Salvage of Property
Professional fire and water damage
restoration businesses may be a good source of cleaning and restoration of
your personal belongings. Companies offering this service can be located in
the phone directory.
Smoke odor and soot can sometimes be washed from clothing. The following
formula will often work for clothing that can be bleached:
- 4-6 teaspoons trisodium phosphate (can be purchased in paint stores)
- 1 cup Lysol or any household chlorine bleach
- 1 gallon warm water
Mix well, add clothes, rinse with clean water, dry well.
To remove mildew, wash the fresh stain with soap and water. Then rinse and
dry in the sun. If the stain isn't gone, use lemon juice and salt, or a
diluted solution of household chlorine bleach.
An effective way to remove mildew from clothing is to wash the fresh stain
with soap and warm water, rinse, and then dry in the sun. If the stain has
not disappeared, use lemon juice and salt or a diluted solution of household
Your pots, pans, flatware, etc., should be washed with soapy water, rinsed
and then polished with a fine-powdered cleaner. You can polish copper and
brass with special polish, salt sprinkled on a piece of lemon, or salt
sprinkled on a cloth saturated with vinegar.
Please don't use appliances that have been exposed to water or steam until
you have a service representative check them. This is especially true of
electrical appliances. In addition, steam can remove the lubricant from some
If the fire department turned off your gas or power during the fire, call
the electric or gas company to restore these services - do not try to do it
yourself. Often a licensed plumber or electrician must make repairs before
service can be restored.
Rugs and Carpets
Rugs and carpets should be allowed to dry thoroughly. Throw rugs can be
cleaned by beating, sweeping, or vacuuming, and then shampooing. Rugs should
be dried as quickly as possible - lay them flat and expose them to a
circulation of warm, dry air. A fan turned on the rugs will speed drying.
Even though the surface seems dry, moisture remaining at the base of the
tufts can quickly cause the rug to rot.
For information on cleaning and preserving carpets, call your carpet dealer
or installer or a qualified carpet cleaning professional.
Wipe your leather goods with a damp cloth, then with a dry cloth.
Stuff your purses and shoes with newspapers to retain their shape. Leave
your suitcases open. Leather goods should be dried away from heat and sun.
When leather goods are dry, clean with saddle soap. You can use steel wool
or a suede brush on suede. Rinse leather and suede jackets in cold water and
dry away from heat and sun.
Books can be dried by placing them on end with pages separated. Then they
should be piled and pressed to prevent the pages from crinkling. Alternating
drying and pressing will help prevent mildew until the books are thoroughly
dry. If your books are very damp, sprinkle cornstarch or talc between the
pages, leave for several hours, then brush off. A fan turned on the books
will help them dry.
Freezing wet books in a special freezer called a vacuum freezer will
remove the excess moisture without damaging the pages. If you cannot locate
a vacuum freezer immediately, place books in a normal freezer until you do.
Your local library may also be a good source of information in how to take
care of damaged books.
Preserving damaged photographs is often very important to victims of fires,
floods and other disasters. If photographs are not burned they can usually
be saved. Never try to peel apart photographs that have stuck together.
Always remember that photographs were originally developed in water
solutions and then washed.
Soak the photos in clear, clean water and rinse carefully and thoroughly and
let stuck photographs separate on their own. If they stay damp they can be
damaged by mold. If you have quantities of wet photos, wrap them in plastic
wrap and freeze them, then thaw them and wash them a few at a time. After
washing the photos, dry them image side up on a smooth hard surface like a
glass table or kitchen counter.
Walls, Floors and Furniture
To remove soot and smoke from walls, furniture and floors, use a mild soap
or detergent or mix together the following solution:
- 4 to 6 tbsp. Tri-Sodium Phosphate
- 1 cup household cleaner or chlorine bleach
- 1 gallon warm water
Wear rubber gloves when cleaning with this solution. Be sure to rinse
your walls and furniture with clear warm water and dry thoroughly after
washing them with this solution.
Wash a small area of wall at one time, working from the floor up. Then rinse
the wall with clear water immediately. Ceilings should be washed last. If
the weather allows, open windows and use a fan to circulate air.
Do not repaint until walls and ceilings are completely dry.
Your wallpaper can also be repaired. Use a commercial paste to repaste a
loose edge or section. Contact your wallpaper dealer or installer for
information on wallpaper cleaners. Washable wallpaper can be cleansed like
any ordinary wall, but care must be taken not to soak the paper. Work from
bottom to top to prevent streaking.
- Do not dry your furniture in the sun. The wood will warp and twist
out of shape.
- Clear off mud and dirt.
- Remove drawers. Let them dry thoroughly so there will be no sticking
when you replace them.
- Scrub wood furniture or fixtures with a stiff brush and a cleaning
- Wet wood can decay and mold, so dry thoroughly. Open doors and
windows for good ventilation. Turn on your furnace or air conditioner,
- If mold forms, wipe the wood with a cloth soaked in a mixture of
borax dissolved in hot water.
To remove white spots or film, rub the wood surface with a cloth soaked
in a solution of 1/2 cup household ammonia and 1/2 cup water. Then wipe the
surface dry and polish with wax or rub the surface with a cloth soaked in a
solution of 1/2 cup turpentine and 1/2 cup linseed oil. Be careful -
turpentine is combustible. Please remember, oily rags can start fires by
spontaneous combustion. You do not want another fire. Put all used rags in
an airtight metal container like a paint can and place outside away from
You can also rub the wood surface with a fine grade steel wool pad dripped
in liquid polishing wax, clean the area with a soft cloth and then buff.
Documents are very important to your well-being and can be damaged
or destroyed as a result of a fire or other disaster. The following
documents should be located if at all possible.
