Removing Smoke Odors From Your Home

removing smoke odors

One of the biggest challenges following a house fire is removing smoke odors from your home.  Even a small fire has byproducts that can continue to cause property damage and jeopardize the health of the inhabitants.  Here are some tips to help eliminate the smokysmell quickly and effectively.

Removing the Stench

The flames may be gone, but tiny smoke particles continue to stick to household surfaces and porous materials like carpeting, furniture and books.  How well the odor can be removed depends on the size of the fire, length of exposure and the types of burned materials.  Try the following DIY methods first to remove the smoke odor. If none of them work, it’s time to call in a professional.

Let Fresh Air In

Open all the doors and windows so the outside air can come into your home.  Place fans throughout your house to help push the smoke smell out of the house.  Fresh air will reduce the smell of smoke, but won’t get rid of it all.

Deep Clean Everything

To eliminate the stench completely, you will need to do a deep cleaning of the items and surfaces that were impacted by the smoke.  Remove all fabrics such as curtains, rugs, and furniture covers. Wash or dry clean them. Keep them out of the house until the smoke has cleared.

Smoke particles are especially hard to get out of carpeting and furniture. To absorb odors, sprinkle them with a generous amount of baking soda.  Let it sit overnight, and then vacuum it up.

Wash the windows, screens and shades.  Wipe down all of your solid surfaces including walls, floors and light fixtures with a mixture of dish soap, white vinegar and warm water.  If the DIY cleaning method falls short, you may need to purchase specialized cleaning products.

Make sure you clean the HVAC system. Smoke can get into the ductwork and ventilation system and linger in your home.  Change the heating and air conditioning filters and have your HVAC system inspected for damage..

Do a Repainting Job

If the paint on your walls retains the smoke odor, you’ll have to wash, dry and repaint them to remove the bad smell.  Use cleaning products that contain ammonia or glycol to wash the walls. Apply a primer designed to lock in odors. Repaint the walls with latex paint.

The Scoop on Odor Removers

Save your air fresheners, odor-eliminating sprays and oil diffusers until after the smoke is cleared.  These items only temporarily mask the smell, but don’t get rid of it.

Activated charcoal can reduce the smell of smoke.  Charcoal contains carbon molecules that chemically “trap” smells, clearing them from the air. Most home improvement centers offer a variety of activated charcoal products. Make sure the package reads, “smoke or odor eliminators.”

Smoke that is left to linger in a home can cause headaches, bad smells and even respiratory issues.  Be sure to clear the smoky smell as soon as possible, and consider calling in a professional to do the job.

Let Us Clean it Up

When it comes to water, flood, or fire and smoke damage,  Flood Department is here to help. We provide water damage repair and clean-up services for homeowners and businesses in  Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.  We are dedicated to helping reverse the damage done by water, mold, sewage, smoke and more.  Contact us at 301-829-2600 or visit us online.


Preventing Chimney Fires: How to Stay Safe

chimney fires

There is nothing better than cozying up to a warm fire on a cold winter’s night.  The sound of the crackling flames helps us to relax and takes the chill away.  However, as we enjoy the roaring blaze, danger may be lurking. A chimney can quickly catch fire and spread to the rest of our home, causing extensive damage.  Here are some facts you need to know to stay safe.

What Causes Chimney Fires

A dirty chimney is to blame for most chimney fires.  When you burn wood, the smoke contains unburned wood particles. As smoke rises up the chimney, it leaves condensation on the walls of the flue lining in the form of creosote, a black or brown substance.  Creosote builds up in your chimney each time you light a fire and is highly flammable.  It takes just a one-eighth-inch buildup of creosote to spark a fire.

Types of Chimney Fires

There are two types of chimney fires: the fast burn and the slow burn.  Signs of a fast-burning fire include loud popping noises or a low rumbling sound; large plumes of black smoke or sparks coming up through the chimney top; and an intense, hot smell.  If you have a slow-burning fire, it may not be visible. They often go undetected until a chimney inspection, but can still cause plenty of damage.

Signs of Chimney Fires

There are several tell-tale signs that your chimney has previously caught fire.  These include a “puffy” or “honey combed” creosote; a discolored or distorted rain cap; warped metal on the damper; evidence of smoke escaping through mortar joints of masonry or tile liners; cracked or collapsed flue tiles; tiles with large chunks missing; and a heat damaged TV antenna.

 How to Prevent Chimney Fires

  • The first line of defense against a chimney fire is to schedule an annual chimney inspection and cleaning.
  • Burn only dry, properly seasoned firewood. Wet or green wood is a major contributor to creosote production and buildup.
  • Make sure the chimney is properly lined and the liner is in good shape.
  • Have a quality chimney cap installed to keep outside debris out.
  • Make sure the chimney gets enough air. Keep the damper fully open while a fire is burning.

