What is Soot?

Soot is the common term for a type of particle pollution called PM 2.5—particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller. Such fine particles are even smaller than dust and mold particles, or approximately 1/30 of the size of a human hair.

It is comprised of a variety of pollutants, including chemicals, acids, metals, soils, and dust, which are suspended in the air after emission. Soot can come in solid, liquid, or gaseous (“aerosols”) states.1

What is puff back?

A puff back; just like it sounds is an explosion inside of the burner chamber of an oil furnace. This happens when an oil-burning furnace doesn’t ignite when it should. Oil vapors build up in the ignition chamber, causing an explosion when the igniter finally triggers. This explosion blows soot and other debris through the furnace’s exhaust system and into the heating system. This is then carried into the house. This can caused health issues to those living in the house and can cause smoke damage to the walls and surrounding areas. If the furnace is connected to a forced air heating system, the ducts can carry the puff back to every room of the house with an open vent.2

Warning Signs

Most oil burning furnaces give off warning signs that there’s a problem with the furnace. These are some warning signs of a problem, and an indicator that puff back could occur:

  • Black soot on the furnace, walls, or ceiling. This is an indicator that oil is burning improperly.
  • Noises such as those made by the combustion chamber while it’s burning, and may continue after the furnace is stopped.
  • Noises at the beginning of the burn cycle, such as a puff or bang. Also indicating that unburned oil has pooled and ignited.3

What Do I Do if I Experience a Puff Back?

If you happen to experience a puff back these are some steps you should immediately take:

  • Turn off the furnace and leave the house.Soot is made up of tiny particles of impure carbon, the result of incomplete combustion. These particles are so small that they stay lodged in your respiratory system. Don’t take chances.
  • Call someone in to look at your furnace and clean or repair it right away.
  • Get rid of any food that may have become contaminated.
  • Wash or dry-clean affected fabrics (curtains, bedding, clothing, etc.)4

How Can I Prevent Puff Back?

Preventing puff backs in oil-burning furnaces is largely a matter of performing regular maintenance on the furnace to keep it in proper operating condition. Oil-burning appliances should be cleaned and serviced once per year, ensuring that the service person opens the unit and inspects it for signs of problems or damage. Inspect the furnace periodically for signs of oil leaks, paying attention to any odd smells or soot in the furnace room. You should also look for debris in the flue vent connector which could also be a sign of problems with the furnace.4

What is the cleaning Process?

Professional cleaning services use alkaline degreasers and wet-cleaning methods to restore property damaged by puff back. In some cases they also use sealants to prevent re-contamination.5

How Will a Professional Service Help me?

The explosion from a puff back will leave your home’s interior covered in greasy, sticky, black soot. It’s recommended that you use a professional cleaning service to remove this residue. Store bought cleaning products aren’t strong enough to remove this residue, and you will often end up with a bigger mess.

How do I go about Getting Professional Cleaning?

If find that you’re in need of professional puff back cleaning, call us today (630)995-3516. We are available to help 24/7, also offering emergency cleaning services.

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