Cleaning Soot after a Fire….

…. is not an easy task. While it seems like it would be an easy job to get rid of the leftover residue, many times, improper cleaning can make an even bigger mess and sometimes destroy belongings. Before you try doing this on your own, it’s important to know a few facts about soot.

Soot appears dusty but is actually oily and very easy to smear. The best practice for removing soot usually involves a high powered vacuum and NOT touching the surface with it or any attachments. Even the slightest touch can grind the oily soot into the surface, which could cause staining.

How you clean your walls and ceiling depends on what type of walls and ceiling you have. With most finishes, using liquid will set in the stain of soot.  There are products out there that you can buy; one of which is a specially designed sponge for soot cleanup called a ChemSponge. You can also use paint thinner or rubbing alcohol.

If you are cleaning a wall or ceiling painted with satin or semi-gloss paint, use the mixture of one (1) gallon of water with one (1) tablespoon of a corrosive cleaning agent called trisodium phosphate, your local home improvement supply store would carry it. This is also good to clean soot from any kitchen surfaces. Make sure to wear rubber gloves and goggles.

After the initial soot cleanup, prevent additional soot from spreading through your house by changing your filters in heating and air-conditioning systems. For the first year after a fire, change your air filters at least once a month.

Things you should not do:

  • Do not touch anything because the oil from your hands may cause additional      damage by infiltrating walls, woodwork and upholstery.
  • Do not try to wash walls as incorrect cleaning can add to any soot residue.
  • Do not attempt to clean carpets or upholstered furniture.
  • Do not use any appliances until you have them checked first.
  • Do not use ceiling fixtures if the ceiling is wet.
  • Do not wash clothing with heavy soot damage, send your belongings to a      qualified restoration dry cleaner for thorough cleaning.

Remember to call ServiceMaster Restore within the first 24 hours of a fire.  The corrosive fumes and soot from smoke/fire can cause permanent damage in less than 72 hours.