Furnace Puffbacks: What Should You Do After the Soot Strikes?

A furnace puffback is a sign that it’s time to call a repairman to fix your malfunctioning heating system.

That’s the easy part.

The real problem comes with the aftermath. Cleaning up the soot and streaks that accumulate on every surface after furnace puffbacks is a challenging process, and it’s not something you should undertake on your own without professional cleaning and restoration experience. This is something that is extremely difficult to DIY, because you could be doing more harm than good.

Why Can’t You Clean the Soot Yourself?

We’re not talking about dust or another fine, powdery substance. Soot from furnaces is black, sticky, and includes a mixture of oil that is very difficult to remove from any surface. Soot can cover an enormous area after being released in a furnace puffback. It gets everywhere. It can even spread through the duct work into every corner of your home, including inside closets, behind closed doors, and inside drawers. In extreme cases, the amount of soot causes people to have to leave their homes until the damage has been professionally cleaned.

What Steps Should You Take?

1. Assess the situation and understand how much damage was done. If the puffback was really bad, explore every area of your house and look for signs of damage, including furniture and clothing.

2. Report the damage to your insurance company—often this kind of situation is covered under most policies.

3. Call a trained HVAC technician to repair the malfunctioning heating system.

4. Call a professional restoration company to perform the actual cleanup. Again, don’t try to start this process yourself. The pros have the proper tools and cleaning agents to effectively remove all traces of soot from your home. They will also be able to decontaminate and deodorize the area if needed.

5. Understand that, while the methods used by the restoration company are extremely effective at removing the soot and odor, they may be aggressive and your structure may need some additional repair or restoration to return it to its pre-loss condition.

Experiencing a puffback can be upsetting for homeowners, and the first reaction may be to try cleaning up the aftermath on your own, but that could just end up causing more damage if you don’t have the proper tools and techniques. If a puffback occurs in your home, contact the professionals and get the situation taken care of the right way.

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