Wildfires are becoming an increasingly common occurrence across the United States, especially in the western region. Last year, more than 7.6 million acres were burned across the country due to wildfires. Even those not directly affected by the devastating nature of wildfires can experience multiple environmental hazards, including air pollution and smoke damage in the home.
Whether a wildfire occurs in a forest or field near your community or a remote spot miles away, the smoke and odors produced by the burnt biomass can reach your home and bring with it fine particles and soot, damaging property while layering surfaces with a harmful layer of pollution.
If you live in a wildfire-prone area, it’s essential to know how to combat the issue and protect your home from the smell of wildfire smoke and smoke damage.
What is Wildfire Smoke?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wildfire smoke is a mix of gasses and fine particles from burning trees, plants, buildings, and other materials. Wildfire smoke can make anyone sick, but people with asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), heart disease, and children, pregnant women, and first responders are especially at risk.
Steps to Healthy Indoor Air
Dealing with wildfire smoke damage can be devastating. When smoke is heavy for a prolonged period, fine particles can build up inside of your home, even though you may not be able to see them. If your community is experiencing wildfires, stay prepared and pay close attention to public health officials and air quality reports. We hope the following tips will help those affected begin the clean-up process.
1. Keep Your Windows Closed in Wildfire Conditions
Most of the time, outdoor air contains fewer pollutants than indoor air, so open windows are a good idea. However, in wildfire conditions, that isn’t the case. Keeping your windows, doors, vents, and chimney flues closed will help keep smoke from infiltrating your home in the first place. Cover any cracks that let air leak in and turn off anything that draws in outside air (like a dryer or portable air conditioner).
If you’re able, try to minimize entrances and exits through exterior doors and use a double-door entrance (like an attached garage, for example) to help isolate wildfire smoke upon entry.
When the air is fresh again, open all doors and windows to draw in outside air, and remove screens to clean them. Point fans toward doorways, room corners, and windows to help increase airflow and push smells out of the house.
2. Invest in a HEPA Air Purifier or HVAC Filter
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), wildfire smoke predominantly consists of fine particles in the 0.4 to 0.7-micron range. True-HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air filter) devices and filters are exceptionally efficient at removing particles of that size from the air. Try running your portable air purifier on the highest setting for an hour or two to clear the air in smoky conditions. After that, keep your filter running on low or the “automatic” setting continuously to help keep the air clear. Remember to check and replace the filter regularly, as a dirty or overloaded filter will no longer trap particulates.
Here are the EPA’s tips for selecting a portable HEPA air filter or HVAC filter.
Additionally, indoor air quality monitors are designed to alert you to contaminants that affect the air you breathe so you can address the problem. To check the air quality in your area, visit the EPA’s air quality website, airnow.gov, and type in your city or ZIP code.
3. Use Vital Oxide to Clean and Eliminate Smoke Odors
While fresh air and HEPA air filters will help reduce the smell of wildfire smoke, you will also need to deep clean your home – and all items and surfaces – to remove smoke residue and destroy any lingering odors. Remember, when wildfire smoke infiltrates the home, these fine smoke particles stick to all household surfaces and embed in porous carpeting, furniture, fabrics, bedding, and even paint.
Vital Oxide is a heavy-duty odor eliminator that works by oxidation, not by masking odors. This ready-to-use solution is ideal for use in all areas of the home and destroys malodors caused by fire smoke, as well as tobacco smoke, musty odors, stale-cooking odors, and more. Simply spray, fog, or wipe on full strength and let air dry. Vital Oxide must come into contact with the cause of the odor to be effective.
Follow these tips to reduce the strong, pervasive odors of wildfire smoke in your home:
- Use Vital Oxide (full-strength) to damp-mop hard floors to effectively remove smoke residue and eliminate odors. If you have a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, vacuum floors before mopping. If you have a traditional vacuum cleaner, skip vacuuming and damp-mop; vacuuming with a non-HEPA vacuum will blow smoke particles back into the air and undo your cleaning efforts.
- Use a microfiber cloth dampened with Vital Oxide to collect settled particles on all surfaces, including walls, ceilings, window frames, window sills, blinds, screens, shelves, countertops, furniture, cabinets, lighting fixtures, and knick-knacks; Vital Oxide can also be applied via spray or fog. After applying Vital Oxide, do not rinse; simply let air dry. When fogging to deodorize, apply 1 quart of Vital Oxide per 2000 cubic feet, following the fogger manufacturer’s directions for use.
- Use Vital Oxide to deodorize and freshen carpet and mattresses. Vital Oxide is safe for use on stain-protected carpet and fabric finishes and can be applied directly via spray or in the tank of hot water extraction units. When using a carpet cleaner or hot water extractor, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean for best results. Vital Oxide can be added directly to the tank of the hot water extractor (full-strength for odor removal). Allow to dwell for at least 10 minutes. Do not rinse; use an extraction wand and dry stroke carpet or fabric to remove excess moisture.
- Wash clothes, towels, linens, bedding, washable rugs, furniture covers, pillows, cushions, fabric window treatments, pet beds, stuffed animals, and any other affected fabrics with an Anti-Allergen Laundry Detergent along with Vital Oxide added to the washer (½ cup to 1 cup, depending on the size of the load). Repeat the wash cycle as needed for items heavily damaged by smoke. Avoid storing clean items in your home until it’s completely free of the smoke odor.
Learn more about using Vital Oxide for odor control here.At Vital Oxide, we’re proud to offer a revolutionary product that’s powerful enough to eliminate tough odors without harsh chemicals or alarming safety ratings. If you have any questions about using Vital Oxide, please Contact Us or Send Us a Message on Facebook. We're here to help!