Hidden Dangers of Soot: The Damage You Can Smell

As if dealing with house fire and smoke damage wasn’t enough, once the initial danger has passed, you also have to contend with the resulting soot that may have spread throughout your home. You’ll quickly discover that soot is an eyesore that’s very tough to clean, but you may not have considered the hidden dangers of soot.

Learn more about the basic science of soot, its physical properties and the hazards poor clean-up can pose so you can fully protect your home and family in the aftermath of a fire.

What is Soot?

The black residue that sticks around after a fire, a.k.a. soot, is the result of incomplete fossil fuel combustion. When coal, oil, wood or other fuels are burned, the residual material, comprised mostly of carbon, can travel through the air and settle into the surrounding environment.

While soot-producing fuels are often burned for industrial uses, manufacturing and operating vehicles, you may also come across residential sources of soot, too. House fires and insufficient ventilation in the fireplace are some of the most common causes of soot within the home.

What Does Soot Look and Smell Like?

Do you know how to identify soot in your own home? You can spot accumulated soot by looking for dark black residue accumulated fire damaged areas, but individual soot particles are nearly microscopic – even smaller than dust! Soot particles can turn up in areas far away from the original source of the fire and can even travel from room to room through your ventilation system.

In addition to looking for black particles, you can rely on your nose to sniff out the soot. If you’ve recently experienced a fire or furnace or fireplace puffback and you can still smell smoky, ashy or just plain stinky odors, you may be detecting hints of soot.

Is Soot Harmful?

Simply put, yes. During a common house fire, both natural and synthetic materials burn. The resulting soot particles can contain acids, chemicals, metals, dust and other hazardous materials. These toxic particles then stick to surrounding surfaces, like walls and ceilings, leaving you and your home exposed to the harmful effects.

Environmental Risks of Soot

When fossil fuels are burned for industrial purposes, the chemical compounds of soot are released into the environment and affect multiple aspects of our ecosystem. Soot contamination in your home acts similarly, impacting indoor air quality, in addition to leaving foul odors and stains behind.

Health Risks of Soot

If it goes untreated or improperly cleaned, tiny particles of soot can be inhaled deep into the lungs. These toxic particles can cause breathing issues, including aggravated asthma, bronchitis and more severe respiratory illnesses that can restrict your ability to carry out normal activities.

To avoid health risks and restore your home to its former stain- and odor-free glory, focus on achieving complete, thorough and proper cleaning of all soot-affected areas.

Soot Clean-up

Because of its microscopic particle size, ability to travel through the air and tendency to stick to hard surfaces, soot contamination is very challenging to clean up. In fact, improper attempts at cleaning can cause the soot to spread and absorb, further damaging your home and belongings. While you can attempt to remove soot from your walls and ceilings on your own, you should always follow strict safety precautions and make sure you thoroughly clean the areas with proper procedures and great attention to detail.

To ensure your safety and avoid permanent damage to your home and belongings, we recommend leaving soot cleanup to the professionals. Contact the experts at ServiceMaster Restore® to provide thorough soot and smoke odor removal services so you can enjoy your home and breathe easy again.



Minimize Damage from Melting Snow

You may be ready for the warm weather to arrive, but is your home or office prepared? As snow and ice around a building turn to water when temperatures rise, significant damage could result from poor planning or inadequate drainage. Completing a few simple tasks around your home or business before the new season starts can save you from costly damages caused by snowmelt runoff in the long term. Follow these tips from the experts at ServiceMaster Restore® to minimize water damage from melting snow, and spend your time enjoying the spring weather instead of dealing with floods and expensive repairs.

  1. Clear Your Roof, Gutters and Downspouts

The purpose of a gutter system is to carry excess water away from your home or business. This system can’t work properly if the gutters are clogged by ice or debris. Use snow melt tabs to break down snow and ice stuck in the gutters. Then, remove debris like dead leaves, twigs, dirt, mud and larger chunks of ice. If you’re concerned about large amounts of water from snowmelt runoff or spring rainstorms pooling close to your property, attach a sloped leader to your downspouts. These extensions will carry the water farther away from the structure, minimizing the risk water damage from melting snow or rain.

  1. Seal Cracks in Your Foundation, Doors and Windows

Think of your property as a fortress. Your arch-nemesis – snowmelt – is heating up its advance, and you must fortify your building so it can’t be penetrated by sneaky leaks. Secure your entrances and exits. Arm your doors with sturdy weatherstripping, and prepare your windows by replacing worn or old seals. Patrol the perimeter of your property, and caulk any gaps or cracks you see in the foundation. With these protective measures, snowmelt will have a much harder time wreaking havoc.

  1. Test and Maintain Your Sump Pump and Pit

Sump pits hold groundwater that collects under buildings during heavy rains, rapid snowmelt, sewage backups and even normal weather conditions. A sump pump, typically located in the basement, moves accumulated water from the pit through a discharge pipe where it can drain safely away from the home. Ideally, this device should prevent flooding and water damage to your basement or foundation, but you have to perform regular, seasonal maintenance tests to make sure it’s working properly. Clear out any dirt and debris, and pour water into the pit to test the pump’s functionality. Watch the water exit the discharge pipe, and check that it drains properly away from your home or office.

If you discover water damage from melting snow this spring, identify the source and take steps to seal any leaks. Prevent the water damage from getting worse and avoid the spread of mold by calling the experts at ServiceMaster Restore as soon as you notice a problem. Our teams are available 24/7/365 to ensure you get the service you need as soon as you need it so you can get back to enjoying the beautiful weather.