About Cory Fire-Clean Restoration Products & Introduction to Smoke Damage Restoration for the Piano.
Science & technology afford us major breakthroughs in understanding smoke odor and proper methods for effective odor removal.
Each Cory Fire-Clean formulation is designed for piano specific application and will serve the restoration professional with excellent results. A brief synopsis of the methodology follows. I have found through years of testing, experimenting, trial and error as well as discovering successful approaches afford consistent results. One must understand that no two fires are the same, nor are the complexities involved. The variables regarding a fire, the location of the piano at time of incident, the types of substances burned, humidity levels, temperature, all play a part in approach for proper cleaning and detoxification. My hope is that this overview will be beneficial to one’s understanding regarding smoke damage restoration for the piano.
Liquids evaporate, or turn into gaseous molecules. Some solids undergo a process similar to evaporation (called sublimation). Mothballs are a common example of a solid which sublimes into gaseous, odor-producing molecules. The molecules which make up all solids, liquids, and gases are in constant motion: the molecules in solids move relatively slowly, the molecules in liquids move somewhat faster, and the molecules in gas move even faster.
At higher levels of molecular activity (molecules moving faster), some of the molecules break free from the surface of a substance and become airborne gaseous molecules … which we then can perceive as odor. Increases in molecular activity can come about in several ways. Increased temperature can cause evaporation, as with boiling water. Higher humidity levels will also agitate molecules, causing them to break free from the source. Solids and liquids do not smell but rather the airborne molecules released into the atmosphere is how we perceive the odor.
These principles and protocols are also applicable for mold & mildew, animal urine, musty smells or cigarette/cigar smoke odors. Always remember to first clean in a “dry state” before using any liquid counteractant or cleaning agent. Dust & dirt will hold odor bearing particles, whether visible or invisible. Thorough cleaning is paramount for effective odor removal.
Types of Smoke Odors
- Protein Odors – result from burned meat, flesh, or poultry. The residue is yellow/to brown in color. The texture is greasy and thorough cleaning necessary for complete odor removal. Virtually invisible residues that discolor paints and varnishes. Extreme pungent odor.
- Natural Substance Odors – Result from burned wood, paper, cotton, wool, jute, cork, feathers, etc. The residue is gray or black in color with a powdery consistency.
- Synthetic Substance Odors – Result from burned plastics, synthetic textiles. The residue is black in color and smudges easily.
Smoke/soot is the product of incomplete combustion made visible by the presence of small particles of carbon. The more substances that burn, the more complex the odor.
Smoke is influenced by many factors:
- Heat – Warmed or heated air rises and migrates to cold areas…heat causes pores to expand
- Pressure – The energy created by the fire produces heat and pressure, which enable the smoke to penetrate into minute racks and crevices.
- Impingement – Means splatter, when a substance hits a surface with sufficient velocity it will impinge (or splatter) and remain upon that surface.
- Magnetism – Attraction of smoke to metal surfaces such as pedals nails or screw heads, piano wire, etc.
- Ionization – Opposites attract forming smoke webs on structural surfaces.
Defining Types of Smoke and Fires
Driven smoke – i.e. Hot Smoke is pressurize and has energy or force behind it.
Free Floating smoke – i.e. Cold Smoke originated as pressurized smoke but has lost the energy and velocity behind it. Free floating smoke is heavier than air and normally settles on horizontal surfaces.
Low Oxygen Fires are smoldering types long duration fires which product a difficult to remove wet smoke residue.
High Oxygen fires burn more efficiently and produce an easier to remove dry residue.
Ozone Generators and the Piano
Ozone works by oxidation which is O2=O3 Tri-Atomic Oxygen.
Known to be corrosive and will adversely affect piano strings, plate, metal parts, paint rubber parts (grommets) & moisture content=bleaching.
The formula for ozone is: O3 + H2O = H2O2 (Ozone + Water = Hydrogen Peroxide). Ozone is an olfactory desensitizer. It can provide a false sense of security because of the pungent odor of ozone. As a result, the deodorization cycle is aborted prematurely causing deodorization failure. Ozone is also a poor penetrator. Ozone has proven to be effective in the removal of smoke odors in natural substances (i.e. porous materials) such as soft woods, paper, felt, etc. Ozone has proven less effective for hard woods and is ineffective in regards to protein odors. Ozone should not be used when there is moisture in the air and is toxic.
Should the piano be in a rebuild state (i.e. plate, action, strings, etc. removed), one may find the ozone generator a useful tool. I would never recommend using an ozone generator with plate, strings and action in place.
To further understand the shortcomings of an ozone generator, I wish to include a correspondence from an Ozone generator engineer:
“Ozone is a very powerful oxidant to remove odors, but it also oxidizes metal such as iron and copper, it also corrodes the natural rubber, so deodorizing the smoke from a piano needs to be done with very careful attention to the ozone concentration. The ozone concentration of the XT-400 is 35ppm, so it will be decomposed very fast. In our burning test room, the shelves are laid plywood, I inspected the plywood, they look fine, no damage. So, I think the concern about the adhesive oxidization would not be a problem, but it will affect the glossy paint, plate coating and the metal hardware. The output of the XT-400 is small, I am not quite sure it is enough to work on this purpose of removing odors efficiently, maybe we need XT-800 or even the XT-6000. But if the ozone treatment works too much, it will damage the painting and hardware, so there really needs to be an experiment to find a proper balance of ozone concentration, output and treatment time.”
