Most of us do not allow smoking in our place of business or home and I think NONE of us would allow anyone to light a quart of motor oil in our place of business or home. Burning motor oil is not that much different from burning candles from a health, soot, and indoor air quality perspective. Of course burning motor oil doesn’t provide the romantic atmosphere, stress release, and fragrances of candles.
Soot is a product of incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels, usually petroleum-based. The soot not only discolors walls and furniture, it can also contaminate your home’s ventilation system. Although the problems resulting from burning candles can be minimized, the basic problem is that candle flames must contain soot or they will not be bright. Soot is the source of the bright white/yellow light that candles emit. A flame without soot will burn blue, like the flame from a gas stove. If candles are not properly manufactured, or contain too high quantities of fragranced oils that are not suitable for combustion, the result could be an indoor air quality problem. Some core wicks on imported candles have even been found to be made of lead.
Experts report that computers have been ruined, and in some instances there is so much soot generated from burning candles that it is causing severe damage to many homes and furnishings, and homeowners are mistakenly suing their builders and HVAC companies for improper installation of the systems.
Unfortunately, soot from candles can also be 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, many scented and aromatherapy candles are made with paraffin and synthetic 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
While there are some steps you can take to reduce the amount of soot produced by candles, soot buildup is difficult to remove. Polar solvents provide the best remedy. For hard plastic surfaces, rubbing alcohol can be used, although “ghosting” may result. This ghosting effect, which is typical on many plastic surfaces, is caused by the smallest particles that can’t be removed.
Consult cleaning services specializing in fire restoration for cleaning other surfaces and the HVAC system.
Doug Long, ASCS
Power Vac America, Inc.
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