How to Wash Clothing After a Fire

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Many items may be salvaged after a fire. Even if the fire was confined to one room, items elsewhere have likely suffered smoke damage. Clothing kept in closed dresser drawers may not be covered with visible soot, but can have a strong smoke odor anyway. Washing clothes after a fire takes extra effort and time in order to get rid of the odor, but in many cases clothes are salvageable.

Things You'll Need

  • Water conditioner
  • Detergent with color-safe bleach

Take clothing outdoors to check out and separate the items, if possible. Separate clothes into piles according to color and type of fabric, as suggested by Iowa State University Extension and degree of odor or soiling. Shake out any items visibly covered with soot. These items should be washed separately from clothing not showing signs of soot marks.

Place a load of clothes in your washing machine. Set the water level on high and fill up the machine with warm or hot water.

Add 1 cup of a water conditioner, as advised by Iowa State University Extension. Next, measure in ½ cup of laundry detergent containing color-safe bleach.

Run the clothes through two wash cycles initially, adding detergent again after the first cycle. Remove the clothing and check for stains and odor. You may have to wash clothing several times to completely remove the odor.

Hang clothing outdoors to dry in the fresh air.

Tips & Warnings

  • Clothing items that have been sitting around damp and covered in soot may be impossible to restore.
  • Clean and deodorize closets and drawers before returning clothes to these areas.

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