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Thread: Question about salvaging smoke damaged fabric

  1. #1
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    Question about salvaging smoke damaged fabric

    Last week, my neighbors almost burned my apartment down cooking fried chicken. Thankfully, no one was hurt. However, my unit smells like a bbq pit!

    I never pre-wash my fabric for fear of it becoming too frayed, but I think I'd rather have frayed fabric than to throw out my whole stash.

    My question is, does anyone have any tips? What's the best detergent to use? Does black smoke really come out? What can I do to keep it from fraying, or at least as little as possible? Has anyone here ever had to "rescue" their sewing room? Will my machine smell forever on? (lol!)

    Thanks for any suggestions!

  2. #2
    Super Member GailG's Avatar
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    If you have a serger, serge the cut ends before washing. If you don't have a serger, a straight stitch about a quarter (or even an eighth) inch along the cut edge will stop the fraying and tangling of frayed threads.

    Don't know about the smoke issue. Good luck.
    One step at a time, always forward.

  3. #3
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    Awesome! That's more than I knew before, thank you!

  4. #4
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    First I always pre-wash my fabric and I don't use fabric softener. No one is going to wear it. Smaller pieces can be put in a lingerie bag or a pillow case secured at the top. Strip scraps come in handy for this that are almost to small for scrappy quilts. As far as fabric that smells like smoke, when I buy fabric from estate sales, I use vinegar or ammonia with the ARM & HAMMER Laundry soap and warm or hot water and those color catchers from different companies. I have the ones from Shout. Vinegar is good to help wash down the walls. As far as your appliances I use the microfiber cloths and good old Dawn dish soap. I would definitely be talking to someone about the damage that has been done due to the soot from the smoke. Hope you had insurance and they did. Try to file a claim against them. If you lease talk to the landlord/property manager. I'm sure the smoke saturated your whole apartment/condo/townhome. Get an estimate to have your machine cleaned. You can also check to see what it's going to cost to have your home professionally cleaned.

  5. #5
    Super Member auntpiggylpn's Avatar
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    You can also run a zig zag stitch down the edges. I pre wash all my fabrics and sometimes I zigzag the edges and sometimes I don't. Wash the fabric like you normally would ( I always wash on warm). Use regular laundry detergent and throw in some Oxyclean or some good old white vinegar to help remove the smell. If you have precuts such as FQs, I would put them in a lingerie bag then throw them into the washer.

    the insurance company should cover thecost of having your apartment professionally cleaned and may cover the supplies needed to clean your fabrics.
    No one has ever become poor by giving. - Anne Frank
    Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

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  6. #6
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    If I had smoke damage I would not want to handle it with the smell as I served or stitched around the edges . I want to first get the smell out before using it. Suggest google the subject . There must be info there.

  7. #7
    Super Member Scissor Queen's Avatar
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    I used to wash fabric. I never serged or stitched the ends in any way including fat quarters. I just tossed it in the machine. I took a pair of scissors with me when I took it out of the washer and cut the loose strings.

    But that said, since this damage came from someone else I'd make a claim against them if possible and have it professionally cleaned.

  8. #8
    Senior Member MawMaw B's Avatar
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    I've also used pinking shears on the edge of fabric. It may ravel a bit, but it's just the edge of the pinked part. I would absolutely inquire about insurance claim.

  9. #9
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    For the smoke smell any laundry detergent will do just add a little baking soda...about a tablespoon.

  10. #10
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    I always just toss mine in the washer. Fraying is not a big issue. I just clip the straggly ends after they are dried. Good luck getting the smoke smell out of everything. I hear that charcoal absorbs odors. You may want to put the plastic bits in a big plastic bag with charcoal as a filter.

  11. #11
    Super Member Jan in VA's Avatar
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    You might try calling a company like Serv-Pro that specializes in after fire/disaster clean ups and ask their advice.

    I'd rather wash twice on gentle without any prep than have to sew, trim or serge all of MY fabric!!

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    I have used straight white vinegar, about 1 cup per load, for my son's camping gear. They smelled like little boy and campfires (shudder) I used to have to wash them 2-3 times to get the smell out with the fancy smelly stuff. Then I found white vinegar. One cup, one wash, and viola everything smells great and you can also clean with the vinegar. It is a natural antibacterial as well as being safe for pets and kids. You only smell the vinegar for a little bit, it does dissipate very fast. When I lived in NM, I would cut some fresh lavendar sprigs and put them in the bottle with the vinegar. The vinegar dissipated but the lavendar smell stayed was great! (ie natural fabreeze ) not to mention it is dirt cheap!

