Causes and Dangers of Soot Damage

Fire creates a lot of damage which can be difficult and expensive to deal with. Unfortunately, it also leaves behind soot which can also cause extensive damage if it is not dealt with quickly. It can even get into your HVAC system, which will allow it to spread farther.

If these soot particles aren’t dealt with, they can be inhaled, potentially causing respiratory damage. So, let’s talk about what causes soot, the types, the potential dangers, and how you can clean it.

What Causes Soot?

Soot is caused by materials not being completely burned during a fire. This results in extremely small particles made of wood, foam, plastic, oils, and a variety of other materials remaining on surfaces or in the air. Soot can also come from furnaces or boilers.

Kinds of Soot

There are different kinds of soot; it really depends on the type of fire it comes from. We will discuss the different kinds of soot and where they come from.

  • Oily Soot: This type of soot comes from furnaces or boilers; they can use gas or oil. What causes the soot is a small explosion in the furnace or boiler caused by the ignition of excess fuel. This primarily happens in poorly maintained furnaces.
  • Dry Soot: Dry soot is the result of a very hot fire. The soot contains natural materials and can cause more damage than the other types of soot. It also tends to get into cracks and be difficult to clean.
  • Protein Soot: This kind of soot occurs during cooking and is difficult to see. Cooking fires may produce this kind of soot. Protein soot has a pungent odor and tends to build up in kitchens and be difficult to remove.
  • Wet Soot: Wet soot is the result of low heat fires that are oxygen-starved. The soot has a high level of moisture and may contain oils, plastic, or rubber. This type of soot tends to smear and have a strong smell.

Is Soot Dangerous?

Soot particles can be toxic and cause numerous health problems such as respiratory issues, heart disease, and even cancer. You can’t easily avoid it once it’s in your house since it can be inhaled, ingested, or enter your body through your skin or eyes.


Soot can also damage your household goods. It is corrosive and will cause your goods to deteriorate. It can even etch its way into your mirrors and glass, causing damage.

Cleaning Up Soot

Exposure to soot can cause serious health problems, so cleaning it is best left to professionals. However, if you choose to try and clean up soot in a small area, there are some things you can do that may be effective.

  • Wear protective clothing. Before starting to clean, be sure to wear an N 95 particulate respirator, gloves, and protective clothing.
  • Ventilate the area and turn off your HVAC system: This will ventilate your home and keep your air conditioner from spreading the soot.
  • Cover the furniture: Be sure to cover up any furniture or other items in the room that you are not cleaning.
  • Vacuum the area. Vacuum the area with a High-Efficiency Particulate (HEPA) vacuum with a brush attachment to remove any loose soot.
  • Use a dry-cleaning sponge. Clean the area with a dry-cleaning sponge starting from the top of the area and working down. Don’t use any water as it may spread the soot. If your sponge gets dirty, turn it over or replace it. Don’t wash it out with water. Wipe gently so as not to rub the soot into the surface.
  • Clean with a degreaser. Wipe the area with a degreaser making sure to rinse out your cleaning cloth frequently. After you clean the area, wipe it down with a clean cloth and clean water. Then wipe the area with a clean, dry cloth, and let it dry.
  • Clean or replace your air conditioning filters: Soot may have accumulated on your filters and could continue to spread through your home. So, be sure to clean or replace your filters.


Fires are terrifying and damaging enough, but the soot they leave behind can be near as threatening to your health if left untreated. Though it’s possible to clean minor damage yourself, for your own safety as well as anyone else in the building, consider getting help from a professional.

Contact Us

For more information on soot damage or for professional fire restoration, call us at 1-800-847-0114 or connect with us on Facebook.