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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

3 Interesting Facts About Soot

6/3/2021 (Permalink)

Corner of a wall covered in soot with soot tags present This soot is in a garage we cleaned in Loveland Ohio. The fire damage affected the Homeowner's contents, ceilings, and walls.

After a fire, there is a toxic residue that clings to your ceilings, walls, and contents. This residue is called soot. It comes in many shapes and forms. Publichealth.lacounty.gov explains that “high-oxygen fires will result in dry dusty soot, whereas slow-burning, low-oxygen fires will result in greasy wet deposits that easily smear.” You might consider cleaning this substance yourself. SERVPRO is here to explain why that isn't a good idea.

What Is Soot Made Of?

Soot is a blanket of tiny particulates. These particulates are made of tiny molecules from the contents and materials that burned up in the fire. Sciencedirect.com further explains “all soots are... characterized by the presence of very small particles (submicrometer) and correspondingly a large ratio of surface area to mass.” After a fire, these small particles are actively searching for a place to land. The walls and ceiling have the perfect surface to attract them.

Why Is Soot Toxic

The toxicity of soot comes from the chemical makeup of the molecules we just discussed. In a house fire, the burnt contents are typically made up of synthetic materials such as plastic, metals, and wood. Usually, when they are in one solid piece, these materials are safe. However, when broken down to the molecular level, these materials can become carcinogenic. If your home was built before 1978, lead and asbestos are likely present. According to The National Cancer Institute, other carcinogenic substances in soot include but are not limited to arsenic, cadmium, and chromium.

Soot Takes Many Forms

After a fire, you may notice black cobwebs in the affected area. This is not a reflection of how clean your house was before the fire. This is a chemical reaction from the fire. The high temperature of the fire allows the molecules to stick together. Unlike water that evaporates, these molecules are not able to turn back into their gaseous forms. This creates a chainlike structure that many people confuse as cobwebs. Their actual name is a Soot Web or Soot Tag. They can get very messy if they are disturbed.

Because of the nature of a soot web, do not attempt to clean them yourself. Doing so can cause more fire damage than you would have otherwise incurred. Cleaning up soot after fire damage yourself is not recommended. Our professionally trained staff have the experience and equipment to ensure that the job gets done safely and correctly. For your family’s health and safety, please give our office a call. Our staff is ready to take your call any time of day.

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