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How to clean ash and soot from your car after a brush fire

May 4, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The smoke and ash from a big wildfire can travel for many miles and will often land on your car. If that happens, don't just give the car a quick dry wipe. Experts say that could be a mistake.

"Do not take a rag and dust your car off," said Craig Burnett of Chemist, Mothers Inc. "You're going to abrade your car. Those little articles can be abrasive and can scratch the vehicle."

So it's best to give the car a thorough washing. But be careful here too. The wrong kind of soap can make things worse when mixed with the alkaline contained in fire ash.

"I would suggest a pH balance car wash, something in the neutral spectrum," said Burnett. "There's no sense in trying to get rid of alkaline with an alkaline car wash so let's use a balanced car wash and do a good thorough job."

There's almost no way of knowing what kind of soap a commercial car wash is using so you might want to consider doing it yourself and use a soap specifically made for car finishes.

Experts also say a good coat of wax is the best prevention.

"Those people who have a good car care regime going are probably going to be in pretty good shape," said Burnett. "It's those people who don't take care of their car on a regular basis who need to step it up during the fire season."

The ash and smoke that come with a brush fire could make your car look pretty bad if not dealt with properly. But almost as bad and maybe even worse is the interior where a huge brush fire can leave a big stink.

First, give the carpet a good vacuuming. Tiny soot particles can hide here. If you have fabric seats, hit them with the vacuum too.

Sometimes your car's air conditioner will smell like smoke for days after a fire.

AC-Clean from Justice Brothers was originally designed to remove mildew odors but they discovered that it works well on smoke smell too.

You spray it into the outside air intake. Follow the directions on the can and it'll essentially rid the AC system's inner passages of odors.

It doesn't take much time to get your car looking and smelling great inside and outside after a big fire.

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