Chimney Maintenance Tips

It is crucial to keep your chimney in working order.  Here are some important safety tips.

The fireplace damper must function properly.   If it doesn’t fully close when the fireplace isn’t in use, outside drafts will get into your home and impact your electric bill.  The damper must always be able to stay open during a fire.

Waterproof the chimney.  Moisture and the elements can weaken the structural integrity of your chimney, cause mold and even damage the walls and floor by the fireplace. Add a water sealant to the outside of the chimney to waterproof it.

Do a regular sweeping.  A good rule of thumb is to clean the chimney after every 50 burns.

How often you have it cleaned will depend on how much you use it.

Get an annual inspection.   Problems won’t always be spotted with the naked eye. You need a professional to do a thorough chimney checkup once a year.

Gas Option

Gas log fireplaces burn much cleaner than wood burning ones.  They produce less harmful smoke and are extremely energy efficient.  Since a gas log fireplace burns up to 99% of the gas used, there’s less soot in your chimney, and less chance of a fire.

Let Us Clean it Up

When it comes to water, flood or fire damage,  Flood Department is here to help. We provide water damage repair and clean-up services for homeowners and businesses in  Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.  For immediate assistance, call us at 301-829-2600 or visit us online.


How to Handle Home Water Damage

Water damage from excess rain, leaking appliances, a broken pipe or other emergencies can wreak havoc in your home.  Water can cause severe damage and mold can develop in as little as 24 hours.  Safety hazards and structural problems may also occur if the moisture from the water isn’t taken care of right away.  Follow these steps so you know how to handle home water damage and keep your dwelling intact.

Contact Your Insurance Company

If your home has suffered water damage, Take several photos before and throughout the clean-up process.  Document the value of every single item.  This will help the insurance company when they send an adjuster to survey the scene and determine what flood damage is covered.   Keep in mind that not all home insurance policies cover flood damage.

Filing an Insurance Claim

If you have flood insurance, contact your local insurance agent.  They will start the claims process and schedule an adjuster to come to your home.

Be sure to document all of the damage, both inside and outside the house. Take plenty of pictures and do a video walkthrough. Keep records and make copies of all the paperwork to give to your adjuster.   Keep a record of your contacts with the insurance company including dates, times and details of what was discussed.

The adjuster will survey the damage, provide you with a flood certification number, and give you a suggested proof of loss.  Sign and submit the document within 60 days after the damage.

If you believe the adjuster’s estimate doesn’t cover your loss, file a claim for additional damages.  Also, keep track of where your claim is in the process.

What’s Covered

If a pipe bursts, it’s likely your homeowner’s insurance will cover the cost of repairing the damage.  However, damages caused by flooding are usually not included in a standard homeowner’s policy.  If you live in a flood-prone area, you may need to purchase a separate flood policy.  Make sure you understand what type of damage and property your insurance covers.

Open Your Eyes

Regularly inspect areas of your home that are prone to water damage. Check window and door openings, washing machine and dishwasher hoses, plumbing systems, under carpet and flooring, bathrooms and crawl spaces.  Look around the house for leaks and water stains at least a few times a year, and right after storms.

Get Rid of Mold

Eliminate any mold that results from the water in your home. It is commonly found in closets, the basement and showers. Sanitizeeverything. Scrub and disinfect flooring, appliances and kitchen surfaces.  Inspect damaged materials and call in a professional to check for mold in hidden areas like inside walls or under floors.

Water Damage Clean Up Tips

If there is standing water in your home, here are some safety guidelines to follow.  Always wear protective gear, including rubber boots, waterproof gloves, long pants and sleeves when you re-enter your home.  Never go into wet areas to access the main power switch.  Have an electrician turn it off for you.  Remove as much water as you can. Tear down wet wallpaper and paneling, and get rid of wet carpet and rugs.  Use fans and dehumidifiers to speed up the drying process.  Toss out items damaged beyond repair.

Let Us Clean it Up

When it comes to water, flood or fire damage,  Flood Department is here to help. We provide water damage repair and clean-up services for homeowners and businesses in  Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.  We are dedicated to helping reverse the damage done by water, mold, sewage, smoke and more.  Contact us at 301-829-2600 or visit us online

Home Water Damage: When Will it Dry?

There is no doubt your life will be disrupted if water invades your home and you might be wondering, when will home water damage dry.  If the unfortunate happens,  knowing the facts and having a plan to dry out the premises will help curb the panic.

