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How To Handle Candle Soot Stains

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Do you love the look and smell of scented candles in the winter? They can provide a lovely atmosphere, especially when it's cold and dark outside. Unfortunately, they can also leave ugly soot stains on the walls and ceilings. If you try to clean them the wrong way, you'll end up making the stain a permanent part of the decor. Here's how to tackle it.

Cleaning Soot From A Plaster Wall Or Flat Paint

You will need:

  • rubber gloves
  • a face mask
  • a fan
  • rubbing alcohol or paint thinner
  • regular sponges
  • chemical dry cleaning sponges (if desired)

Do not use water based cleaners on plaster walls, because the soot will permanently set into the plaster. You'll have a similar problem if the surface that you're cleaning is painted with flat paint.

If the plaster is smooth, you may have success with the chemical cleaning sponges for smoke, but they can be largely ineffective if the plaster has a nubby or rough texture.

For those reasons, your best course of action is to use either rubbing alcohol or paint thinner and cleaning sponges. Because they are caustic materials, you want to keep the fan running to ventilate the area, and wear gloves and a mask while working. 

Start by applying the rubbing alcohol and paint thinner to the cleaning sponges and rub the soot in small, concentric circles. You may have to clean areas more than once and it's good to switch sponges out often. (You can wash the sponges with ordinary dish soap and let them dry in between use.)

Cleaning Soot From Drywall, Glossy or Semi-Gloss Paint

You will need:

  • rubber gloves
  • a face mask
  • a fan 
  • a gallon bucket
  • warm water
  • trisodium phosphate
  • cleaning sponges

Trisodium phosphate cleaner (TSP) is also a caustic substance, so you again need to work with gloves and a mask, and a fan is important to keep the room well-ventilated.

Mix the TSP with the water according to directions and dip the sponge into the solution. It's very important that you ring the majority of the water out of the sponge, however, before you apply it to the wall. Otherwise, you can damage your drywall. The water can also run down into the baseboards or into floorboards and start mold growing, which will compound your problems.

You don't have to work in small circles when cleaning this way, but you should still rinse out sponges and change your TSP and water solution frequently to keep from putting soot back on the walls. Let the walls dry to the touch between attempts to clean off the soot.

If your attempts to clean the space don't work, you can prime and paint, but make sure that you buy a primer that is designed to retard smoke stains. Otherwise, the soot will seep through. 

If you don't want to tackle the soot stains yourself, contact a company that specializes in handling fire damage and soot stains. If the stains are large, or there's a significant soot odor, you may find that an expert's care is well worth the cost!