Black Soot: Bane of Household Fabrics

A History of Black Soot

Before modern marvels like the light bulb and central heating, homes were plagued for centuries by black soot from open flames. Candles, oil lamps, fireplaces – they all spew microscopic carbon particles, easily carried along on even the most feeble air currents.

The problem reached critical mass during the industrial revolution when outdoor air quality, too, was threatened by soot-belching factories and locomotives. Just as dirt found its way into homes during the Dust Bowl, Londoners learned that “the black” knew no barriers.

The soot hangs on the curtains, the books and the little cracks of the ceiling; and the ladies wonder how it is that they cannot keep their finger ends clean.”   – Dirty Old London: The Victorian Fight Against Filth

As they had for millennia, wool and linen remained the most widely used textiles of the time. With its loose weave and high absorbency, linen, especially, trapped the tiny black particles like a filter feeding sea fern traps plankton. Hopelessly locked in its fibers, as much as twenty percent of the stuff defied attempts at removal.

Times Changed, Black Soot Remained

Air quality standards and environmental regulations have drastically reduced the amount of black soot in our lives. But it hasn’t disappeared from the home, completely.

The warm, rosy glow of candles is an irresistible diversion to some, who often do not realize that even modern fabric blends with stain resistant properties can be tainted by their emissions.

As stated in an article by BEC Engineering, a leader in indoor air quality services, certain widely available candles can produce as much as 100 times more black soot that others. These include aromatic varieties poured into glass or ceramic containers, candles containing unsaturated hydrocarbons (most soft wax varieties), and any candle placed in an air draft caused by a fan, air conditioning vent, open window or other source.

In addition to avoiding the foregoing, the article goes on to suggest that users consider burning candles with thin, braided wicks trimmed to ¼” before each use. Further, they should be snuffed after an hour and allowed to cool before re-use.

Other sources claim that candles made with bee’s wax, or vegetable oils produce significantly less black soot than those with petroleum bases. It is, however, important to remember that all candles produce some black soot, a natural byproduct of the incomplete combustion that occurs in a yellow flame.

Black soot, DURING and AFTER removal
Black soot, DURING and AFTER removal

What We Can Do for You

Thankfully, ADVANCED ON-SITE‘s exclusive cleaning process is capable of removing black soot from draperies and shades, where they’re often deposited most heavily through a process called convection. Still, one should be aware that there can be no guarantee of complete removal from certain materials such as those found in Graber Crystal Pleat® honeycomb shades and the vertical vanes of Luminette® shadings by Hunter Douglas.

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