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Saturday, June 15, 2024

What to Keep and What to Discard?

By Jim Brown

The first and hardest thing to do when recovering from fire damage is to determine what can be kept and what must be discarded. If the fire was extinguished using water, be sure to read the water damage-related guides, too.

What to Keep and What to Discard? Outdoors.
What to Keep and What to Discard? Indoors.

When recovering from fire damage, most items that were not destroyed can be salvaged, disinfected, and cleaned. However, you will need to pay attention to some safety rules when trying to determine what to keep and what to discard.


You will have to be very careful when dealing with food. If food is burnt or even partially burnt, discard it. Discard food that has been exposed to heat, smoke or soot. The high temperatures of fire and its byproducts can make food unsafe. Do not use any canned foods where the can has bulged, is badly dented or has rusted.

Refrigerated Food
If your refrigerator was not damaged in the fire, check its contents. Confirm that the food is still cold and that no soot penetrated it. If in doubt, discard the food.

Your refrigerator will keep cold for about four hours if it is well sealed. In case the electricity was turned off during the fire and the refrigerator was turned off for more than four hours, discard the food.

Frozen Food
Any food that was in the freezer can be used if it still has ice crystals on it and if it still feels cold and hard. If not, discard it. Again, whenever in doubt, discard the food.

Medicines and Cosmetics

Discard medicines and cosmetics if contamination is suspected. Inspect medications and cosmetics carefully to make sure that they are clean of soot, dust, and all other chemicals that might have been used to extinguish the fire.

Clothes and Textiles

Clothes and textiles can often be cleaned and disinfected. Discard these materials only if burnt. Be extra cautious with clothing for babies and children.

Other Content

All other content can be reused after you make sure that it is well cleaned and disinfected and that it is dust- and soot-free.

Recommended Reading
Recovering from Fire Damage: Cleaning, Repairing & Disinfecting
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