Do Your Walls have Ghosting aka Soot Stains?

Soot Stains - Chimney Sweep AtlantaWhen walls and ceilings have soot stains, also known as ghosting, it may not be apparent until the problem has become a difficult one to resolve. There have been many studies about the perplexing problem of ghosting, but so far there is no simple or affordable way to pinpoint the specific cause. For example, even if you use a fireplace regularly, the fireplace may not be the cause of soot stains in your home. Removing the black streaks becomes more challenging the longer the deposits continue. One way to recognize ghosting is by moving pictures on the wall; if you can detect a black stain around the frames, it means your home has ghosting.

Researchers agree on various sources of the particles which end up settling throughout a home on walls, carpeting, ceilings, and furnishings. The primary causes are: soot, dirt, and mold. In this article, soot stains are addressed.

Soot, which is made up of small carbon particles, is a byproduct of incomplete combustion of a material that is carbon-based. Some of the sources of soot include:

  • Fireplaces
  • Candles
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Vehicle exhaust from an attached garage
  • Unvented heating appliances such as kitchen ranges, clothes dryers, and space heaters
  • Vented heating appliances, such as fireplaces, which experience venting failure
  • Contaminants in the environment, such as dirt, dust, and cooking oils
  • Sources that are outside, such as factories

There are ways to prevent or reduce the incomplete combustion which produces soot. For instance, if you keep pilots and burners properly adjusted and cleaned, the amount of soot produced will be reduced. Higher levels of soot are produced by combustion that is uncontrolled, such as candles, an open fireplace, and smoking tobacco.

There are certain situations which result in incomplete combustion and therefore ghosting, including:

  • Artificial logs incorrectly placed in a gas fireplace, causing flames to impinge on a cold surface.
  • Gas pressure that is either too low, too high, or intermittent.
  • The air flow on a flame is disturbed, such as when a fan blows on a burner.
  • If there is an inadequate amount of oxygen in a small room.

Soot particles, like 99% of indoor air particles, are too small to be detected with the naked eye. The tiny particles are extremely slow about settling, and air molecules cause them to bump into each other, disrupting their movement. It is not unusual for soot to travel a long distance from the source before settling onto a wall or the ceiling or furnishing.

The chimney system must be properly designed and maintained to avoid causing ghosting in your home through downdrafting. The chimney needs to be the proper size and height, have the proper rise, be made with the correct material, and be free of obstruction. The venting system should be located where it can work properly in any type of weather condition, such as in spite of winds, humidity, icing, and temperature.

A common cause of downdrafts is depressurization caused by exhaust fans, attic bypasses, fireplaces, and wind. Downdrafting is a prevalent problem that frequently causes soot deposits to accumulate in a home.

Removing Soot StainsCandles are also frequently the cause of soot stains. Here are some tips to reduce the problem with candles:

  • Extinguish a candle using a snuffer because more soot is produced when you blow a candle out.
  • Don’t burn candles made of paraffin wax.
  • Trim candle wicks to ¼ inch.

Professional cleaning products are available which can remove soot stains from furnishings, carpeting, and walls. In serious cases, it may be necessary to get the help of a professional cleaning team. In the worst case scenario, carpeting and furnishings will need to be replaced and the walls will need to be repainted.

Contact our chimney professionals for help identifying what the source may be of ghosting in your home.

Chimney Solutions, Inc.
1155 McFarland 400 Drive, Alpharetta GA 30004
Office 770-771-5501

Chimney Sweep / Chimney Repairs / Chimney Liners / Fireplace & Stove Service
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