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Smoke smell

Hello all, I have a friend who has had a fire in her home / studio.
There was a lot of smoke damage done and all her findings and beads
smell of smoke.

I mentioned to her that a baking soda bath might neutralize the
smell and she is going to try it but please does anyone else have any
suggestions! She had a lot of money tied up in her inventory and
can’t afford to trash it all and start again.

Do you also think that if the smell goes away now will it eventually
come back?

Thank you everyone for your suggestions.

This was a topic discussion at a museum conference session that I
attended several years ago.Smoke removal can be very challenging.

A couple low-cost, but effective, approaches emerged from the

  1. Try putting the smoke-impregnated objects in a sealed container
    (ie…Tupperware tub) with kitty litter. The clay-based product will
    absorb a lot of odor. You can rig up a tray or something on "legs"
    so you don’t have to sift the findings/beads out and allow for

  2. An even more effective, but a little more expensive, approach
    would to substitute the kitty litter with activated charcoal. They
    sell it for fish tank filters in small quantities at your local
    store or if you need it in larger quantities someone suggested
    visiting your local water treatment plant (or supplier).

Good Luck,
Chris Hanson
Ketchikan, AK

I had a bad fire in a house once and found that cleaning was the
only solution to getting rid of the smell which is the result of a
residue of smoke which has been deposited on everything. I tried
every cleaner I could get my hands on and some from a professional
company which specializes in cleaning up after fires. The best thing

  • hands down - was the household cleaner Fantastic. It removed the
    gunk left by the smoke deposit better than anything else. It’s
    available everywhere in the U.S. Test first - I don’t know what kind
    of beads your friend has - but some glass beads (esp. seed beads)
    have finishes that could be damaged or removed. An alternative
    might be to clean the items in question in a vibratory tumbler. I
    wish her good luck - it’s a nightmare to have to deal with cleaning
    up after a fire - been there and wouldn’t wish it on someone I


Yes use Odo-ban it is available unfortunately only through Sam’s
club but then I googled it…yay!!!. It gets rid of smells we use it
in our cattery. Amazing stuff germacide viralcide and odor

An American Cameo Artist

If her findings are metal, and the beads impervious things like glass
or gemstone, then the smell is surface only, and any cleaning method
that does not physically damage the beads, should be able to remove
the dirt and smell. I’d use an ultrasonic with a mild cleaner if it
was me, with most beads and findings at least.

Porous materials, such as her beading cords like silk or nylon, and
the like, might not be cleanable. Worth a try. Even just time,
perhaps sitting out in the sun (a great bleaching and cleaning
agent, ultraviolet light…), may do the trick for those things. As
to the beads, things like fired but unglazed ceramic, bone, ivory,
cloth, and the like, might have absorbed enough of the smoke and
fumes to be difficult to clean

Also be aware that some plastics might absorb to some degree, the
odors from the fire, especially if they got a bit warm during the
fire… That might mean that the plastic storage boxes she may be
using may be one of the more noticable sources of the residual
smell, while beads and things stored inside the boxes might actually
have been relatively protected… Could be all she needs to replace
is the plastic storage boxes.



In regards to the following statement regarding fires.

I have a friend who has had a fire in her home / studio. There was
a lot of smoke damage done and all her findings and beads smell of

I too have had a fire. 9 years ago and tried every product known to
fire cleanup people and my own trial by error systems. NO the black
(from smoke soot) does NOT go away. I could not save my beads and
stones unless someone wants them with this interesting grey/black
soot mark. Some of my beads just plain melted. Then there are the
files and tools that rust from the water used by the fire department.
Files themselves cannot be saved ( and I had alot of expensive needle
files). Naval jelly does not do the job on most of the tools. I was
able to clean up my good pliers by filing off the rust and then
polishing with tripoli and rouge.

Oh, by the way my books still stink. And I left them to air out for
8 years. So, as long as they are in the garage they don’t bother me,
but if I bring them into the house the smell is disturbing and
reminds me of the fire.

Jennifer Friedman
enamelist, jewelry artisan, ceremonial silver
Ventura, CA

Check with a carpet cleaning supply place. There are a number of
solutions that they use for various fabrics that will abate smoke
odor. There is a chemical called OC-60 that I once bought from Home
Depot that is an amazingly effective odor eliminator. I don’t know
if they still sell it.

You will have to experiment to see what solution works best on which

Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL
@Ron_Charlotte1 OR

laurie - quite a while ago, after my mother decided the way to get a
new house was to burn down the existing one, one of the insurance
adjusters suggested that items which couldn’t be dry cleaned or
professionally de-sooted might be salvaged by wrapping them in
crumpled newspaper and closing up in a box with fuller’s earth [cat
litter] sprinkled in the bottom for a week or more. a modern version
might include some dehumidifier crystals/material with the cat
litter. it shouldn’t take but a couple of days to see if it’s
starting to work - ive

My office building had a large fire in early December and our office
space suffered severe smoke damage. The restoration company we used
and the one the building used for clean up after the fire used ozone
to de-smell things. All of our stuff, including paper files and
books were put in sealed rooms after being surface wiped with
chemical sponges to get the soot off and left with ozone going. Our
papers did not smell when we got them back. The files that we had to
take with us to temporary space which were in the fire and stunk
horribly I fixed by buying a Ionic Breeze from The Sharper Image. It
emits ozone. I have one in my home and it works great, so I bought a
desktop model and put it in a small office with the smelly files,
shut the door and left them there over the weekend. On Monday, they
did not smell anymore. The Ionic Breeze is pricy, but it worked on
those files and it works in my home. May be a solution for your
friend for those things that cannot be cleaned in an ultrasonic or
similar. Standard disclaimers, etc.