Drying Out Time

The first question at the top of mind is how long it will take your home to dry. The process typically takes five days, however the time can vary depending on the extent of the damage, and how long the area has been wet.  A home normally dries out on its own in a week or two, but further damage may occur if the drying process isn’t sped up.

How to Prepare for Clean Up

You and your family will likely have to leave the house for a time while the mess is being cleaned up.  This will allow certified experts to survey the damage, set up drying equipment, and make repairs.  The process could be further delayed if water has saturated carpeting or flooring.  It may have to be pulled up and replaced to keep mold from growing.

How to Dry Your Home

Air drying is the most simple method.  If you open a few windows and let the house air-out, the water will dry out faster.  However, pay attention to the weather forecast as you don’t want to leave the windows open if it’s raining.  Keep in mind that this method won’t work if you live in a humid climate.

Home Water Damage Drying Devices

Keep safety in mind before plugging in any device to help dry out your home.  Do not use any equipment near water and make sure there is no water damage to electrical outlets. If in doubt, call in a professional.

There are some tools you can use to speed up the drying process.

A high-power fan will efficiently and quickly dry up the general area.  It works similar to an automatic hand dryer in a public restroom.  The water may even clear up within a couple of hours.

Dehumidifiers will help dry out the moisture in the air.  In a drier environment, water is less likely to soak into furniture and the room will dry out faster.

A high-power vacuum will quickly draw water out of carpets, fabrics or cloth and will reduce the drying time.

Use a pump to eliminate large amounts of standing water.  Once the water is out, continue drying out the affected area with one of the methods already mentioned.

Don’t Ignore the Damage

Water damage that is untouched can lead to mold growth and mildew, which are bad for your home and your health.  It can cause skin problems and respiratory issues; leave a bad smell in the house, and create water stains on walls.  Electrical damage, high water bills, costly repairs, and lower house values are other issues that may result if damage isn’t tended to.

Let Us Clean it Up

When it comes to water, flood or fire damage,  Flood Department is here to help. We provide water damage repair and clean-up services for homeowners and businesses in  Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.  We are dedicated to helping reverse the damage done by water, mold, sewage, smoke and more.  Contact us at 301-829-2600 or visit us online.

Stop the Flood: How to Prevent a Frozen Pipe Disaster

The risk of pipes freezing and bursting in your home goes way up when cold temperatures arrive.  Water expands when it freezes and puts tremendous pressure on its container, including pipes, causing them to break.  Burst pipes are a leading cause of property damage and can be costly to repair. We have some advice on how to prevent your pipes from freezing.

Prevent Frozen Water Pipes

The best way to stop a pipe from freezing is to take preventative measures.  Insulate exposed pipes in attics, basements, crawl spaces and other cold areas to warm them up. Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors under sinks to allow warm air to get to the pipes. Let cold water drip from a faucet. It will relieve any pressure that can build up if pipes freeze. Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature, day and night. If you are leaving town for a few days, set the heat to no lower than 55 degrees.

The American Red Cross reports pipes that tend to freeze most often are pipes exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines and water sprinkler lines. Water supply pipes in unheated areas, and pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation.

Thawing Frozen Pipes

One telltale sign of a possible frozen pipe is when you turn on a water faucet and only a trickle comes out. If no pipes have burst, you can take these steps. Turn on the faucet to let water through to help melt the ice.  Apply heat to the section of frozen pipe. Wrap an electric heating pad around it, or towels soaked in hot water.  A hair dryer or portable space heater will also help thaw the pipe.  Apply heat until water pressure is back to normal. Check for other frozen pipes in your home.

Take Action Outdoors

Follow proper instructions and drain water from the swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines.  Remove, drain and store outdoor hoses.  Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain.  Keep it open so any remaining water in the pipe can expand without breaking the pipe.

Frozen Pipe Repair Costs

When a pipe bursts, water will pour out and flood your home. It won’t stop until the main water supply is shut off.   If not dealt withimmediately, burst pipes can send as many as 10 gallons of water a minute into your home, causing extensive water damage.   A burst pipe in your home can easily cause more than $5,000 in damage.  Make sure you take care of it right away.  Once the water has been shut off, call a licensed plumber.

Need Help With Clean Up?

When it comes to water, flood or fire damage,  Flood Department is here to help. We provide water damage repair and clean-up services for homeowners and businesses in  Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.  We are dedicated to helping reverse the damage done by water, mold, sewage, smoke and more.  Contact us at 301-829-2600 or visit us online.

