Soot is a residue that can be on any surface in your home. It can come from sources such as your furnace system, a fireplace, candles you burn, and other combustible sources that don’t burn clean.
Some soot is dangerous, such as from a fire or furnace puff-back. Skin contact with these types of soot should be avoided, as they may contain hydrocarbons that are classified as human carcinogens. Outdoor soot is even regulated by the EPA, classified as a criteria pollutant.
Soot is usually handled by restoration professionals as it is often a by-product of a disaster event, although it may be minor, such as extra smoke from a fireplace.
But many types of soot, such as those found in your kitchen or from candles (light soot) can be handled with regular restorative cleaning. Just be smart when deciding to clean soot from surfaces. Wearing appropriate personal protective equipment is a must when restoration pros do it, so keep that in mind and wear protective gloves, eye protection, and anything you need to keep the soot residues off of your skin and out of your lungs.
The first step with soot is to simply attempt dry wiping. It may come off the surface easily, especially if the surface is non-permeable. You will still need to wet clean that surface to remove final residue.
Most likely, the soot needs to be cleaned with hot water and detergent, since it is often greasy. Applying some detergent solution and allowing approximately 10 minutes of dwell time should loosen the soot and you can wipe it away. There are also special cleaning products for soot-type greasy soils. The same cleaning principles would apply.
But if the soot is on a vertical surface, your approach needs to be more careful. Clean from the bottom and move up, just a few inches at a time. If you start at the top and work down, any wet residue that runs down the wall may create permanent stains.
If, after cleaning, soot stains remain, it may be time to consider painting or resurfacing.