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Soot Cleanup

Fire and Water Damage and Restoration
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Soot cleanup after a fire is a dirty but necessary task. Cleaning up soot damage must be done carefully. Soot is oily and can easily stain surfaces and dissipate through the air around your home.

The first part of soot cleanup is preventing soot from spreading further. To do this, keep your hands clean while cleaning soot-damaged areas so you do not spread the soot around. Walk around your house as little as possible and, in areas where you must walk on the floor, first cover the floor with old towels or linens.

You should remove as much soot as you can without using liquid, since liquid can make soot stain even more easily. If there is loose soot on your floor, curtains or upholstery, remove it by holding a vacuum cleaner nozzle slightly above the soot particles. However, it is best to hire a contractor to clean soot-damaged carpets and upholstery since typical household cleansers and vacuum cleaners can cause more staining and damage.

The process of soot cleanup on your walls and ceiling depends on the type of walls and ceiling you have. With most finishes, using liquid will set the stain of soot. Fortunately, you can buy chemical sponges that are specially designed for soot cleanup. You might also be able to clean soot damage from your walls and ceilings by using paint thinner or rubbing alcohol.

However, if you are cleaning a wall or ceiling painted with satin or semi-gloss paint, you may be able to clean it with a mixture of one gallon of water and one tablespoon of a corrosive cleaning agent called trisodium phosphate. You can also use this mixture to clean soot damage from kitchen surfaces. If you use trisodium phosphate, wear rubber gloves and goggles.

An important step in soot cleanup is preventing more soot from spreading throughout your house. As soon as possible, change the filters in your heating and air-conditioning systems and tape layers of cheesecloth over your air vents to trap soot particles. Then hire a professional to clean your heating and air-conditioning units and ductwork of all residual soot and ash. For the first year after a fire, change your air filters at least once a month.

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