Holiday Season Fire Safety Tips: Don’t Let Flames Ruin Your Holiday Fun

During the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the danger of fire is always lurking.  Don’t let flames ruin your festivities.  With proper preparedness, you can keep your family safe from disaster. Below are some of the top causes of holiday fires and some holiday season fire safety tips.

Cooking in the Kitchen

Cooking is the leading cause of reported house fires and injuries.  According to the U.S. Fire Administration, nearly 52-percent of residential fires were sparked by cooking in 2020.  Heating, electrical, smoking and candles are the other top causes of  home house fires.

Most fires in the kitchen can be blamed on unattended cooking. Keep an eye on the stove at all times.  Stay put while you are frying, boiling, grilling or broiling food.  If you are simmering, baking or roasting food, check it regularly.  Keep anything that can catch fire away from your stovetop.

If you have a small grease fire on the stovetop, turn off the burner and smother the flames by sliding a lid over the pan.  Keep the cover on until the pot has cooled. For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.  According to the National Fire ProtectionAssociation, If you have any doubt, just get out, close the door and call 911.

Christmas Trees

Live trees that are not properly watered can dry out and easily go up in flames.

Be sure to keep yours well watered, replace any bad lights, remove nearby heat sources, and unplug the lights overnight and when you’re not home.  Dry Christmas trees are blamed for hundreds of fires each year.  Typical causes are shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches.

Electrical Malfunctions

When hanging lights or electrical decorations outside, make sure they are labeled for outdoor use.  Same goes for extension cords.  Hang the lights with UL-rated clips, not staples or nails.  Never connect multiple extension cords together. Discard wires and bulbs that are frayed or broken.

Candle Flames

Keep lit candles away from the Christmas tree, greenery, and other flammable decorations.

Place them on a countertop or another area a safe distance away.  Never leave candles lit while you are not home or nearby.  Also, keep wrapping paper, rugs and clothing at least three feet away from the fireplace.  Use a fireplace screen to keep embers and logs from escaping.


Cigarettes, pipes, cigars and other smoking materials start thousands of house fires annually.

According to a  2019  report by the National Fire Protection Association, smoking materials caused an estimated 18,000 fires annually between 2012 and 2016, killing nearly 600 people every year and injuring more than 1,100 others.  Smoking was the leading cause of home fire deaths over the five year period.  The majority of smoking-related fires started on the outdoor balcony or porch.

 Fire Safety Tips to Remember

A working smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a house fire. Install a fire alarm on every level of your home, including sleeping areas and the basement.

Test them monthly and replace batteries twice a year.   Create a fire escape plan with your family.  Get a fire extinguisher for your kitchen and consider putting an automatic fire sprinkler system in your home.

Hopefully these holiday season fire safety tips will keep you and your family safe.

Let Us Clean it Up

When it comes to water, flood or fire damage,  Flood Department is here to help. We provide water damage repair and clean-up services for homeowners and businesses in  Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.  We are dedicated to helping reverse the damage done by water, mold, sewage, smoke and more.  Contact us at 301-829-2600 or visit us online.

Does Mold Live in Your Home? Here’s How to Send it Packing

how to get rid of mold in your home

Are you suffering from chronic allergy symptoms, respiratory issues, or headaches in your own home?  You could be feeling the effects of exposure to mold spores. Household mold can grow in carpeting, insulation, ceiling tiles, walls and furniture.  Here’s how to get rid of mold in your home.

How Mold Gets In Your Home

Mold can sneak into your home through open windows, doorways, vents and heating and air conditioning systems.  It can also cling to clothing, shoes and pets and be brought indoors.

Household mold can also grow in building materials. These include paper, cardboard, ceiling tiles and wood.  Paints, dust, wallpaper, carpet and fabric can also fuel mold growth.

How Mold Makes Some People Sick

Exposure to mold can  result in upper respiratory tract issues, allergy symptoms, wheezing, and coughing in otherwise healthy individuals.  People who are allergic to mold can suffer from severe asthma or breathing problems.

What Causes Mold

Mold only needs a damp, moist environment and organic material to grow and thrive. It commonly occurs around leaks in roofs, pipes, windows, or where flooding has occurred. Mold can also be triggered by overflowing washing machines.

Common Types of Household Mold

Aspergillus is found in the air and in HVAC systems, often in water-damaged buildings.  It can trigger allergic reactions, respiratory irritation, lung infections and asthma. People with compromised immune systems can suffer from deadly infections.

Cladosporium is very difficult to find. It thrives in warm weather and can spread very fast.   It is often found on carpets, wallpaper, window sills, fabrics, walls and on HVAC vent covers and grills.  It may appear as brown, green or black spots.

