New Technology, Tools, and Techniques for Fire Restoration and Clean-Up

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Experienced cleaning and restoration professionals understand that the process of rehabilitating a property in the aftermath of a fire is an inherently challenging task, often considered one of the most difficult. Beyond addressing the structural damage and consequent rebuilding that needs to take place, professionals must also contend with scorch marks, lingering smokey odors, and other related issues.

Indeed, the evidence of a fire can linger long after the flames have been extinguished and the property rebuilt. Stubborn stains and odors can often persist, making the property unsightly, unpleasant, and sometimes even unlivable. 

Fortunately, the technology, tools, and techniques for fire restoration, especially the cleaning and odor removal components, are constantly advancing. Today, cleaning and restoration professionals have a wider, more effective arsenal than ever before. Here are six innovative ways to improve your fire restoration capabilities. 

Use sound as a tool. Cleaning and restoration professionals are increasingly leveraging an unlikely tool to remediate fire damage: sound. Ultrasonic cleaning technology offers an effective method for revitalizing electronics, jewelry, textiles, and other delicate items that have suffered damage from soot or smoke. The process involves immersing the affected items in a tank filled with a cleaning solution. Subsequently, the tank is subjected to ultrasonic waves, generating bubbles and shockwaves that efficiently eliminate soot and smoke patinas, restoring the items to their original state.

Put chemistry to work. Seasoned cleaning and restoration professionals are well-versed in harnessing the power of chemistry. Some may not be aware, however, of the remarkable potential of enzyme-based cleaners in the context of property restoration following fire damage. These cleaning solutions operate by literally digesting challenging stains such as soot and smoke, effectively breaking down stubborn residues. Additionally, enzyme-based cleaners offer additional advantages, such as eliminating the odors associated with the stains and being free from harsh chemicals that could otherwise harm surfaces.

Generate helpful molecules. Another powerful way to harness chemistry? The use of hydroxyl generators. These machines, ranging in size from the portable to the industrial, generate hydroxyl molecules: a combination of one hydrogen atom and one oxygen atom. UV light is shined onto the surfaces, interacting with an applied compound of titanium dioxide, which is a photocatalyst. The resulting chemical reaction breaks down other substances like soot and smoke stains and odors. These tools can be used everywhere from residential homes to hospitals, and leave the air in the affected area cleaner than before.  

Similar to hydroxyl generators are ozone generators. These machines can be as small as a portable space heater yet still have a major effect. They generate ozone molecules: a combination of three oxygen atoms. These are also highly reactive compounds, interacting with other particles responsible for smokey smells. And ozone generators don’t just remove smoke odors; they can also mitigate the smell of sewage, mold, and cigarettes.

Utilize the right filter. Some people might associate HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters with cleaning up toxins and dangerous molds. But seasoned cleaning and restoration professionals know these filters are equally useful in the aftermath of a fire. A HEPA filter captures more than 99 percent of particles of a very small size,three-tenths of a single micrometer, to be precise. Which means the particles that linger in the aftermath of a fire can be effectively removed when HEPA filters are integrated into HVAC systems and other tools. 

Deploy dry ice. This technique uses a mixture of brute force and clever chemistry to remove the evidence of a fire. Compressed air is used to fire dry ice pellets at damaged surfaces. But that doesn’t damage the surface further; instead, the pellets convert to gas upon impact, releasing energy and removing soot and smoke stains. Many professionals choose this technique because it doesn’t necessitate harsh, dangerous chemicals and it works on a variety of materials, from concrete to metal to wood. 

Harness laser technology. Laser cleaning technology proves highly effective in eliminating blemishes, patinas, and various imperfections from materials, including stubborn smoke and soot stains, leaving them looking brand new. To begin, precise laser beams are shot at a damaged surface. The contaminants on the surface absorb the laser, either detaching and falling away or transforming into gas. Notably, the laser approach is significantly safer, and cleaner compared to earlier technologies such as sand blasting or dry ice pellets, which can be loud, hazardous, and prone to creating a substantial mess.

Remediating fire damage is a notably challenging process with no one-size-fits-all solution. However, cleaning and restoration professionals can enhance their approach by incorporating the latest technology, tools, and techniques available to them. Many of these advancements contribute to expediting the cleanup, ensuring safety, and improving overall effectiveness.

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Ron Fanish

Ron Fanish is co-owner of Rainbow International Restoration of Westchester, a full-service, one-stop-shop for restoration, cleaning, and reconstruction based in Westchester County, NY. For more information, visit www.RBWWestchester.com.

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