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Ash Clean Up Tips

Clean up of ash is not advised while the fire is still burning and ash is falling.

If you must clean up ash, *PLEASE* DO NOT put ash directly in your trash, it must be bagged first. DO NOT use leaf blowers, as they blow the fine particles back into the air.

  • Ash MUST be bagged when placed into trash cans.
  • Gentle sweeping of indoor and outdoor hard surfaces followed by wet mopping is the best procedure in most cases. A damp cloth or wet mop may be all that is needed on lightly dusted areas.
  • Use a vacuum with HEPA filter. Shop vacuums and other common vacuum cleaners do not filter out small particles, but rather blow such particles out the exhaust into the air where they can be breathed. The use of shop vacuums and other non-HEPA filter vacuums is not recommended.
  • Do NOT use leaf blowers, as they blow ash and particles into the air. 
  • If using water, use as little as possible and direct runoff towards planted areas and avoid storm drains.
  • Use protective wear (gloves, N95 mask, long-sleeves) and avoid skin contact with the ash.
  • Do not allow children to play in the ash.
  • Wash ash off children’s toys before children play with them.
  • Clean ash off house pets.
  • Wear gloves, long sleeved shirts, and long pants and avoid skin contact.
  • If you do get ash on your skin, wash it off as soon as possible.
  • If you have a vegetable garden or fruit trees, wash the fruit or vegetables thoroughly before eating them.
  • Persons with heart or lung disease should consult their physician before using a mask during post-fire cleanup.
  • Avoid washing ash into storm drains whenever possible.
  • If ash is wet down, use as little water as possible.

Ash and debris from burned structures may contain more toxic substances than forest fire ash because of the many synthetic and other materials present in buildings. Older buildings in particular may contain asbestos and lead. A NIOSH Interim fact sheet addressing burned structure clean up safety is attached.

Last Updated: Dec 21, 2018
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