Cleaning Smoke Residue From Ceramic and Porcelain Figurines


March 11, 2010

After a house fire, I had many glass and ceramic items to clean. The polyurathane that had coated my walls left a film like black glossy paint on them. I found if I soaked them in ammonia over night, they washed clean, even my Hummels.


I used a plastic paint bucket with lid. I also found out the hard way without rubber gloves even the ammonia fumes would burn my hands!

Hope this helps someone out. Fires are one of the worst things that can happen to a family. Most of my treasures were from my late mother-in-law. I was so happy to be able to save and clean them without damage.

By Tomboy53 from Conway, SC

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

January 20, 2021

My aunt made this ceramic church. They were heavy smokers. It was in my attic for over 15 years. What can I use to safely remove the smell of the cigarette smoke?


January 20, 20210 found this helpful
Best Answer

There is a product called Nok-Out, available on Amazon. It is safe and removes the smell completely. It is highly rated.

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January 20, 20210 found this helpful
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Your piece looks like it was sealed/glazed so you may be able to clean the outside but if you check the inside it may not be sealed (rough unsealed?) and if so it will be difficult to remove the odor from there as the oily smoke gets into the open pores.
You may receive a lot of different suggestions but please, be sure to test your piece on an unseen spot before going all the way. This may not be easy to do but at least give it some thought.

You may want to start with something mild such as white vinegar. Maybe turn it upside down and spray white vinegar all inside the church. Give it a good coating and wait 30 minutes, rinse and let dry. You can also spray the outside and see if you can see the yellow scum looking stuff run off.
You'll probably need a very soft toothbrush to get in the tiny grooves. If vinegar doesn't do the trick then you'll have to go to something else.

Some people use a few drops of ammonia mixed in a cup of Hydrogen Peroxide and spray this on the item but you have to be very careful when using ammonia but it will remove tobacco stains/odors. Only use ammonia in a very well ventilated area - outdoors if possible.

If you get your church looking clean but still has an odor you can try leaving it outside for a few days or place it in a black bag, an open container of clay cat litter or unused fresh coffee grounds seal it tightly and leave it sit for a week. many times this will work.
Or - take a Tupperware tub; add a rack to hold church off floor; place cat litter or fresh unused coffee grounds on bottom; set church on rack, close container and leave closed for a week or so.

Many people use baking soda either as a paste or make a paste with white vinegar or Hydrogen Peroxide and gently rub this paste all over item; using a soft toothbrush to get the tiny crevices.

Just be very careful and if you see even a speck of color coming off that is the time to stop and rethink everything.

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January 24, 20210 found this helpful
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If the outside is glazed, a gentle washing with baby shampoo or Dawn dish soap should work wonders on cleaning and eliminating odors. Then for the inside, if also glazed, repeat outside cleaning method. If inside is not glazed, put ceramic piece into a plastic bag big enough to seal with a twist tie or a tote with a tight lid, and put several socks filled with dry baking soda inside the church, as well as extras around the church. Seal it up and leave to sit at least two weeks. Check after the first week to see if the baking soda is absorbing the odor, and needs replacing. If it works at least somewhat, repeat as many more times as needed.

I had been given a ceramic Nativity set my Grandmother had made. In one of my homes, it had to be stored off-season in a basement, that smelled musty. When I took it out to use the next Christmas, the Nativity set smelled like the basement, so I washed it gently with dish soap...inside and out, and when dry it still smelled a little. So I sprayed the insides of all the figures with a solution of half lemon juice and half water, and let them dry. It worked great. Good luck and let us know what worked for you.

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March 16, 2018

Can you tell me the best way to get knick knacks clean? I have a lot of collectibles and I'm trying to get them clean, but I don't wanna ruin them. Can you give me any ideas please?

Thank you.


March 16, 20180 found this helpful
Best Answer

sorry to hear about your house fire; the same happened to me a few years ago

it really depends on the knick knacks, though. If they're fabric obviously they can be laundered. If they were porcelain i don't see why you could not wash them.

activated charcoal removes smells. you can purchase activated charcoal here: (Affiliate Link) you can leave the knick knacks in an enclosed environment with the activated charcoal and that can remove the smell

this is also a really great site with lots of great dry sponge products and other products to help clean books, paper, etc lots of type of things, some of them specific to smoke damage

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March 25, 2010

My father had a house fire and there were Hummel figurines and other porcelain/clay products inside. How do I get the soot off?

By Teresa Boutte from Pensacola, FL


March 27, 20100 found this helpful

Call your insurance company and they can give you a list of names and phone numbers of companies who do fire smoke/soot cleanup for their professional advice on any items.

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March 30, 20101 found this helpful

Try spraying with window cleaner and then rinse. This worked for me. Some things I had to use a soft baby toothbrush for crevices.

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April 6, 2016

I had a house fire and everything is covered in smoke damage. I have a wedding porcelain set that is covered in smoke damage and I've tried using Clorox wipes, I've tried scrubbing them, and I don't know what to do.

Can someone please tell me on how to get these porcelain candle figurines back to looking the way they should before may?


July 2, 20170 found this helpful

I used a magic eraser after soaking the items in dishwater mixed with dish soap and baking soda. Hope this helps...

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May 17, 2015

10 years ago I packed my entire household for a cross-country move. Unknowingly, I wrapped my Hummels in newspaper. I do not have time for the repeated cleanings with a toothbrush and am very afraid to damage them. Will the same process used for removing fire smoke resolve this problem? I am so hoping it will! Thank you.



November 21, 20170 found this helpful

Magic Erasers will make quick work of cleaning these.

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April 26, 2015

I recently bought some drinking glasses from 1971 that have years of smoke build up on them. They have a wonderful painted design on them, but they look very faded from the build up.

How is the best way to clean this without losing the paint design?


April 28, 20150 found this helpful

I would wash them in vinegar water. Maybe even let them soak in it for a few minutes.

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May 9, 2013

My Hummel figurines were in a bad fire. Why did they look like there was only black smoke on them from a distance and still looked all together and OK, but when someone touched them, they all fell apart into cinders?

Please answer my question.

By Val J. from Torrance, CA


May 11, 20131 found this helpful

My best guess would be they were super-heated by the fire, that even if they didn't look damaged until touched, the heat changed the ceramic base.

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

March 3, 2010

I have a porcelain figurine with a lot of smoke damage. My husband once smoked and the figure is all yellow from the smoke. How can I safely clean it?

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