Following a devastating fire, a natural first priority always feels like the salvaging of one's precious personal items.  While Premier Restoration Hawaii does offer Personal Property Restoration services as part of our full service restoration model, should you choose to take salvaging efforts into your own hands,  this post is written with tips, tricks, and some tools to assist you in the work ahead.

Before Getting Started:

1. Consider Board-Up & Securing the Property -It's an unfortunate fact but homes that have recently experienced a fire left exposed are prime targets for looting and theft. If you opt not to have our team provide board-up services for you and take matters into your own hands, make sure all points left exposed for potential entry are secured to protect your belongings from theft. Also, if there is damage or perforations in the roof, securing exposed areas will prevent additional damage from the rain and a number of other environmental concerns overhead.

2. Personal Protective Equipment - when soot mixes with moisture, it turns to acid. This acid can irritate lungs, hands, and anything it comes into contact with. We recommend N95 respiratory protection, latex gloves, eye protection and tyvek coveralls. 

3. Supplies – The items listed below will be helpful as you move and categorize both salvageable and unsalvageable items.

    A. Boxes

    B. Markers

    C. Packing paper, bubble wrap

    D. Furniture blankets and shrink wrap

4. Equipment - The following equipment are also helpful for your move

    A. Dollies

    B. Moving Vans

    C. Storage Location

5. Corrosion Mitigation - You'll want to identify any glass, metal or ceramic items you intend to save and prevent corrosion from the soot or moisture in the air. These items can be cleaned using compatible degreaser & smoke odor counteractant. If these are items that cannot be removed from the home, they can be protected from corrosion by applying a light application of silicone (WD40). This will have to be cleaned off later but it will serve to protect in the meantime.

6. Off-site location for cleaning - You'll want to make sure you don't clean your items in the home where the fire occurred or in any space you're concerned about cross-contaminating with soot. Ideally ,a garage or other suitable storage location will work. We have also had success with an assembly line process where items exit the home, are cleaned in the driveway, then packed and hauled away. Knowing the location where you will clean and store your items ahead of time is paramount to avoid further damages the occur over time.

Determining Salvageability

1. Cost of Items - As a general rule, we will usually regard any item where the cost to restore is less than 75% of the replacement cost as "Salvageable". This is something to keep in mind as you're sorting through your things. Many lower cost items can be replaced at a cost far less than restoring them. 

2. Items exposed to high heat - these items are usually unsalvageable regardless of what they are made of. 

3. Items to dispose of regardless of condition - we always recommend disposing of the following items for health and safety reasons regardless of their condition. The simple fact that they went through a fire, renders them unsalvageable to a professional restorer

    A. Food Items – This includes canned food.

    B. Mattresses and Pillows - you spend 8 hours a day breathing directly adjacent to these items

    C. Plastics - Unless they're large or expensive, it is usually cost prohibitive to clean plastics. 

4. Items with heavy staining/soot - Perform a test cleaning onsite. If a noticeable improvement is not obtained, consider marking it as unsalvageable

5. Metal, Glass, Ceramic, Stone or other durable goods that can be cleaned using water

    A. Follow the corrosion mitigation procedures above and protect if you cannot remove from the site

    B. Remove loose soot with a hepa filtered vacuum with a bristle brush attachment

    C. Wet wipe using a combination of Unsmoked Degrease-All and 9D9, mix as labeled. If material is sensitive, test in an inconspicuous area. 

    D. Dry thoroughly before packing

    E. Some finer finishes may require specialty cleaning products, i.e. Silver, gold, etc.

6. Sealed Woods 

    To avoid further impacting sealed woods with prolonged exposure to soot:

    A. Remove loose soot with a HEPA filtered vacuum with a bristle brush attachment

    B.  Wet wipe using a combination of Unsmoked Degrease-All and 9D9 (see above for links ), mix as labeled. If material is sensitive, test in an inconspicuous area. 

    C. Dry thoroughly

   D.  If the cleaning process sets the soot in further, consider refinishing the item if economical

    E. Depending on the wood, consider using a Wood Restoration Creme, Oil or Polish to bring back the luster and detail of the wood. 

7. Unsealed Woods 

    To avoid further impacting unsealed wood flooring:

    A. Remove loose soot with a hepa filtered vacuum with a bristle brush attachment

    B. If soot remains, test clean in a concealed area with a dry sponge. This can either set the soot into the wood or remove it. 

    C. If cleaning sets the soot, consider refinishing the item if economical

    D. Depending on the wood, consider using a Wood Restoration Creme, Oil or Polish to bring back the luster and detail of the wood. 

8. Soft Goods 

    A. Remove loose soot with a HEPA filtered vacuum.

    B. For bulk laundry, simply wash as you normally would in conjunction with UnSmoke wash as a laundry booster. 

   C. For dry clean only items, take to your local dry cleaner. For high end, sentimental items, contact us and we will put you in touch with our textile restoration specialists in the mainland. 


After you've cleaned your items, it is likely that an odor will remain. We use several different technologies to assist with odor removal. Most of them are not commercially available but usually we have the equipment for rent and we can instruct you on its use. 

1.  Ozone - Most commonly used and the most aggressive. You'll want to load all of your items into an air tight storage space or room and stage your items so they can get the maximum benefit from being exposed to ozone for the least amount of time. Separate stacks of books, space out clothes on hangers, etc. Ozone is simply three atoms of Oxygen paired together. This is chemically unstable so the third oxygen atom wants to pair with other carbon chains. Think of ozone as a rapid acceleration to the way items normally would age. Ozone will damage, natural rubber, live plants and a host of other items so it's application is limited. Additionally, once an ozone generator is turned on, you must vacate the space and seal it for the duration of the treatment. Humans cannot breathe ozone. 

2.  Hydroxols - Similar to ozone, this is another airborne treatment for odor. The main difference is that humans can occupy the space however the treatment can take longer. 

3.  Pairing / Masking Agents - These are chemicals that smell like something specifically designed to counteract a smoke odor. THESE DO NOT REMOVE ODOR. We only recommend their use in situations where ozone or hydroxols are not applicable. These agents can mask the smoke odor while the natural degradation of odor occurs, which can take a long time if it’s ever even able to remove the odor entirely.

4. Encapsulates - These are specifically designed to seal odors in. This is really effective for wood and other semi porous products. 

Please never hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about anything discussed above. As stewards of our community, we are here to help you in  any way we can following an unexpected disaster.