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Getting Rid of Candle Soot

Getting Rid of Candle Soot

I live in an apartment in Georgia. My walls are covered in soot. If I take a rag and wipe any wall in my apartment it comes back completely black. I was told after the apartment’s vents and filters were checked by management that it is being caused by cigarette smoke and burning candles. I do not do either in excess and cannot believe that the soot is being caused by either. Have you ever heard of this? Does it sound like a health hazard, and do you have any suggestions for cleaning after I have repainted the apartment?

Unfortunately, you have unwittingly stumbled upon an emerging and serious air quality concern: soot from candles. The major culprits are scented and aromatherapy candles. I came across this problem because a friend’s office was covered in soot after burning an aromatherapy candle, and his computer had to be completely overhauled because of soot damage! One expert told me he was lucky his computer was not ruined. There is so much soot generated from some burning candles that it is causing severe damage to many homes and furnishings, and homeowners are mistakenly suing their builders, furnace and H/VAC companies for improper installation of the systems.

Unfortunately, soot from candles can also be very toxic. Breathing soot is not recommended at all. The soot particles can travel deep into the lungs. Those with asthma, lung or heart disease are particularly vulnerable. To make matters worse, most scented and aromatherapy candles are made with paraffin and fragrance oils. Paraffin is a petroleum product—a byproduct of oil refining—and most fragrance oils used for candle making are petroleum-based synthetics. The soot from these materials can contain carcinogens, neurotoxins and reproductive toxins.Testing and air chamber analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency has found the following compounds, in significant quantity, in a random group of over 30 candles tested.

  • Acetone
  • Benzene
  • Trichlorofluoromethane
  • Carbon disulfide
  • 2- Butanone
  • 1, 1, 1-Trichloroethane
  • Carbon tetrachloride
  • Carbon Black (soot) Particulate Matter <2.5 microns
  • Trichloroethene
  • Tetrachloroethene
  • Toluene
  • Chlorobenzene
  • Ethylbenzene
  • Styrene
  • Xylene
  • Phenol
  • Cresol
  • Cyclopentene
  • Lead
  • Lead (Inorganic Airborne Contaminant)

Besides these chemicals, Kaiss K. Al-Ahmady, Ph.D., P.E., of Indoor Air Solutions, Inc. of Tampa Florida, found in testing of over 20 candles, that 30 percent of the metal wire wicks used in some candles can contained lead.

The reason scented and aromatherapy candles are the usual culprits is because the fragrance oils are unsaturated hydrocarbons and they soften the wax so that it does not burn cleanly. Container candles are even worse since the oxygen necessary for a clean burn does not reach the flame properly.

After reading about soot, I am almost ready to give up my unscented 100 percent beeswax candles with no wire in their wicks! Diffusers are a safer way to practice aromatherapy, and they are available in most health food stores.

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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on anniebbond.com, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.

10 comments

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8:10PM PST on Feb 24, 2012

thnx for this

9:55AM PDT on Oct 17, 2011

Thanks!~

9:35PM PDT on May 11, 2011

If you love candles but are having a problem with the soot, you should try Scentsy. It's flameless, so there's no soot. They also sell an off brand at walmart, but there aren't as many scents, and IMO the warmers are ugly.

4:41PM PST on Jan 6, 2010

just makes you want say yuck

6:20AM PDT on Oct 16, 2009

You can get soot with any candle if the flame is too high. Keeping the wicks at 1/2 inch or less will generally keep this from happening.

The only place I have a problem with soot is the bathroom, where I have a candle burning all the time. I gave up on cheap candles because they coat the tub wall and toilet with soot.

The only thing that removes the soot from the tub wall is an abraisive cleanser like bab-o or barkeepers friend.

Luckily, all the newer candles by reputable companies are coming out in vegetable and soy waxes.

The best is Illuminations, and they have stores but are also on line, and they use food grade wax.

12:02PM PDT on Sep 1, 2008

We recently cleaned our vinyl plantation shutters coated with black soot, we presume, was caused by candles. The cleaning process wasn't 100% effective by using Simple Green, 409 and other liquids as suggested by the manufacturer. We've noticed black soot on our walls and ceiling. Wondering if others may have experienced the same problem?

11:57AM PDT on Sep 1, 2008

Our vinyl plantation shutters were covered with black soot, we presume, by burning candles. It took us several days to clean them and not very successfully at that. Any suggestions on how to remove all the soot, we've tried Simple Green, 409, and other liquid cleaners but not very happy with the results. KAR

12:15AM PST on Feb 15, 2008

I wish I had read this a month ago.I had one
of those tall candles in the glass bottle that
I burned overnight. When I woke up it was like toxic fumes in the room. The memory candles made in Israel burn very clean and can be found in the grocery store.

12:08AM PDT on Jul 14, 2007

I thought beeswax didn't have the soot problem - Annie?

9:44AM PDT on Jun 8, 2007

I've heard that soy candles are safer. Is this true?

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