Taking Care of Business > Disaster Recovery: Do's and Don'ts

After damage from a fire, water leaks, or smoke, what you do first can make a big difference — for good or bad. While you want to restore some sense of normalcy to your space and your employees/tenants, doing the wrong thing can make the damage worse.

Fire and Smoke Damage


  • Blow off or brush-vacuum loose soot particles from upholstery, drapes, and carpets.
  • Cover carpeted traffic areas with towels or old linens to prevent additional soiling — and "ground in" soot.
  • Discard any open food packages (Food could be contaminated by chemicals released in the fire)
  • Send clothing with heavy smoke damage to a professional restoration cleaner rather than a dry cleaner.
  • Clean Formica and fixtures (both chrome and porcelain) in the bath and kitchen to prevent permanent tarnishing.
  • Wipe the leaves of surviving plants to remove smoke residue.
  • Change the furnace/AC filter.
  • Tape damp cheese cloth over air outlets (both intake and output) to capture loose soot in the air (and to reduce damage to your system).
  • If the outside temperature and security procedures will allow it, air out the building to reduce smoke odor.


  • Do not try to wash any papered or flat painted walls.
  • Do not try to clean carpets or upholstered furniture.
  • Do not use electrical appliances before they've been checked.
  • Do not use ceiling fixtures before they've been checked.
  • Try not to touch things — and keep your hands as clean as possible. Soot on your hands can 'migrate' to places that didn't have any.
  • Do not eat any food that has been exposed to fire or smoke.
  • Do not wait to call for professional help — Response in the first 24 hours can make a HUGE difference in how much is saved.

Water Damage


  • Cut off the power, if you can do so without standing in a damp place.
  • If the outside temperature and security procedures will allow it, air out the building, using dehumidifiers and fans.
  • Remove as much water as possible by blotting or mopping.
  • Wipe furniture dry.
  • Lift draperies off the carpet.
  • Prop up wet furniture cushions for even drying.
  • Remove area rugs or floor coverings if wet.
  • For wet furniture, if it has doors or drawers, open them to improve drying.
  • Move photos, paintings, or other art objects to safe locations.
  • Remove damp books from shelves and open to dry, flipping the pages from time to time.
  • If it's cold outside, leave your heat on. If it's very hot, leave your AC on.


  • Do not use an ordinary vacuum to remove water.
  • Don't use electrical appliances on wet carpet or floors.
  • Don't go into rooms with standing water if the power is still turned on.
  • Don't lift tacked down carpet. (Doing this wrong could increase shrinkage — let the professional handle it.)
  •  Don't wait to call a professional. Water damage starts at once and gets worse as time passes. Bacterial growth can start in just a few hours. A professional response in the first 24 hours can make all the difference.


The ServiceMaster Clean® Capture and Removal Cleaning® system is protected by one or more of the following patents: U.S. Pat. No. 7,845,047 and U.S. Pat. No 8,083,860.  

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