Black Soot - What Is It and Why Is It in My House?

assorted jar candles

An issue that has been plaguing homeowners for years, black soot mysteriously damaged and discolored walls and furniture. Only within the last 20 years has there been hard evidence supporting an actual cause for black soot deposition (BSD) inside homes. 

If you notice that your once clean air filter is now completely black, and your newly painted walls are starting to accumulate a dark and grimy tinge, black soot is the culprit - but the root cause still needs to be determined.

How it Gets in Your House

Soot originates from the incomplete combustion of carbon. When carbon burns cleanly, it leaves very little residue, but when it doesn’t, you’re left with a black, flaky substance. The reason why soot is not combusting completely in your house could be something as simple as scented candles. 

While it might seem appealing to have candles throughout your house for their pleasant smell and the calming atmosphere they help create, some scented candles are simply not efficient at burning, which leads to black marks (ghosting) above the area or on furniture near where the candle is burning.

Furnaces can also be to blame for these unsightly marks in your home. If they aren’t properly burning carbon, then they are just as likely to produce soot as candles. Gas furnaces require proper maintenance and it’s important to recognize that soot could be a sign that your furnace needs to be looked at by a professional. 

This can also be the case if your gas water heater is not functioning properly. Black soot near appliances is not normal and should be looked at by a professional.

While black soot might look harmless, like dust, but it is anything but. Ingesting soot particles is not healthy. Continuous burning of scented candles with little regard for the amount of dangerous particles floating in the air can lead to upper respiratory complications such as asthma, bronchitis, or even coronary heart disease. It’s simply not worth the potential health risks alone to burn low quality candles or ignore malfunctioning appliances.

How to Prevent and Treat Black Soot

Compleat Restorations can eliminate soot damage for homeowners, with 40 years of experience in the field we’re well-equipped to get the job done. Here’s information on prevention, and how to treat black soot.

Soot from Candles

If your soot is a product of burning scented candles, then the first and most surefire way or stopping soot from further ruining parts of your home is to stop burning as many candles. If that is not something you are willing to give up, you have to follow stricter standards when deciding what candles you want to buy and how you are going to burn them. 

A general rule of thumb for candle users should be that cheap candles will likely not be made with the safest and cleanest materials and are more likely to have chemical properties that are conducive to incomplete combustion and a production of soot. If burning candles is a must for you, avoid burning the candle for more than an hour and seek out candles that burn evenly. Candles of higher quality will be made of a harder wax.

If the damage has already been done and black soot has covered a portion of your wall, you will need to thoroughly clean the wall before going forward with repainting. Painting over the soot will simply not work.

Soot from Appliances 

As for dealing with soot that resulted from major appliances, performing routine maintenance on them is a great way to make sure your furnace or water heater is working properly, and when it isn’t, you can catch it early on and prevent further damage. 

It’s more than likely that you are not fully-equipped to deal with a soot-related issue as a result of your major appliances malfunctioning, so please do not hesitate to call a professional immediately so the issue does not worsen.

Black soot is unfortunate and unsightly, but its impact on your belongings doesn’t need to be permanent. Compleat Restorations is equipped to deal with soot damage by using a method known as dry ice blasting that will have your possessions looking as good as new.