Application Technology - What is soot? - CEBE Reinigungschemie GmbH

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Application Technology - What is soot?

During a fire there is development of heat and light. A fire starts when there is a combustible material, sufficient oxygen, either in the air or supplied by an oxidizing material, and these are exposed to a heat source.

This leads to the fact that consequently a fire is extinguished when one deprives it of heat, oxygen, or combustible material.

What exactly do we mean when we say burning or combustion?

The efficiency with which a material burns is variable. A propane burner, for example, will burn the propane cleanly without any odour or residue. However, most materials do not burn in this manner.

When a fire does not have enough oxygen at its disposal, this may lead to either burning, smoldering or pyrolysis and a great number of chemical compounds are formed, many of which are toxic.

Incomplete combustion of carbon leads to the formation of carbon monoxide, nitrogen may help form cyanide, ammonia or nitrogen oxide.

Chlorine (PVC) and other halogens (such as bromine or fluorine) may lead to the formation of hydrochloric acid, phosgene, dioxine, chloromethane or bromomethane.

During pyrolysis (chemical transformation by means of heat) of combustible materials a large amount of aliphatic (acetylene, for example) and/or aromatic (benzene, for example) compounds may be formed. Heavy carbon compounds condense as tar.

The presence of sulphur can lead to the formation of sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide or thiols. Thiols are often the cause of the typical after fire odour as they are willingly absorbed by most surfaces/materials.

The incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons may lead to the formation of aldehydes (formaldehyde, for example), ketones (methy ethyl ketone, for example), alcohols (phenol, for example) , and carboxylic acids (acetic acid, for example).

All these complicated chemical names may be a bit confusing, however, we may conclude one thing from them: the names are complex and may sound dangerous. It is the same with soot: a complex material which is often toxic.

Soot is composed  of very fine particles (aerosol dust) and therefore has the property of being able to evade the human body's protective barriers therefore penetrating deep into the lungs. This may lead to extensive health damage and even cause lung cancer.

It is therefore important to make a note of the fact that soot is often toxic and invisible. Taking the right precautions when doing restoration is of paramount importance.

It is just as important that the soot is removed completely during restoration procedures. This means that the right products should be used, such as our Alkaline Smoke and Soot Cleaner, Smoke Clean, Desaster Clean, Cebazym, as well as the right accessories such as our Chloride Quick Test or our Chemical Sponge. It is also vital to use a  HEPA vacuum when mechanically removing soot in order to avoid spreading it even further during the vacuum process.
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