Harmful Soot on Appliances, Walls and Other Surfaces After a Fire
You may feel that you are in the clear once a fire has been put out, but this isn’t necessarily the case! Certainly, extinguishing a fire does undeniably remove a clear and present danger to your home, family, or commercial property, it leaves behind smoke damage, ash, and soot, all of which will cause long term harm on their own.
Burned materials leave behind a residue in the form of soot, and these materials can include fuels, wood, clothing, and more. In large deposits, such as within a chimney place, it can even re-ignite. The type of soot that you’ll be dealing with will be less concentrated, but no less of a hazard. Cardio-vascular problems in people of any age or level of health are likely if they inhale soot.
The type of soot that you’ll be dealing with will differ depending on the materials which caught fire:
- Oily soot, or oily smoke residues.” These come from grease fires, fuel, and burning plastic. Much like wet soot, it is difficult to remove, and smears easily.
- Wet soot, otherwise known “wet smoke residues.” Wet soot is much harder to remove, and comes from fires which burn slow and low. This type of soot tends to cause the strongest odors, as particles require moisture to transmit smell to our senses. The residue can also be sticky, and will smear on surfaces to cause further discoloration.
- Dry soot, or “dry smoke residues,” which come from fires which burn fast and high. Dry soot is usually powdery, and does not smear. This is the easiest type to remove.
For wet soot, oily soot, and other types of residue, such as protein residues, which come from burned meat or eggs, it’s usually a better to work with a professional fire cleaning service. The more serious types of soot residue tend to be the most difficult to remove, and the most pungent in their odor. That means a failure to remove them could result in odors which will be trapped in your home for years, or even decades. It may also mean a severe discoloration of your furniture, your walls, your ceiling, and more. Removing soot from the environment as soon as possible will help you to get rid of this issue entirely.
Also note that removing wet soot, oily soot, and any soot aside from dry soot can actually be dangerous to your health without the proper equipment and training. While dry soot itself can be dangerous on its own, wet soot and oily soot also possess properties that make it easier for those particulates to bind to and damage cells in your skin, eyes, nose, and your lungs. The right call is to get a professional service to handle the job safely.
Dry soot, can either be removed by a professional fire cleaning service, or by yourself if you have access to a HEPA filter vacuum and special chem sponges. (Chem sponges often referred to as Dry Cleaning Soot Sponges, and are available at a restoration supply house). Be aware that conventional vacuums won’t be appropriate for the job; the last thing you’ll want is to reintroduce those particulates into the air.
These soot particles technically called “polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons” are often microscopic and not visible to the human eye. They are so small they float in the air you are breathing, especially in a home or building where there has been a significant fire or smoke event.
Professional IICRC certified contractors (like Rocky Mountain Restoration), trained in smoke and odor removal have the right equipment and know-how to safely rid your property on these contaminants.