HOW TO CLEAN AND PAINT OVER SMOKE DAMAGE

Homeowners often ask themselves, “When is the right time to paint?” They might want to freshen up their walls, or completely re-imagine their living space, but no matter the reason, the decision to paint your home, it’s not one taken lightly. 

Sure, there are ways you can speed up the process, but at the end of the day, painting a room can use up a fair share of time and resources. 

Sometimes, that decision is made for you. Especially when you’ve suffered smoke damage to your home. When there’s been a fire in your house, apartment or condo, it’s a traumatic experience. And no matter the size of the fire, you’re bound to be left with some smoke damage to your walls that you’ll want to address immediately. 

The good news? It’s actually fairly easy to clean and paint over smoke damaged walls. Just follow these easy steps, and you can get your home looking spotless again in no time. 

STEP 1: ASSESS YOUR DAMAGE

Before you get to work, look at the damage you’re dealing with. If you’re lucky, the smoke damage is only superficial. There may be soot from fire or ash on the walls, but no structural damage to the walls themselves. 

In that case, the amount of work you’ll put into painting over smoke damage should be pretty straightforward, and you can jump to the third step. 

However, if there is more significant damage, you’ll want to address that before you get to work painting over smoke damage. 

STEP 2: REPAIR ANY SMOKE DAMAGE

If you’ve found damage to your wall, you might need to bring in a professional to put up a new wall, or repair more extensive damage. But if there is damage just to the drywall, you could take it upon yourself to fix that damage yourself.

For small to medium sized holes in the wall, you can fill the hole with plaster, wait for it to dry, and then sand it down. Once you’ve patched your holes and repaired the damage of your wall, it’s time to prep the area to clean and paint over smoke damage. 

STEP 3: DRY-CLEAN YOUR SMOKE-DAMAGED WALL

Now you’re ready to start the process of cleaning your smoke damaged walls. That’s where dry cleaning sponges come in. Made of vulcanized rubber, these dry cleaning sponges are great for cleaning soot off of walls.  

For this step, you’ll need the following materials.

  • Gloves to protect your hands as well as walls, since natural oils in your skin can blot on the wall, complicating your efforts to clean your smoke damaged walls. 
  • Plastic Sheeting to place around the smoke damaged walls. Debris and ash might fall during the cleaning process, and you’ll want to avoid any ash or soot staining your floors as you clean your walls. 
  • Eye Protection such as googles will be good to make sure no soot from the fire or ash gets in your eyes.
  • Dry Cleaning Sponges are, of course, essential. The good news is that if you have extra dry cleaning sponges, you can still use these in the future. They’re effective at cleaning up more than just soot from fire, they also can blot out nicotine stains or candle soot on walls. 

The actual cleaning process to get the damage of smoke off your walls is relatively straightforward. Starting from the top of your smoke damaged walls, and working your way down, use your dry cleaning sponge with straight, overlapping strokes. Do not scrub, as that can drive soot into your walls and make it harder to get soot off your walls in the long term. 

After each stroke of the sponge, check it for debris and coloration. If it becomes clogged, or blackens noticeably, take a razor-blade or safety knife to cut off just the surface area of the sponge. 

You shouldn’t try to clean or wash these sponges, since their absorbent nature will be negated by soaking it with water or soap, but by cutting away used layers, you can get a lot of use out of each sponge, and hopefully will be able to absorb most of the soot and ash from your fire damaged walls and ceilings. 

After going through the entire affected area and cleaning soot off your walls, you’re not done yet. There’s another step for cleaning smoke off walls before you can paint over the smoke damage.

STEP 4: WET-CLEAN YOUR SMOKE-DAMAGED WALLS

Now that you’ve started to clean smoke from your walls, removing much of the soot and ash from your fire damage, it’s time for a more intense clean using a deep-cleaning product. You can use a grease-cutting agent, or a deep cleaner. The important thing is to avoid using standard, run-of-the-mill cleaning products for this step.

Your goal here should be to remove as much soot and ash as possible. This is the last step for how to clean smoke off walls, and ensures that no lasting smoke damage causes problems down the line once you’ve begun painting. 

Using your heavy-duty cleaning product, take a rag, or regular cleaning sponge, and apply it to the walls like you used the dry sponge—starting from the top and working your way to the bottom. You’ll likely want gloves for this step as well, as the cleaning agent may be caustic to your skin. 

When you thoroughly clean the area, you should be ready to begin the process of smoke painting, or painting over your smoke damage to make your walls and ceilings look like new. 

STEP 5: PRIMING YOUR SOOT AND SMOKE-DAMAGED WALL

Now it’s time for the show to begin—priming your smoke damaged walls, so you can effectively paint over them. If you’re wondering about any lingering odor, and are considering an odor blocking paint, the primer is where you can begin to help make sure that the smoke damage does not bleed through and require future paint jobs in the future. 

If you’re dealing with strong odors, such as those you find from nicotine stains, make sure that the primer you choose is a pigmented shellac primer, since that will be more effective than standard oil-based primers. 

As for applying that primer, we have numerous guides on how to paint your walls quickly and efficiently. There’s no real difference between applying primer and applying your actual layer of paint, just make sure to choose the correct primer, and apply your primer consistently and liberally. 

STEP 6: PAINT OVER THE SMOKE DAMAGE

You’ve repaired damage, cleaned the area, and primed it for painting. Now is the time to paint! You can go with the same color you had before, or you can take this as an opportunity to completely reinvent your room with a brand new color.

When you paint over smoke stains on walls, if you’ve done the previous steps to clean and prime the area, painting the wall on its own isn’t any different from painting a wall without smoke damage. Once you’ve prepared your walls for painting, take an interior latex paint and apply two coats, until everything looks like new! 

FINAL STEP: ENJOY YOUR NEWLY PAINTED HOME

And that’s how to clean clean smoke off walls, using paint and primer. Of course, cleaning and painting over smoke damage does more than just spruce up your walls. A fresh coat of paint can increase your home’s value, or completely change the feel of a room. And hopefully, with this guide at your disposal, you can paint over smoke damage and renew your home without breaking a sweat!

Guest Contributor: Jeff Good

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