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How Smoke Damages Electronics

By Luke Armstrong

A fiery blaze unleashes smoke, and microscopic smoke particles can find their way into the inner parts of various electronics. The fragile circuitry of electronic devices makes them especially susceptible to smoke damage. Once soot and smoke permeate an electrical device, irreversible damage is possible.

What is smoke?

Smoke is an unavoidable outcome of fire and it consists of gases, water vapor and particles. Mostly made up of carbon, smoke contains various chemicals and fumes, which vary in accordance to the type of material that is burned, whether plastic or wood, for instance.

Dioxins, a toxin that is harmful to humans, are present when plastic burns. Nitrogen oxide is released when wood burns. Highly acidic chemicals, like sulfur dioxide, acetic acid and hydrochloric acid, pollute the environment when a property fire occurs and are capable of corroding metal.

Smoke contains ample amounts of carbon monoxide, which is harmful to humans but is less corrosive to metal. Soot is a highly damaging byproduct of smoke. Acidic and easily airborne, soot coats any object it touches. If lodged onto the surface of metal goods, soot will gradually corrode these objects.

What do electronics consist of?

electronics smoke service master

Smoke features properties that are damaging to metal, which is found in the majority of electronics. Common electronics found in homes and/or businesses include computers, iPads, washing machines, printers, televisions and ovens. Items powered by electric means are considered electronic devices.

Electronics feature delicate electrical circuits and components, like diodes and integrated circuits, microchips, transistors and technologies that facilitate interconnection. When a fire lays a thick coating of smoke over electrical appliances and gadgets, these electronics may or may not be salvageable.

What happens when smoke mingles with electronics?

Electronic overheating is one of the first consequences of a fire. The high temperatures of fire lead to a hot cloud of smoke, which lingers around the electronic goods. Despite sufficient ventilation in an enclosed area, smoke is likely to cause the electronics to overheat and fail prematurely.

A surface coating of smoke is just the start of the destructive process. Smoke particles have the ability to permeate miniscule electrical components and reach inside. The device’s heat-producing parts are covered in black film, resulting in the components becoming insulated.

A black coating of smoke particles means that noxious gases are introduced to the electronic device. The electronic circuitry has a chance of becoming corroded due to the exposure to highly acidic smoke. A short circuit is likely to result, especially if the smoky film is conductive.

A byproduct of smoke is soot. When acidic soot particles infiltrate the interior and exterior of electrical goods, the devices undergo corrosion. Similar to smoke, the soot coats and insulates the inner components of the device, which leads to short circuiting and overheating.

As evident, fire is not the only damaging force to electronics. Long after the fire is extinguished, the residual smoke and soot continue to destroy the electronic goods in their wake. Along with dismantling power, soot discolors the metal surfaces of electronics.

Can smoke-damaged electronics be restored?

Depending on the extent of heat damage, electronics affected by smoke might potentially be saved. Electronics heavily covered in smoke and soot are oftentimes far too ruined to restore. Noticeable burn marks also indicate the device is beyond salvaging. Properly discard these electronics.

Attempting to power on an electronic device after a fire is a serious safety hazard. Turning on an appliance or other electrical device before sufficient cleaning might lead to a short circuit or permanent damage. Prior to trying to salvage the device, unplug it from its power source.

Check the device’s warranty as the initial step. If the warranty no longer covers the electronics, proceed with cleaning. Wipe off the smoky residue with a clean cloth. Direct the nozzle from a can of compressed air into the air vents and media ports.

Keep in mind that amateur handling of smoke damaged electronics is likely to worsen the device’s condition or pose as a major safety risk. Consider consulting a professional restorer to properly and safely dislodge the smoke and soot from the affected device.

The skilled technicians from a reputable fire and smoke damage restoration service understand the nuances of correctly opening electronic devices, inspecting the inner components, identifying areas of soot and smoke contamination as well as pinpointing where corrosion has set in.

A restoration specialist will clean the ruined electronics of all soot and smoke particles. Sometimes, a thorough cleaning is all that is necessary to return the unit to its full working condition. The pro will also identify and replace damaged components without resorting to a full device replacement.

When a devastating property fire erupts, extinguishing the flames is the first priority. Salvaging the goods, including the appliances and other electronics, inside the property is the next immediate step. Immediately call a professional for a prompt response to any fire and smoke damage restoration emergency.

Their skilled crews of fire and smoke damage restoration technicians arrive onsite quickly to halt the spread of smoke and soot damage. They utilize proven cleaning techniques and products to help curtail permanent, corrosive damage. Deodorization returns the property to a habitable condition.

Fire damage restoration professionals follow an effective five-step cleaning process to restore a fire and smoke damaged home or business. Upon emergency pre-cleaning, they perform a thorough content cleaning and content pack-out. Smoke and soot particles are removed from ceilings and walls. Finally, they will also neutralize lingering smoke odors. In the unanticipated event electronic devices undergo smoke damage, these technicians will make every attempt to restore it. However, if they consider certain smoke-damaged items to be unsalvageable, the specialists will prepare a list of these goods for insurance purposes.