Understanding the Science of Smoke and Fire Damage

If you have had a fire in your home or commercial building in Sandusky, OH, or Erie County, OH, call RestorePro right away. Our service professionals will work quickly to stop the damage and restore your home and personal contents back to their pre-damaged condition. We offer state-of-the-art cleaning systems and equipment carried out by experienced, educated service professionals.


It is important that cleanup begin as soon as possible following fire damage, as several variables affects the level of contamination and the degree of mitigation required to restore your home or commercial building. There are five primary factors that affect the level of damages present, and it is essential to understand how each affects cleanup and restoration.

  1. Temperature

Hot air from a fire combines with smoke and rises before moving to cooler surfaces outside the fire area like outer walls and windows. As the air cools, it will fall, following the contours of the wall. More hot air rises, following the same pattern and creating a circular air flow that deposits smoke residue throughout the area. Smoke residue commonly settles on the ceiling above a fire area, the outer walls of the room, and the windows. You will find more soot and smoke residue on the inner part of draperies on outer walls than on the room side. Blinds and shades will also have a larger concentration of smoke residue than surrounding areas.

  1. Surrounding Areas

As smoke travels to cooler areas, smoke particles will be deposited on surfaces throughout your home. Because smoke particles are microscopic, they can penetrate even the smallest openings and damage areas of your home unaffected by the fire. Smoke particles often get into drawers, inside closets, above suspended ceilings, behind radiators, and even travel through ductwork and along water pipes to other rooms and stories of your building.

  1. Ionization of the Smoke Particles

Smoke particles tend to be ionized (electrically charged), and since identical charges attract and opposite charges repel, this phenomenon causes some surfaces to attract smoke residue while adjacent surfaces may repel the same smoke particles, and thus have lighter amounts of contamination. Smoke particles can line up on a surface like metal filings around a magnet. Some synthetic materials, like plastic, create highly charged smoke particles when they burn. They thus attract heavier concentrations of the particles than do organic materials.

  1. Arrangement of Space & Airflow

When smoke hits an obstacle, it goes under, over, or around it, but the obstacle acts almost like a filter and particles collect behind and around them. That is why you will find smoke particles on the far side of doors and on the ceiling above them. The farther the heated air travels from the fire source, the more concentration of particles fall off. Air travels in curves and arcs, so the corners of rooms and the juncture of ceiling and walls seldom get much smoke adhering. Items in closets and drawers collect residue because of their irregular surfaces. Synthetics and plastic collect more than other materials. Smoke may even pass through plastic bags, leaving a stronger odor inside the bag than on the outside.

  1. Time

Time is a critical component to achieving successful restoration following a fire. Because smoke is acidic, and moisture and humidity are a catalyst to the corrosive degradation of finishes that result from contact with the acidic soot residue, the sooner it is cleaned up, the better. Typically, the highest success in restoring finishes is achieved when gross cleaning of affected surfaces is performed in the first 72 hours. Porcelain finishes (washing machines, tub and basin fixtures, three-dimensional articles), painted finishes (dryers, refrigerators, appliances, furniture) as well as synthetic materials (formica, cultured marble, carpet, upholstered furniture, drapes and clothing) all will permanently stain if not cleaned in a timely manner.

Each of these five factors affect the level of smoke damage following a fire, and every situation is different. The best chance for success is through working with a professional smoke and fire damage restoration professional to clean and restore your home or business. RestorePro’s professional technicians serve Sandusky, OH, and Erie County, OH, and they understand the science and behavior of smoke during a fire, and can act quickly to reduce your total damages.