How To Clean Candle Soot Stains And Keep Them Away Next Year

Posted on: 19 December 2014

There's something lovely and romantic about burning candles, and around the holidays many people add them to their homes for ambiance. Unfortunately, when it comes time to pack the holiday decor back up, you can find a sooty mess staining your walls and ceilings. Here's how to clean it up and prevent it from happening in the future.

Don't Reach For Your Usual Cleaner

Skip the commercial cleaning solutions. Many household cleaners have chemicals in them that react with the chemicals in the soot and will make the mess worse - if not impossible to clean. Plain soap and water won't cut through the oils in the soot, either, and will just smear the residue around. 

Instead, follow this procedure:

  • Vacuum the wall using a small hand vacuum or the upholstery attachments to remove loose pieces of soot and dirt.
  • Starting at the edges of the stain and working inward, using small circular motions, use a dry cleaning sponge (sometimes called a soot sponge) to rub the stain clean. 
  • While the sponges are supposed to be able to be washed and reused, a better option is to rub the sponge against a sheet of sandpaper from time to time in order to expose a clean surface. If you wash the sponge, you have to wait on it to dry before you're able to use it again, which can make your task a lot longer.
  • Mix a solution of 1/2 white vinegar and 1/2 warm water. Using a spray bottle, spray it lightly on the area you are cleaning and wipe with a soft cloth to remove any residue that's left once the majority has been cleaned.
  • If you still can't get the surface clean, purchase trisodium phosphate (TSP) from your local hardware store and mix it with warm water according to the directions on the package. Try cleaning the area again with a small, stiff brush. Leave this step as your "last resort," because it can damage your paint. The goal is to remove the soot without having to repaint the wall. You could also contact a fire damage restoration company for more assistance.

Prevent Major Damage

Constant use of scented candles can lead to property damage. Black soot deposits on walls, ceilings, fabric and HVAC systems from burning candles can damage your health and create a problem that requires expert help from fire restoration experts to fix.

The soot left behind after you burn candles is caused by the petrol base of the paraffin wax used in some candles. Holiday candles tend to be top offenders because they're marketed as inexpensive decorations. The wax doesn't burn cleanly. Worse, they often include low-quality fragrance oils that shouldn't be burned at all.

To avoid having massive soot stains in the future, buy unscented candles with a soy base, rather than paraffin. No matter what type of candle you use, make sure that you trim the candlewick to 1/4 of an inch before you burn it. Long wicks cause candle flames to flicker, throwing more soot into the air.

Also, make sure that you keep candles at least 8" away from the wall while you're burning them so that they're better ventilated. Good ventilation won't totally stop the soot, but it can keep it from concentrating into a big stain on the wall or ceiling.

Do you love the look of the candlelight but fear the reappearance of another soot stain? If you are willing to go a little modern, you can now purchase battery operated candles that imitate the flicker and ambiance of actual candles, without the danger of fire or soot-related damage.

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