Smoke/soot is the product of incomplete combustion. It is made visible through the presence of small particles of carbon.
The fire that causes smoke and soot is non-discriminatory in that it will burn anything which can be burned including your home, your clothing and all of your personal belongings. Besides the residue that is created through a fire, when there is a structure that has a variety of different flammable materials such as particle board, wood, plastic laminate, vinyl, etc., the combination of these substances can produce very complex odors.
Three Categories of Smoke Residue and Odors
Smoke odors can normally be classified into three categories. These categories also need customized deodorization to restore them:
Protein Odors These are produced from burned meat, flesh and poultry. The residue is identifiable by a brownish or yellowish color and has a greasy texture. Odor removal and deodorization usually entails a complete cleaning of the affected surfaces.
Natural Substance Odors Natural burned substances include paper, wood, jute, cork, feathers and wool, anything that has a plant or animal hair source. Identification is made through a gray/black residue that has a dry, powdery consistency.
Synthetic Substance Odors Synthetic (man-made) burned substances encompass burned plastics and textiles. Residues from these substances are black in color and smudge easily since they come from petroleum-based sources. Burned synthetic residue can create smoke webs visible where walls and corners meet the ceiling and in streamers hanging from curtain rods. These smoke webs are called soot tags.
NOTE: Soot tags are often misidentified as “spider webs” which became visible because of the smoke/soot residue.
Five Factors Which Influence Smoke
There are five factors which influence smoke and can affect the related surfaces:
1. Heat Warmed or heated air rises and migrates to cold areas such as outside walls and closets. Heat causes pores in surfaces to expand which then readily accepts the smoke residue and odor.
2. Pressure The energy created by the fire produces heat which enables the smoke to penetrate into the most minute cracks and crevices.
3. Impingement Burned objects can hit another surface with sufficient velocity so that it will impinge (or splatter) and remain on the surface. Think of candle wax.
4. Magnetism Smoke is attracted to metal surfaces such as plumbing pipes, nail heads and metal coat hangers.
5. Ionization Opposites attract so smoke webs may form on structural surfaces. Plastic bags on clothing from dry cleaners retain electrical charges which attract smoke. More smoke residue can be found on clothing inside plastic bags in a closet as opposed to unprotected clothing!