Soot is one of the most challenging things to remove when dealing with fires. Not only is it unsightly, but it can also be dangerous to humans and animals when coming in contact with soot. In this article, we’ll answer some of the most commonly asked questions about soot so that you’ll know what to expect and look for in reducing soot exposure dangers.
What Is Soot?
Soot is made of tiny carbon particles created by incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons and fossil fuels, including charred wood, oil, coal, and other materials. Soot contains many acids from chemicals, metals, soils, and dust. These particles leave behind a visible dark substance and foul smell.
What Is Soot From Fire?
The most common cause of soot is during and after a fire.
During a fire, soot is formed when carbon particles don’t burn thoroughly during the combustion process. Incomplete combustion requires the fuel to burn at a lower temperature with a slightly reduced oxygen supply.
When these particles settle on surfaces, they can cause discoloration and a noticeable smell. Soot can be difficult to remove because it is very fine and easily embeds in porous materials like wood and fabric.
Because of its fine consistency, soot can spread throughout your home, attaching to surfaces in every room. As a result, soot’s acidic properties can lead to further property damage and poor indoor air quality if it isn’t removed promptly.
Where Is Soot Found Outside of A Fire?
It might be surprising to learn that soot can be found in your home even if there wasn’t a fire. Be on the lookout for soot in the following areas:
- On your stovetop. Soot can build up on your stovetop if you use oil for cooking. Heating oil causes it to break down, producing soot.
- In your fireplace. Even if your fireplace hasn’t been used for a while, soot can still be present. Burning wood can form soot, which can remain in your fireplace from previous fires, especially when your fireplace isn’t cleaned after every use.
- On your walls. The chemical compounds in oil-based paints are known to attract soot.
- Burning candles. Candles made of paraffin wax produce soot when burned. A black ring around the edge of the candle indicates that soot is present.
- On light switches and outlets. Areas of electricity can attract soot.
- Furnaces. These are also sources of soot contamination when they produce a puff back.
What Are the Dangers of Soot Exposure?
Soot exposure dangers should be taken seriously because they can lead to potential health hazards. Soot particles are small enough to enter the body through inhalation, ingestion, or via the skin and eyes. The adverse effects of soot’s toxic particles can include the following symptoms:
- Asthma attacks
- Difficulty breathing
- Eye irritation
- Sore throat
These symptoms can also lead to other long-term health issues. Since soot is a known carcinogen, it can increase your cancer risk. For those with compromised immune systems and health sensitivities, inhaling soot particles can damage your heart and lungs, worsening chronic respiratory conditions like asthma and emphysema. If soot is present in your home, removing it as soon as possible is imperative to avoid any health consequences.
What Should I Keep In Mind When Removing Soot?
Smoke and soot are the two main threats to be aware of during a house fire, so it’s important to learn to remove soot from your home as quickly as possible.
A home is constructed of many items that contain chemicals, such as plastics, foams, carpets, wood products, and synthetic fabrics. Soot derived from these materials leads to hazards that can make fire restoration challenging and sometimes dangerous. No matter the severity of the fire, soot particles can infiltrate a home through the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
Always wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when cleaning soot, such as gloves, eyewear, and masks. Ensure that the area you are cleaning is well-ventilated by opening windows and doors. Professional specialized techniques, like air scrubbing and thermal fogging, may also be needed to restore indoor air quality following a fire.
How Do I Remove Soot?
The first step to removing soot is to identify the source. Once you know where the soot is coming from, you can take the necessary steps to remove it. If the soot is on a non-porous surface, like metal or glass, you can use a damp cloth to wipe it away. For porous surfaces, like wood or fabric, you’ll need to use a cleaner specifically designed for removing soot.
When cleaning up soot particles, avoid using water-based cleaners. Water will just spread the soot around and make the problem worse. Instead, use a dry-cleaning solvent or an oil-based cleanser. You can also use a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to remove soot from surfaces like carpets and upholstery.
Once you’ve removed the soot, you may need to take steps to prevent it from returning. It’s a good idea to clean your stovetop regularly and ensure your fireplace is well-cleaned. Another good tip: avoid using oil-based paint in your home.
Often, professional help is needed to remove soot from your home thoroughly. If the soot is widespread or you’re not comfortable cleaning it yourself, hire a reputable fire damage restoration company. These companies have the experience and equipment to remove soot quickly and safely.
Soot can be a complex problem that requires much effort to eliminate, so it’s important to begin the removal process as soon as possible. The preceding steps ensure your soot removal can be done quickly and safely.
For Professional Fire Remediation Services, Contact PuroClean
For professional and immediate fire damage restoration or smoke remediation services following a house fire, do not hesitate to contact PuroClean. As “The Paramedics of Property Damage®,” we are the first responders to your commercial property emergency. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To schedule an appointment with your PuroClean office, please visit our website or call us at (800) 775-7876.