Sometimes people sell items from their homes that have been present during a fire, but escaped the flames. You can do that, but the furniture, clothing, toys, etc., will all have that smoky smell. If you spot some items at a yard sale that you are considering purchasing, but you think that they may have smoke damage, here is how to a) know for sure/spot it, and b) fix it.
Soot is a dead giveaway, but standard black, streaky marks on things may not be soot at all. It could just be a lot of dirty finger prints. The best way to check is to don a rubber glove and gently rub the dark areas on furniture or whatever other items catch your eye. If the black streakiness comes off and you can rub it between your gloved fingers like chalk or charcoal, it is soot, and therefore smoke-damaged. If it cannot rub off at all, it is just a matter of dirty fingers. If it can be cleaned professionally or restored by smoke damage restoration services, by all means, snatch it up for the bargain price and take it home. If there is no way to safely remove the soot/smoke damage without destroying the item, leave it where it is (i.e., at the yard sale).
From construction materials to foam in mattresses, there are a number of materials that produce a heavy yellowing residue when burned. The toxic smoke thrown off of these burning materials gradually settles on unburned objects. Most of the time, a light industrial cleaner can remove the yellowing and not damage the items, especially if the items are plastic. Everything else may require a little extra elbow grease and/or help from professional restorers. Also be aware that heavy yellowing is not always smoke damage; it could be pet or human urine, but the smell will definitely give it away.
Lots of Light Ashen Dust
Ashen dust collects in clothes and on all fabrics like you would not believe. While the person holding the yard sale certainly should have washed everything before putting it in the yard sale, that is not always the case with every property owner and every yard sale. If you spot what looks like a light gray dust all over several fabric objects, this is part and parcel of the smoke damage from a recent fire that came very close to the items you are examining. If you are willing to bag these items and have them cleaned, they could still be a good bargain.
For more information, contact a company like Willamette Restoration Services, Inc.