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Can Smoke Damage Electronics?

by Hickerson Brothers on April 6, 2018

We’re all aware that smoke is dangerous to inhale and a major sign of a fire, but can it also harm your electronics? Although electronics tend to have fragile circuitry, you wouldn’t expect a small amount of smoke to cause any considerable damage. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, as smoke can easily damage your electronics. But what exactly happens when smoke reaches your electrical equipment?

The experts at Hickerson Brothers are here to answer! It’s important that Catlett homeowners have knowledge on how smoke damages electronics. Doing so will help prepare you in the event of a fire.

To begin our guide, let’s first discuss the harmful components that make up smoke.

What is in Smoke?

Smoke is made up of gases, particles, and water vapor emitted by flammable material. Smoke is mostly made of carbon but also contains many other chemicals and fumes. These chemicals and fumes vary depending on what is being burned.

For example, burning plastic will produce smoke that has dioxins in it, which is very harmful to humans, and can pollute the environment. Burning wood produces nitrogen oxide, which has similar effects. The burning of house materials combines these chemicals along with the possibility of sulfur dioxide, acetic acid, and hydrochloric acid. These chemicals are highly acidic and can corrode metal.

One chemical that all types of smoke contain is carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide, if inhaled, will decrease your body’s oxygen supply. Inhaling too much carbon monoxide can lead to death but has very little corrosive effects on metal.

Smoke also produces soot, which is a black powdery substance made of mostly carbon and is highly acidic. Soot is airborne and easily coats any nearby objects while also slowly corroding metal. Soot can also conduct electricity.

How does Smoke Damage Electronics?

Let’s say a small fire has started in the middle of your home office. Smoke is then produced, which fills the room. First, your electronics have a chance of overheating. Since smoke comes from fire, it is produced at a very high temperature. Depending on the airflow of the room, the smoke can linger and overheat your electronics. Even with proper ventilation, overheating is still possible.

Next, smoke can coat electronics with a variety of gases and particles. These can be highly acidic, which can corrode circuitry. If the gases and particles are conductive, electronics can short circuit as well.

After, the smoke will produce soot. Soot can infiltrate both the inside and outside of nearby electronics. Since soot is acidic, the electronic components can begin to corrode. While this is happening, the soot also insulates the inner working of an electronic, which can cause overheating. The conductivity of soot can also cause electronics to short circuit.

Due to these harmful traits, smoke can completely ruin electronics even after the fire has been neutralized. Soot can linger and corrode circuity, and conductive particles can cause a short circuit.

Can Smoke-Damaged Electronics Be Saved?

Saving electrical equipment coated with smoke is dependent on the type of electronic and the extent of the smoke damage. If you managed to unplug and remove affected electronics, you can try to wipe off residue with a cloth. However, do not attempt to restore any electronic that has a large coating of smoke and soot, and any burn marks. These electronics are usually beyond saving and should be discarded.

What you can do is have an electrical professional perform a safety inspection on your home. An electrical safety inspection helps to ensure you have ample electrical fire protection. Contact Hickerson  Brothers at 703-594-3913 for trusted electrical safety inspection services only found in Catlett.

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