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Posted by Cathy on February 2nd, 2000 05:26 PM
In reply to BLACK STAINS ON WALLS FROM ELECTRIC HEAT by FUD on February 1st, 2000 10:03 PM [Go to top of thread]

It's quite possible that candles are causing these stains on the walls of your home. If you want to eradicate the stains for good & be sure they don't come back in the Spring* follow these steps:

The only plan of action regarding the painted walls, ceilings & cabinets to restore their appearance & not have it bleed thru a few months later is the following in this order:

1. thoroughly wipe down walls with dry chemical sponge
2. then wipe down with TSP
3. paint a coat of Kilz - dry 2 days & check for any bleed-thru, esp. in corners, apply
2nd coat if & where needed.
4. paint as usual
THE HOME AGAIN [beeswax & some of the natural waxes don't give off the quantity of soot that some of the synthetic "Highly Scented" paraffin candles do]

* notice that you have to re-paint every Spring - this is so typical because of increased candle use over the holidays - I generally receive a surge of inquiries about sooting episodes from late Jan lasting till around Easter time.

Take a look at the following pictures & see if they don't resemble what has taken place in your home.

• PPT Slide # 5 - Sooting above Baseboard Heater [heavy]

• PPT Slide # 1 - Soot Outlines of Wall Studs [moderate]

Does it look familiar?

Here's a couple of good articles that do a good job of explaining this phenomenon & why it is just recently that we have begun to see so many of these cases emerge:

Black Soot Deposition…

Thermal Telegraphing

I have also included a forwarded copy of a message with additional info I just sent this morning to another person inquiring about the same thing.

Regards -
Cathy Flanders
IAQ List Manager & Moderator
Fax # 781-394-8288
Personal E-Mail:
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Candles and Indoor Air Quality
Homeowners Soot Damage > Discussion

Forwarded Message:
Subj: Soot Deposits
Date: 2/2/00 10:59:45 AM Central Standard Time
From: Rkfabf

Hello -

If your tenant will "loan" you a couple of the candles she has been burning there's a test you can do to determine & demonstrate how much soot the candles are throwing. For instructions go to:

Simple Test of Candles for Soot Emissions

This is a "test" I developed a couple of years ago & it can provide a homeowner or tenant very compelling evidence that the candles they have been burning are the cause of these mysterious soot deposits. I'm happy to say it has averted misdirected litigation for a number of contractors, builders and landlords and provided the evidence needed for property owners & tenants to recover either by their renters or homeowners insurance &/or the candle manufacturers.

If you would like to take a look at some photographs taken by an expert forensic laboratory measuring candle soot emissions go to:

Weckerling Scientific Laboratories Candle Soot Photographs

The filter shown in picture # 7 is an H/VAC filter that had only been in use for 14 days in a home that had a couple of candles burning for a few hours a day. Photograph # 9 is of the type of plates used in the test previously mentioned. The image on the left was in the room with 2 burning candles for approx 30 minutes, the image on right is a new plate.

Two more sites that have a lot of information are:

Candles and Indoor Air Quality

Homeowners Soot Damage Discussion

Lastly, don't be at all surprised if soot continues to accumulate for some time after the homeowner or tenant stops burning candles. The particles that are emitted from candles are extremely small, in the sub-micron range, this enables them to stay airborne for as long as a couple weeks & on average for about 10 days...longer if the home has forced air ventilation [ducts]. My suggestion is to open as many windows & doors as possible [weather permitting] & run the H/VAC on the "fan" setting in the on position rather than the auto setting. Replace the filter as soon as it begins to gray (can take only a few days sometimes) & I highly recommend the 3M "Filtrete" filters...the pleated medium used in these filters is charged & actually attracts & grabs the soot particles. They are more expensive than the regular pleated & fiberglass filters but they do such an exceptional job of capture they are worth every penny. DO NOT use an electrostatic filter, an ionizer air purifier, or any kind of ozone cleaning device - all of these will only further charge the particle & cause more rapid soot deposition in the home on surfaces & belongings.

Please let keep me posted on your findings, I have been accumulating data on this emerging problem for a few years & I'm quite interested in how frequently this is occurring, in what settings and effective measures to prevent or reduce property loss. In the meantime if you have any questions feel free to contact me.

Regards -
Cathy Flanders
IAQ List Manager & Moderator
Fax # 781-394-8288
Personal E-Mail:
IAQ List - Home
IAQ List - Links

Candles and Indoor Air Quality
Homeowners Soot Damage > Discussion

Posted by

I have a tenant in an apt with a wall mounted heater and have been having soot problems over the past several years. I have replaced the heater twice with new heaters. After one winter on the first heater, a small crack was noticed in the heat exchanger so I had it replaced and now after one winter, they are noticing soot again on the ceilings. The hvac guy noticed candles and he is attributing the problems to the candles. The tenant supposedly used the furnace for a week without the candles and they noticed more soot as opposed to a week using electric heaters and with candles burning. The hvac guy insists that it's the candles, the tenant is adament that the candles are not the problem. Any suggestions on how to determine where the source is coming from. Would appreciate any input.

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  • Soot by Barb McMullin  2/16/04 03:26 PM

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