Soot is sneaky! When breathed in, it can bypass the immune defense system and go straight to the lungs.
Our Contents Pros have demonstrated numerous effective methods for removing it both from the air and from porous and non-porous surfaces – everything from HEPA-filtered air scrubbers to lasers that evaporate the carbon particles from ultra-fragile surfaces.
But how can they find which areas of a home have been impacted by the soot when as little as 10% of the walls, chairs, tables, ceilings, bedding, clothing, televisions, etc., are coated with visible soot (the rest is covered in a film, with grains so refined that they are virtually invisible to the naked eye).
Many of our readers will remember the innovative technique used by restoration consultant Barb Jackson CR, in which she would go to a room in a home where a fire had occurred, but the soot was not readily apparent. There she would swipe a white, microfiber cloth across a hard surface, then examine the results under a small, pocket-sized microscope.
Under magnification, carbon particles look very different from ordinary dust. This simple method has saved adjusters, homeowners, and contractors significant sums by assuring all affected rooms are cleaned and deodorized – not just the ones where smoke damage is evident.
Other contractors have established their methods of discovering unseen smoke residue. We recently saw a demonstration in which a frontline worker stroked a clean, unused soot sponge across a couch where no noticeable smudges or stains could be seen – only to hold the sponge up to the camera displaying a substantial amount of soot across its surface.
When all else fails, most professionals agree that the human nose is an excellent judge of whether no soot has impregnated a surface, even when it cannot be seen.
One physician writing for the NIH explained that we humans can even detect smoke odors through an N95 mask (the one created to filter out Covid-19).