How to clean clothes and fabric that have been exposed to fire and smoke without the use of harsh chemicals, yourself, at home.
When our 1886 Victorian home was struck by lightning and caught fire, my son’s room was the most effected. All of his bedroom contents were shoveled out of his bedroom window, including his Pottery Barn quilted comforter and euro sham.
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As these items were being shoveled out into a heaping pile, I had no idea how the whole insurance process worked or what was supposed to happen to these items. I figured, save them!! (I have issues with this, clearly, read house fire update #3 to see what I mean!)
Long story short, they were obviously considered a total loss by insurance. But because I’m a sentimental weirdo (both of my boys had matching sets) and I completely embrace a challenge, I kept these from hitting the dumpster and decided I would clean them on my own…using my most trusted and beloved, natural and safe cleaners, S-H-A-K-L-E-E!!! Despite the fact that they were:
- completely stunk of smoke
- and beyond dirty
Spoiler alert: it completely worked!!
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How To Clean Stained & Smoked Damaged Fabric
1. Fill Bathtub
I began by filling a bathtub with hot water. As the water was filling I poured in a generous amount of Shaklee Nature Bright, a laundry booster and stain remover.
I then placed the quilt in the water and submerged it. I let it soak for 24 hours, occasionally “stirring” the quilt because it is large and folded in some areas.
On the second day, I decided to drain the tub and repeat the process, no real reason, I just figured that it wouldn’t hurt and I really wanted to see if I could save this quilt.
Once I had soaked the quilt for around 48 hours, I drained the bathtub and did my best to “ring out” the quilt to remove as much excess water as possible (only because the bathtub isn’t in the laundry room!)
3. Wash in Washing Machine
I then washed the quilt with about 2 tablespoons Basic G: a germicide that disinfects, cleans and deodorizes and with Fresh Laundry Concentrate, earth friendly laundry detergent. I washed it on a warm, heavy-soil cycle.
4. Dry in Dryer
When the cycle was complete, I put it in the dryer on a cotton setting with a Get Clean Soft Fabric Dryer Sheet, softens clothes and prevents wrinkles without any fragrances or dyes…and is recycable!
WAH-LA!! All of the stains and smells were GONE! Like for real! I have asked several people to smell it and they have all confirmed that there is zero smoke smell left in the fabric! It even matches the wild & fun paint pour I did on my curbside find dresser!
Shaklee’s laundry line truly does not have a smell, as like traditional store bought cleaners, so I can confidently say I am not covering up the smoke smells by adding a fragranced cleaner, because that is definitely not the case! As someone who is very sensitive to smells, this is the only laundry detergent I can use without smelling or irritating my kiddo’s skin.
My good ol’, economical, and environmentally friendly cleaners proved to do the trick yet again!! …just like on one of my favorite outfits that should have been destroyed because red clay!
Disclaimer: I have not had this quilt tested by a laboratory to ensure that I have properly removed all possible carcinogens. However, after speaking with the company that would have been hired to clean all of our other clothing, blankets, etc, they informed me that they don’t even test to see if carcinogens are removed. They are just removing smoke smells. So, should you use this cleaning method, please use your own best judgement.
More Laundry & Smoke Smells
Immediately following the fire, all of the “soft goods” (clothing, etc) was removed from our house and taken to a facility. They cleaned an emergency load of laundry for us and brought it back within a couple of days, because when we evacuated our house we were in pajamas and didn’t even have shoes! When we received this load back, all of our clothes had an awful smell to them. A cleaner smell, that reminds you of hospitals. Ugh, it was so gross! Plus, almost all of my clothes that came back were shrunk. They wash all of the clothes in very very hot water and then bring the temperature down in stages.
Due to the gross cleaner smells and shrinkage…and because of the amazing success I had cleaning my son’s Pottery Barn quilt, I decided to take back all of our clothing, etc from insurance and clean them myself! These items weren’t shoveled into debris piles, rather they were just filled with tons of smoke, so they super stunk. All of our items were also stored in plastic garbage bags for over 2 months prior to me getting them delivered to a 10×20 storage unit (it’s hard to believe how many clothes, blankets, shoes, pillows, etc that a family of five have! hence why we rented a storage unit to sort through our items!)
With the use of Basic G and the Fresh Laundry Concentrate, I’ve been able to successfully wash all of our clothing so far and remove all smoke smells! I should also mention, that I have not washed our clothes in hot water. I’ve only used cold or warm, depending on what the items are.
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