solution, rinsing the bucket well. Add 2 cups of vinegar to warm water in the bucket. Use a clean microfiber cloth dipped into the water to retrace the surfaces of the window, glass and frame with the vinegar solution. This will help remove smoke odors left behind by the smoke damage.

Finish the window glass with another pass of water and vinegar or by mixing 1 tsp. of baby shampoo to 1 gallon of warm water. Apply with microfiber cloth and rinse the area with clean water. Dry the glass with a squeegee or soft cloth, making sure to dry the surrounding frame as needed.

Tips & Warnings

  • Never allow the soapy water or other cleaning solutions to dry on vinyl.
  • Avoid cleaning windows in direct sunlight or when the glass is warm or too cold.
  • Clean washable window coverings by soaking overnight in the washing machine with clean water and 3 cups of vinegar to help remove odors. Wash one to five times with regular detergent as needed to completely remove odors.
  • Vinyl window frames can be damaged by sharp objects; always remove rings, watches and bracelets prior to washing the windows.
  • Avoid using any acid-based or abrasive cleaners such as alcohol, bleach, degreaser, citrus cleaners, nail polish remover or petroleum products.

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