How To Clean Up After A Wildfire


clean up after wildfire

I’ve lived through damage and clean up after a wildfire. My mom was once on a business trip when a rogue fire started. An off-duty fireman did what he could to salvage her home until the fire department could get there. 

I walked in to my mom’s scorched home. All alarms blared, smoke swirled around light fixtures, and daylight peeked through where a wall once stood. It was awful. 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you can’t miss the fact that a lot of California has been engulfed in flames from massive wildfires ravaging the state. The latest one, Canyon 2, caused several of us at Anaheim Moms Blog to evacuate our homes and was particularly devastating to many of our fellow Anaheim area residents. 

Some people have been given the “OK” to return home now, but it doesn’t mean they’re in the clear from fire damage. Soot, ashes, and debris have littered driveways and backyards, and now permeate homes. So what is the best way to clean up after a wildfire?

Here are a few pointers to remember for cleaning after a fire:


Talk to your insurance carrier ASAP

If you didn’t have time to inventory your home, do your best to outline – in detail – those items that you can remember. Take a full assessment of any and all damage before you clean up after a wildfire.

Air quality

Take into consideration that after a fire, air quality can typically be quite poor. Make sure to carefully ventilate your home in addition to changing out any air filters. It also couldn’t hurt to check out NASA’s list of best air-filtering plants.

Beware of chemical retardants

Don’t power wash! It may drive the stain of that reddish-orange substance deeper into the material it’s penetrating. Instead, clean with a stiff-bristle brush and Borax. (I’m sure you already know this, but make sure to follow all cleaning rules when using a cleaning product.) Studies have shown that fire retardants are dangerous to sea life and can taint water supplies. Please act wisely if your street drains dump directly into the ocean, and use an abundance of caution about exposing your family to the residue of these toxic fire-fighting chemicals. 

Clean inside cupboards, drawers, etc.

Soot is oil-based and leaves a residue on many household items. Take extra precaution to clean dishes, pots, pans and silverware after a fire.

Carpets, clothing, and bedding

Products containing tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) helps eliminate odors from fabrics. Of course test a small patch on any fabric, but the Red Cross suggests mixing TSP with a cleaner or bleach to be able to remove stubborn odors. For exact directions, click here for the full article.

Call the professionals

There are cleaning services who have experience in cleaning up after a fire. They have tools and mechanical gear to get the job done correctly. Services can range from dry-ice to rubber blasting techniques. 

The aftermath of a fire

Having fire damage is difficult at best, but watching people rise to the occasion to help one another is one of the greatest triumphs of humanity. It’s been incredible to see companies donating goods and services to those that have been affected by the fires across California. My hope for you is that if you’re reading this or sharing this article, that you’re experiencing that same care, and you’re able to see the beauty through the ashes all the while making room for new memories in your home.

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Heather Moulden loves all things Orange County. Heather met her husband of 10+ years at Canyon High School and graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a B.A. degree in Communications. These days Heather juggles being a Realtor® in North OC, and keeping the family bonds tight. She has two wonderful, school-aged children who fill her days full of joy. She is active in the community, at church and makes her friendships a priority. (Because as we mamas know, friendships are important!) Some of Heather’s favorite things include staying active in the gym, finding new ways to cook healthy food and keeping up with current home design trends. Heather is happy to be a contributor to Anaheim Mom’s Blog because she has also been passionate about writing since she was five, where she used to create fake magazines with high fashion and intriguing articles.