Many years ago while setting in a Chemistry class (chemical
separations if I recall correctly) the subject turned to smoke
damage. the professor noted that he had a student pay his way
through college restoring smoke damage by boiling a large quality of
vinegar into the room, then ventilating for several days until the
vinegar smell went away.

The operating theory was that the smoke consisted of a large quality
of very small carbon (Read Activated Charcoal) particles which had
absorbed the chemicals which give a smokey smell. These chemicals
were slowly becoming airborne (out gassing) once more, The
overwhelming amount of vinegar (acetic acid) displaced these other
chemicals (partition coefficients and all) resulting in the vinegar
slowly out gassing instead of the smoke odor chemicals.

now there is a psychological effect working here also, smoke smells
bad while vinegar is perceived as a ‘clean’ smell hence a mild
vinegar odor is far more acceptable than a smokey odor.

I also agree with Peter Rowe in that cleaning with a general purpose
ultrasonic solution is the place to start, and in my experience for
metal findings and jewelry this is all that is needed. However you
will need to change the solution frequently as combustion products
really make a mess of the cleaning solution.


Call SERVPRO ( They do work for insurance companies.
I had it in my home and they have to use a chemical to WASH the walls
and everything single thing in the place.

David Geller

Hello Laurie, Several have suggested UV light, baking soda, kitty
litter, etc. I’m suggesting ozone. John Burgess might comment on
what exposure to ozone might do to metals, stones, etc.

Ozone is very reactive and is used to remove smoke odors by
professional companies that specialize in fire clean-up. Ozone IS a
definite irritant, so one would want to avoid contact with it. Many
"air cleaners" generate ozone, although in small quantities.

Check out this extension bulletin:

It seems possible that all the smelly items could be placed in a
sealed enclosure, which is then filled with ozone. Then after some
time for the reaction, the container would be opened - repeat if the
odor presists. The bulletin suggests contacting a dry cleaner for
ozone treatment.

Let us know what was successful for your poor friend.
Judy in Kansas

We lost my bead business and our home to a fire 2 1/2 years ago.
One thing I found to clean the soot (thus the smell) off of non
porous beads was denture cleaner. Works fabulous! Cheap brands are
just fine. Porous items and plastics may not be salvageable.

Beware of ozone machines as they will destroy anything elastic or
rubbery. Ozone also accelerates tarnish. But they are wonderful for
removing odors! I assume you get what you pay for. The unit I have
was approx $350. Every day when I go to my office it smells like
fresh mountain air. It is wonderful.

Plastics will absorb the smell and it is difficult to get out. One
thing that I did find that helped with some plastics was to run them
through the dishwasher. Small items can be put it a fine mesh
laundry bag used for washing delicates.

Hope this helps your friend. My heart goes out to her. We still
have a large amount of items that are stored in the garage awaiting
cleaning/salvaging. It brings back the whole experience each time I
try to do a load. I lost both of my cats. Stuff is just stuff. We
were happy to make it out alive as it was 2:30 in the morning.
Unplug your space heaters when you are not present please! Ours was
turned off, but plugged in.

Terri Ann Fox

Hi, Quite a few people have mentioned ozone. If you can’t find
anyone to rent an ozone generator from, make a few telephone calls
to your local hotels, motels etc. Recently we were talking to an
Australian motel owner who said that many have bought there own
ozone generators so you may find that a source to rent one from.


I think anyone thinking about using ozone generators or ionizers
should check out this site (and more importantly the sources cited )

I did a little research on these products in the context of using
them in museums for odor/mold etc. problems and was soon convinced
that they are best a waste of money and at worst a threat to your

Ketchikan, AK

I also had a fire at an apartment ( Old house cut into 3
apartments). I needed some tools that were left in there and called
the fire restoration co. about entering while their ozone generators
were running. They told me it wouldn’t hurt you to go ahead and get
the stuff. I entered and within about 30 secs. started coughing. I
continued on and got a headache and sore throat. I got my stuff and
got out by now VERY short of breath. I felt weak and sat down for a
while. I felt a little better after approx. 15 mins. After 15 to 20
mins i started noticing muscle aches. These continued to worsen over
the next hour or so till i felt like EVERY muscle in my body had
been severly beaten. It took about a day for the aches to go away. I
am sure the concentration of ozone was extremly high ( it smell
something awfull) and most people would never be exposed to these
levels BUT i will forever avoid any exposure i can avoid.


Hello Orchidians, Thanks Chris in Ketchikan for posting the website
dealing with ozone generators and ozone in general.

Ozone is highly reactive. It is considered a toxic gas and deserves
very cautious handling. Asthma sufferers are usually very sensitive
to ozone exposure. My neighbors were pleased that it removed the
smoky smell from their furniture. Professional restorers handled
that work, and they may be the best resource here.

Judy in Kansas