Soot Sponges

Those insurance adjusters and agents who have seen fire clean up companies in action are probably quite familiar with the various styles of sponges they use to remove soot from ceilings, walls, counter tops, lamp shades, furniture and other surfaces. However, only a very few know the “insider secrets” that the trained professionals learn.

For example, most professionals categorize fires into four types, depending on what has burned. For our purposes, we will address just two-“fast” high oxygen fires or “slow” low-oxygen fires. A high oxygen fire usually involve such things as papers, books, cotton, clothing, wood and produces a flame that consumes these substances.

Low oxygen fires may involve plastics, oils, paints and other such “slow burning” substances. This type of fire smolders and gives off a thick, oily smoke that clings and stains.

Fire clean up professionals use specially manufactured sponges to remove soot and ash from walls, ceilings, counters, etc. and even a tool so simple can prove to be an outstanding instrument in the hands of a trained professional, or a debacle in the making for an untrained novice.
A fire clean up professional will use a “soot sponge” to remove soot and grit from a wall by making long, even strokes in one direction usually from top to bottom but he or she will only use such a device when cleaning the aftermath of a fast, high-oxygen fire. To do so with the clingy, “wet” soot from a slow, low oxygen fire, would produce long, black smears across the wall or ceiling as the untrained worker tries vainly to get the same results that he did with the “dry” soot. The sponge will quickly clog and a major re-cleaning will ensue. A real professional would never make such a “rookie mistake”.

Oddly enough, the very nature of the sponge makes it hard to clean and dry. Some pros have run them through an ultra-sonics system or cleaned them in a bucket of soapy water, but it takes days for them to dry properly, even in drying chambers.

Fresh sponges deliver the highest quality work, but in a “pinch” fire clean up professionals will use a razor blade or other cutting device to trim away the exterior of the sponge (the soot particulates do not penetrate very deeply). After removing the outer surface, they can be used to finish the job.