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How to Clean Smoke Damage From Wood

How to Clean Smoke Damage From Wood

According to the National Cancer Institute, soot buildup around the house can be carcinogenic. Inhalation or exposure to it can cause significant health risk, which is why removing smoke damage effectively and thoroughly is so important.

How do you know, though, if your cleaning process is helping? Is it doing more harm than good to your beautiful furniture?

Follow this guide to help you remove residue and restore your surfaces.

Cleaning Finished Wood

Cleaning surfaces that are finished is an infinitely different process than unfinished wood. It is important to consider the finish when determining which cleaning products and utensils to use.

What is Finished Wood?

Finished wood uses sealer or varnish on the surface. This topcoat of finish can make the surface much more resistant to staining from smoke. It can also mean that when you start cleaning, there is a risk of removing the varnish along with the soot. Because of this, you need to choose your cleaning products carefully.

If you are unsure if your furniture is finished, it likely is. Many bedroom furniture pieces like dressers and nightstands are, as well as key features of the home like stair railings and cabinets.

How Can I Restore Finished Wood?

With varnished furniture, the process of removing damage is restoration rather than simple cleaning. Here is what the process should look like for you:

You’ll want to start gently and gradually upgrade to harsher and harder substances as you assess the level of damage that has been done. First, focus on dry cleanup.

  1. Dry cleanup: Light and pressure-less substances work best for this. Try a duster or HEPA vacuum first, followed by a light, dry sponge.
  2. If the soot persists, try a wood cleaner.
  3. Harsher materials: At this point, if the smoke damage remains, it’s time to reach for the steel wool and the Unsmoke Degrease-All. Be sure to dilute the solution so that it isn’t too harsh on the finish.
  4. Polish and enjoy a soot-free home!

Wooden Rocking Chair With A Wooden Chest Of Drawers Beside It And A Wooden Framed Mirror

Cleaning Unfinished Wood

When furniture hasn’t been coated with a finish, it is easier for soot to settle and stay on the surface. Using the same process to remove smoke damage from unfinished surfaces that you used for finished ones won’t have the same effects.

If you aren’t sure, unfinished surfaces can usually be found on the inside of furniture pieces. If a kitchen is left with smoke damage stains, the unfinished surfaces are likely on the inside of cabinets and drawers or out of sight.

How Can I Clean Unfinished Wood?

This process involves several more chemicals and materials than the finished wood smoke damage restoration. This is because you don’t have to worry about harsh chemicals stripping the varnish off and because soot tends to work itself more into unfinished surfaces than finished ones.

  1. Start with a quality chemical spray to eliminate the smell of the soot, and vacuum the dry remnants with a HEPA vacuum.
  2. Just like with finished furniture, use a dry sponge to continue getting rid of residue and remnants.
  3. Dilute and spray a degreaser. Follow this with a water rinse.
  4. If stains remain, sanding can be your best friend’s defense against stubborn smoke damage.


The FDA has stated the importance of understanding what smoke and soot buildup can do to the body. Cleaning smoke damage effectively is about more than just cleanliness. It’s about ensuring that your home or office is a safe environment for your health.

If you want to make sure the job gets done right, call an expert. All Dry USA has spent years in the industry improving on their soot-removal process for all finished and unfinished furniture. Call today to get started!

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