6 Things You Should Throw Away After a House Fire

6 Things You Should Throw Away After a House Fire

Experiencing a house fire can be devastating. Even after the flames have been put out, there are still so many stressful and emotional parts of the restoration process. 

Depending on the fire damage’s extent, some personal belongings can be salvaged with proper care. However, many household items cannot be safely saved after a house fire. 

Many factors in a house fire can damage your home and the items inside. Obviously, the primary damage comes from direct contact with the flames. Secondary damage is a result of the smoke from the fire. Additionally, the burning materials can release dangerous fumes that can be toxic and seep into materials that might survive the flames. 

The six things listed in this article should be thrown out as quickly as possible to prevent further damage, future fires, or personal risks to you and your family. 

1. Cosmetics/Toiletries

Even if cosmetic and toiletry products did not come in direct contact with the flames, the products, and the packaging could still be contaminated by smoke and whatever materials were used to put out the house fire.  

Furthermore, the chemical composition of these products can change dramatically when exposed to extreme temperatures. Even if they appear to be okay, there is a possibility that using the products can damage your hair, skin, or other body parts and cause health issues. 

It may seem like keeping these items and using them will save you money during stressful or expensive restorations, but it is not worth the risk. It is better to throw them away and get brand new ones to ensure you and your family remain safe and healthy. 

2. Medications

Both prescription medication and over-the-counter medicines are not safe to consume after being in the same space as a fire. Not only is there a risk of contamination from smoke and the fire-fighting materials, but there is also a risk of change in the potency of the medication.

The extreme temperatures of a house fire can impact the chemical makeup of the medications and alter each medicine to be more or less effective, react with other substances, or cause other complications. 

Unlike cosmetics or toiletries, it is crucial to appropriately discard medications, especially prescription drugs. Most over-the-counter products can be thrown in the garbage, but the best way to get rid of any medication is to take them to a drug collection site. Ask your pharmacist or refer to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) website to find a local collection site or program. 

3. Food Items

Like medications and cosmetics, food can also become contaminated by smoke and fire-fighting chemicals. The high temperatures of a house fire may not change the chemical composition of food as dramatically as the other items, but it still causes many problems. 

Even dry goods like canned foods that are sealed and long-lasting can be affected by the extreme heat of a fire. Food-spoiling bacteria can be activated when exposed to that much heat, and the actual packaging can be damaged and expose the food inside. 

You may think that food stored in a refrigerator or freezer is okay to keep after a fire, but since neither a fridge nor a freezer have airtight seals, food can still be contaminated. All food inside of these appliances should be thrown away. 

It may be possible to salvage the actual appliances, depending on how close they were to the fire and the extent of the fire damage. However, they often need to be treated for smoke damage to eliminate the smell or stains. 

As a general rule, it is safer to toss out all food items after a fire and replace them once you can ensure the kitchen and storage areas are restored and safe again. 

4. Textiles

Textiles include clothing, towels, bedding, or any item composed of fiber-based materials. The biggest concern with textiles after a house fire is how cloth and fabric absorb smoke and contaminants. They act almost like a sponge to take in the harmful chemicals as they disperse through the air. 

There are ways to clean some textile items and restore them almost back to their original state before the fire. However, in most cases, textiles can never be completely free of contaminants. Even after using specialized cleaning and deodorizing products, there are still dangerous chemicals in materials that can cause cancer, skin reactions, and other health issues. 

Deciding what textiles can and should be saved can be very difficult. If there is no sentimental value or the item can be easily replaced, it is best to get rid of it as soon as possible. Most fabric materials in your home probably fall into this category, such as bed sheets, clothes, or towels. 

However, there may be special heirloom items that you wish to try to salvage. It is best to ask for professional help in these cases. Restoration experts have the tools, skills, and experience necessary to safely treat textile items after certain damages from house fires. 

5. Electrical equipment

There are two main concerns regarding saving appliances after a house fire. The first is exposed wiring or electronics. If the flame’s heat has exposed the appliance’s internal elements, continuing to use the appliance is dangerous.

The second concern is the possibility of smoke, soot, and the accompanying contaminants getting inside the appliance and damaging the internal components. Even if the appliance was not located near the fire, there is still a possibility that it received secondary damage.

Consult with a professional disaster response team to determine whether or not an appliance can be safely used in the future or if the appliance needs to be replaced. 

6. Plastics

Of all the materials to be concerned with after a fire, plastic is one of the most dangerous to remain in your home. Even if it doesn’t appear damaged, the heat and contaminants can affect the chemicals that make up the plastic and release toxins into your home and the environment. 

These toxins are hazardous and can remain for a long time after the fire. Removing all plastic items from your home after a house fire is best. This can include many more items than you anticipate, so be sure to read the manufacturer label of any item you are unsure about. 

Total Flood and Fire Restoration

The entire team of Total Flood and Fire Restoration professionals are dedicated to getting your home and your family safely back into your space as quickly and effectively as possible. We guarantee fast, reliable service throughout Salt Lake, Davis, and Utah counties. If you or someone you know needs help after a disaster, call Total Flood and Fire Restoration today!


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