- Birth Certificate
- Credit Cards
- Driver's Licenses
- Title to Deeds
- Bank Book
- Stocks and Bonds
- Insurance Policies
- Military Discharge Papers
- Medical Records
- Death Certificate
- Payment Books
- Social Security Cards
- Marriage Papers
- Income Tax Records
- Divorce Decree
- Auto Registration
- Citizenship Papers
- Title Cards
- Animal Registration Papers
- Prepaid Burial Contract
A good investment is a fire-proof safe that is UL rated for a minimum of
1 hour @ 1700°F. This is usually enough time for firefighters to extinguish
a blaze. You will then be able to recover your perserved documents when it
is deemed safe.
Handle burned money as little as possible. Attempt to encase each
bill or portion of a bill in plastic wrap for preservation. If money is only
half-burned or less (if half or more is still intact), you can take the
remainder to your regional Federal Reserve Bank for replacement. Ask your
bank for the nearest one. Or you can mail the burned or torn money by
"registered mail, return receipt requested" to:
Department of the Treasury
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Office of Currency Standards
P.O. Box 37048
Washington, DC 20013
The Bureau's special currency examiners are usually able to
determine the value of mutilated currency when it has been carefully packed
and boxed as described below:
- Regardless of the condition of the currency, DO NOT disturb the
fragments any more than is absolutely necessary.
- If the currency is brittle or inclined to fall apart, pack it
carefully in plastic without disturbing the fragments, and place the
package in a secure container.
- If the currency was mutilated in a purse, box, or other container,
it should be left in the container to protect the fragments from further
- If it is absolutely necessary to remove the fragments from the
container, send the container along with the currency and any other
contents that may have currency fragments attached.
- If the currency was flat when mutilated, do not roll or fold the
- If the currency was in a roll when mutilated, do not attempt to
unroll or straighten it out.
The amount of time needed to process each case varies with its complexity
and the case workload of the examiner. For cases that are expected to take
longer than four weeks to process, BEP will issue a written confirmation of
Mutilated or melted coins can be taken to your regional Federal Reserve Bank
or mailed by "registered mail, return receipt requested" to:
P.O. Box 400
Philadelphia, PA 19105
If your U.S. Savings Bonds have been destroyed or mutilated, you must obtain
Department of Treasury Form PD F 1048 (I) from your bank or
www.ustreas.gov and mail to:
Department of the Treasury
Bureau of the Public Debt
Savings Bonds Operations
P.O. Box 1328
Parkersburg, WV 26106-1328
Include name(s) and address(s) on bonds, approximate date or
time period when purchased, denominations and approximate number of each.
Notify your insurance agent as soon as possible. If you are unable
to reach your agent or insurance company, most policies require you to have
your home secured against vandalism and looting, and allow advanced funds
for your family to find lodging. Keep all receipts, in order to be
reimbursed by your insurance company. If possible, do not disturb or remove
any items before the insurance adjuster arrives.
Some insurance policies provide for additional living expenses until you are
able to move back home. You must keep receipts for all expenditures.
If you are a tenant, contact the resident manager, the owner or the owner's
insurance agent. It is the owner's responsibility to prevent further loss to
the site. See that your personal belongings are secure either within the
building or by moving them to another location, such as the home of a
relative or friend. Contact your own insurance agent to report the loss. The
property owner's insurance, in most cases, will not cover the loss of your
- Contact your insurance company as soon as possible
- If you are renting, contact the property owner or the owner's
- If you are not insured, contact your lawyer or the IRS for
Contact the American Red Cross for disaster relief services:
American Red Cross Heart of Texas Area Chapter
4240 Boonville Rd.
Bryan, TX 77802
Heart of Texas Are Chapter (Waco)
(254)-776-8362 or (888)-776-9226
Nationwide Telephone Number
If Your Property is not Covered by Insurance
Emergency assistance, including temporary shelter, food, clothing,
eye glasses, and medicine is available through the
American Red Cross and
Check with an accountant, tax consultant, or the Internal Revenue
Service (IRS) about special benefits for people with limited finances after
a fire loss.
Wash your canned goods in detergent and water. Do the same for food
in jars. If the labels come off, be sure you mark the contents on the can or
jar with a grease pencil. Don't use canned goods when cans have bulged or
are dented or rusted.
If your home freezer has stopped running, you can still save the frozen
- Keep the freezer closed. Your freezer has enough insulation to keep
food frozen for a least one day - perhaps as many as two or three days.
- Move your food to a neighbor's freezer or commercial freezer firm
- Wrap the frozen food in newspapers and blankets, or use insulated
If your food has thawed, observe the following procedures:
- Fruits can be refrozen if they still taste and smell good.
Otherwise, if the fruits are not spoiled, they can be eaten at once.
- Do not refreeze vegetables if they have thawed completely. Refreeze
only if there are ice crystals in the vegetables.
- If your vegetables have thawed and cannot be used soon, throw them
out. If you have any doubts whether your vegetables are spoiling, throw
- Meats may by refrozen (if ice crystals remain) but cook thoroughly
Locks and Hinges
Locks should be separated and wiped with oil, particularly those
made of iron. If locks cannot be unfastened, spread machine oil by squirting
through keyhole or opening. Also clean and oil hinges and knobs carefully.
Refrigerators and Freezers
To remove odor from your refrigerator or freezer, wash the inside
with a solution of baking soda and water or use one cup of vinegar or
household ammonia to one gallon of water. Some baking soda in an open
container or a piece of charcoal can be placed in the refrigerator to absorb
When cleaning or discarding any refrigerator or freezer BE SURE THE DOORS
ARE REMOVED OR SECURED AGAINST CLOSING ON A YOUNG CHILD!