Black mold, which can be toxic to some people,  is often connected to poor indoor air quality.  It can pop up in your home or in ventilation systems.  This mold can cause chronic allergy symptoms, rashes, chronic fatigue and headaches.

Alternaria is found in bathrooms and damp windows. When this organism gets indoors, it can cause allergic reactions and trigger hay fever and asthma.  It can also infect people with compromised immune systems.

How to Prevent Mold Growth

The best way to keep indoor mold in check is to control moisture. Keep humidity levels in your home between 30% and 50%.   Fix leaky roofs, windows and pipes immediately.  Make sure air is able to flow freely in your home. Ventilate shower, laundry and cooking areas. Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier to help lower humidity levels. Don’t put carpet in bathrooms and basements where moisture can occur.

Cleaning Up the Mold

If you see or smell mold in your home, it is time to take action.  Remove moldy items from living areas and replace soaking wet carpets and upholstery.  Use soap and water, commercial products or 8-ounces of bleach mixed into one gallon of water, to remove mold from hard surfaces.  Never mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners. Open windows to get fresh air in, and wear gloves and protective eyewear while cleaning.  If there is a lot of mold to clean-up, contact a professional for help.

Do You Have Mold in Your Home?

When it comes to mold removal, flood clean-up, water damage and more, Flood Department is here to help. We serve homeowners and businesses in  Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.  We are dedicated to helping reverse the damage caused by water, mold, sewage, smoke and other disasters.  Contact us at 301-829-2600 or visit us online for more information.

Plagued by a Flooded Basement? Here’s How to Cope

how to deal with a flooded basement

Whether it’s due to Mother Nature or a busted water pipe, flooded basements are a common and costly problem in the United States. You are probably wondering how to deal with a flooded basement.

Statistics show 98% of basements in America experience some sort of water damage.  Nationwide, household water damage costs up to $20 billion annually.  Home water emergencies affect 14,000 people daily.

Here’s how to deal with a flooded basement and help keep the water away.

Flood-Proofing the Basement

Common causes of basement flooding include heavy rain, melting snow, a faulty sump pump, and poorly installed drainage systems. Even a burst water pipe can wreak havoc.  So, how can you flood-proof your basement? Here are some ways.

  • Install an electric sump pump to keep water damage to a minimum. Have a battery-backup system if the power goes out.
  • Put in a backwater valve to prevent sewage from seeping into your basement. Cleaning up sewage is a costly process.
  • Seal your basement. Put weatherstripping around doors and make sure windows are caulked.
  • Make sure the soil grading in your yard is sloped to move water away from the foundation of your house.
  • Don’t put plants too close to the foundation. Roots can cause cracks or bowing walls which lets water in, and overgrown shrubs can keep water from draining.
  • Install inexpensive extensions to your downspouts if you notice water pooling at the bottom. Position downspouts away from the foundation to keep the water out.
  • Keep gutters clean by removing any debris that collects. Consider installing roof gutter covers to help. 

What to do if Your Basement Floods

Even with preventative measures, water can still get into the basement and cause damage. Here’s what to do if the flood water wins out.

Make sure the electricity is turned off.  If you can’t reach the breaker box without stepping in the water, call your electric utility to shut it off for you.

Once it is safe to do so,  remove the water with a pump, wet/dry vacuum or a mop and bucket. Make sure there is no standing water left. Next, move damaged items out of the basement, and dry the area completely, using fans and dehumidifiers. Open windows and doors as well to air-out the basement. If the water isn’t removed quickly, mold can grow and water may damage the floor, the foundation of your home, or your property.  Consider having a professional come in to ensure the job is done properly.

Once the basement is all dry, it’s time to clean up the damage. Remove the wet carpets and furniture; replace drywall, and repair any electrical damage.  Again, professional help may be your best option.

The Costs of Flood Damage

According to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), just one inch of water can cause up to $25,000 in damage.  Most homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flood damage.  Flood insurance must be purchased separately.

The cost of fixing a flooded basement varies depending on the depth of the water and the type of water that got in.  That is, clean water, storm water, or sewage. Pumping out water and drying a slightly flooded basement can cost  between $500 and $1,000.  The cost can jump up to $10,000 if flooring, walls, ceilings and furnishings need to be repaired.

Got a Flooding Problem? We Can Help!

When it comes to flooding and water damage, Flood Department is here to help. We provide water damage repair and clean-up services for homeowners and businesses in  Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.  We are dedicated to helping reverse the damage done by water, mold, sewage, smoke and more.  Contact us at 301-829-2600 or visit us online.