Cleaning a Building after Ashfall


  • Cleaning by blowing with compressed air or dry sweeping should be minimized. A dustless method of cleaning such as washing with water and an effective detergent/wetting agent is recommended. Damp rag techniques are effective to remove the substance from small surface areas or flooring. On those areas where damp rag techniques cannot be implemented (for example, carpets) vacuum cleaning methods should be applied.
  • After vacuuming carpets and upholstery may be cleaned with a detergent shampoo. Avoid excess rubbing action because the sharp ash particles may cut textile fibers.
  • Sensitive surface (e.g. glass, porcelain enamel and acrylic surfaces) may be scratched by ash if wiped too vigorously. Use a detergent soaked cloth or sponge and dab rather than wipe.
  • High-shine wood finishes will be dulled by the fine grit. Vacuum surfaces and then blot with a cloth treated to pick up ash. A tack cloth used by furniture refinishers should work well.
  • Floor sweepers with side brushes should not be used to clear aisles and floors because they may re-entrain dust particles into the air.
  • Ash-coated fabrics should be rinsed under running water and then washed carefully.
  • Soiled clothing will require extra detergent. Wash small loads of clothing, using plenty of water so the clothes will have room to move freely in the water. Do not mix heavily soiled clothes with garments that are lightly soiled.
  • Be sure clothes are free of ash before putting them in an automatic dryer. Ash may scratch the inner surface of the dryer.
  • For several months after an ash fall, filters may need replacing often. Air conditioner and furnace filters need careful attention. Clean refrigerator air intakes. Clean any surface that may blow air and recirculate the ash. Stove fans and vents should be cleaned thoroughly.
  • Boiling a pot or jug of water will help to remove suspended ash from building's interior atmosphere

Suggestions for ash removal from buildings and households: U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1980