  13. #13
    Super Member irishrose's Avatar
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    Surf detergent is good at removing odors though I'd still add the white vinegar. Fill the washer, put in the detergent, vinegar and fabric. Agitate briefly to mix, then stop the washer for 30 minutes. Finish on short wash (gentle to cut down on rubbing those ends). Lingerie bag for small stuff. I would not handle the smoky fabric to serge or pink it. Yeesh!

  14. #14
    Super Member Peckish's Avatar
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    I received some fabric from an exchange last month. The sender was obviously a smoker, because the fabric stunk horribly. I didn't wash it. I set it outside, sprinkled baking soda generously on top of it, and left it for several hours. No more smell. Hope this helps.

  15. #15
    Super Member DOTTYMO's Avatar
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    A friend who had a chip pan fire had the whole house collected by insurance company and sent to be fumigated. It was a long processes and very stressful . I should try white vinegar which is very good .would lemon juice do the same I wonder as it will do cleaning the same and smells better.
    Finished is better than a UFO

  16. #16
    Power Poster dunster's Avatar
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    I don't think you should have to deal with this. Make the insurance companies pay you for your stash and buy all new. However, if you really want/need to wash it, don't worry about losing too much in the laundry. I just throw everything in (really small scraps in a mesh bag) and deal with the strings when it comes out of the washer and again when it comes out of the dryer. I wash all my fabric as soon as I get it (unless it's destined for a OBW) and I don't stress about the loose threads.

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    Contact your insurance company, and landlord. Your stash ans machine is worth $$$$$.

  18. #18
    Super Member katesnanna's Avatar
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    I'm so sorry to hear that this happened to you. I've helped clean a place that had had fire go through. I couldn't believe where that smoke settled - (in the ice in the freezer).
    I only ever use white vinegar as an air freshener and swear by it. It truly does remove odors. If you could spray the back of your fabric with a fine spray of vinegar then lay it out in the sun it would smell a lot better but you would need to get the smell out of your house before you bought your stash back in side. It sounds like a monumental job whichever way you go.

    If it was me I think I'd be looking to the insurance company. I just hope your neighbours have insurance. You have enough pain to deal with as is.
    Once again I'm so sorry this happened to you and hope you are able to find a fast solution.

  19. #19
    Super Member Battle Axe's Avatar
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    I inherited a smoke damaged (not too bad) Navaho wool tapistry woven rug. They were too near a forest fire and the whole house was smoked up. I laid it in the bathtub with a good dose of Woolite, patted it up and down in the water until the water ran clear. Then put in washer on spin only. Looks great, doesn't smell.

  20. #20
    Super Member nhweaver's Avatar
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    I clip each of the raw edges off about a 1" triangle of the larger pieces, and I only wash in mesh zippered laundry bags. You can get them at the dollar store. I use the sweater bags for large pieces, and the lingerie bags for the smaller pieces.

    For your smokey fabric, I would first put it through a wash cycle with dawn dish detergent (your smoke may be greasy) with about 8 ounces of vinegar to a full load. You only need a dab of Dawn. You don't need a gentle cycle unless you do not use the laundry bags..
    When that is finished washing, leave it in the washing machine and wash again using arm and hammer, with a good detergent like liquid Tide original scent, and 1/2 cup vinegar. The first step is to degrease which is important. Dawn is a degreaser.
    If life gives you lemons, make a margarita.

  21. #21
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    Another way to keep your fabric from fraying is to snip a small triangle from each corner of the fabric. It if frays, it will only fray a small bit until it reaches the corner where you have clipped. I clip it when I wash my fabric when it comes into the house and I know than that I have, indeed, washed it.

  22. #22
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    Look on the internet on ways to get rid of smoke smell.

  23. #23
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    Use washing soda along with your detergent. You should be able to find it in the laundry product section.

  24. #24
    Super Member AZ Jane's Avatar
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    Of course, always ask, but in general, with apartments, insurance will cover the physical building, not the contents. Did you have personal insurance to cover your contents? It is very inexpensive. I would wash what I could and deal with any strings as needed. Pinking shears help before washing.
    Better to do something imperfectly, than nothing perfectly.
    Done is better than perfect.

  25. #25
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    to get the smell. etc out of the fabric, run through a gentle wash with oxi-clean - it's amazingly effective

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