If you have soot on your walls, you may be able to clean it by vacuuming, washing, rinsing, and scrubbing. Soot can appear in your home due to various reasons, such as constant cooking, burning candles without proper ventilation, or using a fireplace or wood stove. This sticky, black, fine powder clings to surfaces including walls, chimney interiors, fireplace bricks, and exhaust pipes. Over time, soot buildup can not only mar the appearance of your home but also pose health risks, making regular cleaning essential.

Cleaning Soot Off Surfaces in Your Home

Cleaning soot from various surfaces in your home is possible. With the right tools, a bit of patience, and some time, you can get the job done.

Equipment needed to clean soot:

  • Gloves (rubber)
  • Glasses to protect your eyes
  • Mask
  • Protective clothes
  • Drop cloth or tarp
  • A step stool or ladder
  • Bucket
  • Sponge
  • Cups and spoons for measuring
  • Microfiber cloths
  • A vacuum
  • A utility knife

Materials needed to clean soot:

  • Soot sponge
  • Trisodium phosphate (TSP) or TSP-PE (phosphate-free)
  • Dishwashing liquid with degreaser

Instructions to Clean Soot


When it comes to cleaning soot, it is important to follow all the outlined steps so you can effectively clean the area. Improper cleaning of soot covered surfaces can make the damage worse. If you are not sure if you can handle soot cleaning, it is best to call a professional.

Here are the steps to help you clean soot from your walls:

Wear Protective Gear

Before cleaning soot, make sure you wear the appropriate safety gear. This includes safety glasses and a mask to protect you from carbon particles. Rubber gloves are also essential to shield your hands from soot and any chemicals in the cleaning agents. Lastly, wear protective clothing to prevent your clothes from getting stained.

Cover Furniture and Carpets or Empty the Room

Since soot can quickly become airborne during cleaning, it may settle on your furniture or carpets. Therefore, it’s advisable to remove all furniture, accessories, and carpets from the room beforehand. Additionally, protect the room by covering surfaces with drop cloths and tarps to prevent soot accumulation.

Covering furniture

Properly Ventilate in the Room

While cleaning the soot, use circulating and venting fans to quickly expel soot particles from the room. After completing the cleaning process, replace the filter and clean the fans to eliminate any remaining particles.

Wall Vacuuming

If your vacuum has a dusting brush and a hose, use it to pick up soot particles. However, be very gentle as soot can smear. If you are vacuuming the wall, start at the top by holding the brush at least half an inch from the wall or ceiling surface to suck up the soot particles and dust. Try not to make direct contact with the wall as you can end up smearing the soot.

Please note: Make sure to stay safe while cleaning soot in your home. If the stains are located above your head, use a stable stepstool or ladder so you can get to them safely. Then work slowly and move the ladder around so you do not end up falling.

Use a Soot Sponge for Dry Cleaning

To clean soot off your walls, consider using a soot sponge. These specialized sponges, made from vulcanized rubber, are excellent at capturing and lifting soot from hard surfaces. Be aware that the sponge will quickly absorb soot and turn black. When this happens, switch to a clean side of the sponge. You can also use a knife to remove a thin layer of the sponge, revealing a fresh surface.

Always begin cleaning from the ceiling, then move to the top of the wall and work your way down. Use straight, parallel strokes that slightly overlap, and remember to wipe rather than scrub. The goal is to capture soot particles without smearing them. While the sponge may not eliminate all staining, it will effectively remove loose particles.

Use a Wet Cleaning Solution

trisodium phosphate in bottle , chemical in the laboratory and industry

For residual stains on your walls, the most effective product is Trisodium Phosphate (TSP), which excels at removing soot. While highly effective, it should be used sparingly, mixing only a small amount at a time as a last resort after exhausting other options. If TSP is unavailable, consider using a phosphate-free alternative (TSP-PF). Additionally, a mixture of dishwashing liquid containing a degreaser and water can also be effective. Here are the formulas for each option.

  • For Trisodium phosphate solution, mix two quarts of water and ½ cup of powdered trisodium phosphate. You can use a bucket to do so and stir it, so it mixes evenly.
  • For the Trisodium Phosphate (PT) phosphate free solution, make sure that you follow the directions on the label as you will be mixing it with water.
  • If you choose to use the degreasing dishwashing liquid solution, you just need to mix two quarts of water with two tablespoons of dishwashing liquid in a bucket and stir it so that it mixes well.

Please note: You should always use gloves when working with Trisodium Phosphate. No matter which solution you choose to use, make sure to follow these steps:

  • Start by washing your ceiling and walls with a sponge. Always make sure that you are continuously dipping it into the solution and wringing it so that it does not drip. You should start at the top of the ceiling and work your way down while rinsing and wringing the sponge out frequently. The water will turn black from the soot eventually so you will need to make a fresh cleaning solution frequently.
  • Rinse and dry all areas by dipping your clean sponge in fresh water so that your ceiling and walls are fully clean. You should be wringing your sponge frequently to keep it as clean as possible. Finally, you can dry your walls with a microfiber cloth. Please note: If you just cleaned your walls and you plan to paint them, you should always wait 24 hours before you start so that they can fully dry.
  • Once you’ve completed the previous steps, you can remove all the cloths and tarps and thoroughly vacuum the room. Make sure that you gently and carefully dispose of the dust in the vacuum so that you do not end up inhaling the soot particles from the air.

When is the right time to you clean soot off the walls?

It is always best to clean soot off the walls whenever you see it. You should not ignore soot as it can continue to spread and the materials affected are at higher risk of permanent damage if the soot is not cleaned up quickly.

If there is a minor amount of soot on your walls from a candle or another source, you can try removing the soot with the method outlined above. If there is a significant amount of soot in your home, removing it yourself can be dangerous and lead to more damage. For these situations, it is best to call our professionals for cleanup.

Professional Smoke Damage Cleanup

Call Top To Bottom Renovation 247 for professional fire damage repair

There does not have to be a fire for soot to affect your home as something as simple as cooking or burning a candle can cause some soot buildup. The steps discussed above can help you clean a minor amount of soot, but you should call our professionals if you have a major soot problem.

Our professionals at Top to Bottom Renovation can help safely and effectively clean up soot and smoke damage. Using advanced cleaning products, equipment, and methods, we will clean up candle soot and soot from other sources quickly and efficiently. If your home is affected by smoke and soot damage, make sure to give Top to Bottom Renovation a call today at (301) 579-8215.