American Cleaning Institute - For Better Living

Soot-free for Santa

Ways to Get Rid of Smoke and Soot

santa boysWhether it's getting that chimney clean for Santa's descent, sitting by a cozy fire to welcome in the New Year or using candles to warm up your holiday décor, smoke and soot can be unwanted guests in your home during the holiday season. Nancy Bock, Vice President of Consumer Education at the American Cleaning Institute®, offers some suggestions for keeping the soot from getting under foot.

Preseason Chimney Check
To keep Santa's suit clean and keep your home and family safe, your chimney should be inspected yearly. The National Fire Protection Association Standard 211 says, "Chimneys, fireplaces and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary." This is the national safety standard; it takes into account the fact that even if you don't use your chimney much, animals may build nests in the flue or there may be other types of deterioration that make the chimney unsafe to use. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), a nonprofit, educational organization dedicated to chimney and venting system safety, has a website that includes a list of CSIA-certified professionals. To find one near you, visit

Smoke Out the Smoke
If you forget to open the damper, smoke will quickly billow out into the room. Opening the damper will stop the problem, but the smoke odor will probably linger. Open up the windows and let the fresh air in. Vacuum the floor and carpet, window treatments, upholstery and lamp shades. Then spray fabric refresher on all the fabric surfaces. Smooth surfaces, such as mirrors, floors and wood furniture, are repositories for smoke residue. Use a surface-appropriate cleaner to get rid of the residue. Don't forget to clean the light bulbs when they are cool. They not only attract smoke, but every time they are turned on, the heat releases the smoke odor back into the air.

Candles in the Wind
Candle groupings are lovely to look at, but they can create an excess of soot that clings to surrounding surfaces. Candles that are subject to a draft, that are too close to an adjoining surface, or that didn't have the wicks trimmed before lighting can also create soot problems. Don't try to rub the soot off, as that may smear it around, causing bigger problems. Instead, the first step is to vacuum off the surface soot, using the brush attachment. If candle soot is a frequent problem, invest in a dry-cleaning sponge. Made of natural rubber, this chemically impregnated sponge scoops up and absorbs dirt and soot into its pores. It is used dry. Do not wring out the sponge with water or clean it, as this will ruin the chemical treatment. If you don't own a sponge or if any residue remains after using the sponge, clean the area with a surface-appropriate cleaner. Most candles use paraffin wax, which is made from petroleum products and emits soot. To avoid this problem in the future, consider using candles made from soy or beeswax.


Removing Soot and Smoke Odor from Fabrics


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