Cory Fire Clean Solutions
Cory Fire-Clean products takes a “prescription approach” in that there is a specific odor neutralizer for specific related malodors.
Cory Fire-Clean products do not hide odors, desensitize us to their perception, inefficiently absorb their molecules. Cory
Fire-Clean formulations prevent odor sources from releasing gaseous molecules which we can smell, and/or changes gaseous molecules back to odor-free solids and liquids.
Cory Fire-Clean formulations convert gaseous odor molecules into a solid, a much more complicated process than the desensitizing, physical masking or digesting of offensive odors. Fire-Clean products act directly on the surface of odor-producing solids, gases and liquids, causing a chemical reaction which decreases the level of molecular activity. By slowing down the molecules, gaseous odors are changed into non-odiferous liquids or solids. The result of this gas-to-solid conversion is also more desirable.
Further, the surface molecules of odor-producing solids are rendered less active, thereby preventing them from changing into airborne odor molecules. Each Fire-Clean odor neutralizer is formulated to act against a specific source of unpleasant odor including the types of materials to be cleaned. The result is that unpleasant odors are quickly eliminated at the source. Airborne gaseous odor molecules are changed back to a liquid or solid state; odor-producing solids and liquids are prevented from giving off gas molecules.
Each Fire-Clean product has a brief description for its intended usage. At times we may need to re-treat areas a second or third time or take a different approach. A basic principle to keep in mind: if there is residue, there is odor. We do and will work with invisible odor bearing particles. My hope is that the following videos will prove helpful and provide a better understanding of the overall detoxification process. Each fire, piano and damage differs from incident to incident, therefore creating a need to be inventive in our approach. I always encourage others to share their experiences, methods, tools and ideas, as we all will benefit providing this important service to our industry.
The basic order of steps are as follows:
As odors release into the atmosphere, oxygen and hydrogen become a natural neutralizer. Everything that smells evaporates or vaporizes odorous gasses into the air. Quite commonly a fan or blower is used for this purpose. On vertical pianos, remove knee board, open lid, positioning fan to blow “through” the piano to accelerate the off gassing process. Allow to operate for 10 hours if possible.
The first step is to dry clean. Dry cleaning involves visible residue removal in a dry state. Vacuuming and blowing with an air compressor nozzle are two examples of “dry” residue removal.
Wearing latex gloves, vacuum case parts removing visible residue as disassembling the instrument. When working with porous fabric type materials within the piano, such as hammers & felts, take care not to force residue into the fabric. Use your vacuum hose without a brush attachment. A crevice tool for tight areas works best. A powerful vacuum unit is required.
The following videos demonstrate techniques using these tools. In no way are these the only methods used in cleaning. The videos display a guide and approach that have proven worthy to include.
Once the larger particles are removed we work directly with each specific areas of the piano. The Cory Dry Sponge may be used on any and all bare wood or painted surfaces. Areas such as individual keys, key frame, key bed, pedal board, or back beams are candidates for effective residue removal using the dry sponge.
Bead and soda blasting are also viable “dry” cleaning tools and I hope to add videos in the near future with the uses of each.
The next step is referred to as Preliminary Detoxification. The objective here is to chemically block or restrict odor- bearing molecules from evaporating from a source into the atmosphere. We typically use water extendable formulations. This process is accomplished by using specific products to eliminate and counteract odor bearing particles. Over the numerous years of working with smoke damaged instruments, we’ve designed and developed a product for our industry entitled, Carbon & Soot Destroyer. Destroyer not only cleans but also detoxifies implementing a pleasant, yet effective counteractant. This remarkable product is a viable cleaner for finishes, bare wood, plastic/acrylic, metal and felt. The subsequent videos demonstrate several applications using Cory Destroyer.
The final step of restoration is thermal fogging. Thermal fogging mimics the particle size of smoke. During a fire, heated air and smoke particles find their way into the piano’s hidden areas such as the top of beams, crevices, action cavity. Our Fire-Clean Thermal Odor Resolve Fogging Agent nullifies odor-bearing smoke particles and inhibit their ability to release odorous gases. This solvent-based product destroys odors virtually on contact. The lengthy hang time of this remarkable fogger insures that it doesn’t dissipate before doing it’s job. The following video demonstrates a previous product called, “Negate 25”, a water based fogging agent but have since discontinued the product as our Thermal Odor Resolve provides superior results. We do plan on creating a new video demonstration in the future.
One last step: I recommend using a fan/blower on the case parts or components before re-assembling the piano. If thermal fogging an action, set up a fan, blowing directly on the fogged components to insure off-gassing. The last thing we want to do as odor control technicians is return an instrument to a home that smells like something other than a piano. Our Fire-Clean formulations will help in that regard but I always suggest allowing enough time for off-gassing and dissipation before re-assembly.
We’ve assembled a complete odor removal kit for your convenience and is available here.
©Dave Swartz, RPT 2016
IICRC Odor Control Technician
Cory Products, LLC