Removing soot from metal is daunting but something you can generally do on your own. While soot is primarily carbon, what you must clean may comprise other chemicals, tar, and potentially toxic residues of whatever was burnt, vaporized, and condensed. Wear protective gloves, mask, and glasses when removing soot from metal.
Most of the options in this guide are almost entirely DIY solutions. You may have to try more than one cleaning method if the specific condition demands. Read on to learn how to use each of the cleaning tools and techniques effectively to remove soot from metal.
You can use a soot sponge to wipe sooty metal. These sponges entail a dry cleaning method, so don’t moisten or wet them with any solvent.
Also, don’t scrub the soot or metal because scrubbing will smear and spread the soot. Instead, wipe or sweep the soot in one direction.
Some people cut the soot-ridden parts of the rubber sponges to continue using them in an uninterrupted cleaning session instead of getting another fresh one and then dispose of the remnant.
A nylon brush is effective at removing moderately rigid soot. Unlike a soot sponge, it doesn’t absorb soot. However, the tough nylon bristles can clean the metal surface.
Use nylon brushes in the same wiping or sweeping motion as you would with a soot sponge.
You may consider multipurpose products such as the Konex Nylon Brush or Amazer Heavy Duty Scrub. Both are multipurpose cleaning brushes. The Konex brush is relatively easier to exert pressure while wiping, and the Amazer brush has a more comfortable grip.
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A lambswool duster is handy when you clean soot from metal surfaces that aren’t conveniently accessible.
The Green Vivid Lambswool Duster is 18.9 inches long with a wooden handle and a leather strap to conveniently hang it where you want.
The lambswool head can fluff or dim and clean along edges, corners, or quaint contours of the metal objects you have.
However, lambswool dusters have limitations. They aren’t very effective at removing stiff or rigid soot.
You can use microfiber cloths for both dry and wet cleaning methods. You may use a dry piece to get rid of loose or dusty soot, and use another piece with water and a cleaning agent to remove relatively rigid soot.
You don’t have to choose plush microfiber cloths unless you’re cleaning painted metal and there’s a risk of some peeling. A reusable variety such as the KTT Microfiber Cloths is suitable.
However, like other dry cleaning methods, microfiber cloth may partially remove rigid soot from metal.
A powerful vacuum cleaner with HEPA filters can extract much of the soot from metal surfaces. Regular vacuums may or may not be effective, though.
You need a product such as the Vacmaster Pro Vacuum. The 2-stage industrial motor, 99.97% HEPA system efficiency for 0.3 microns particles, 10 feet hose, and wet and dry compatibility make the Vacmaster an effortless soot remover.
You need to combine one of the dry removal techniques with a cleaning agent or solution for rigid soot. Dish soap or regular detergent works in many cases.
Mix some dish soap in warm water. The quantities depend on how much soot you have to clean and the total surface area of the metal. Apply the cleaning solution to the target area and use a microfiber cloth or a nylon brush to remove soot.
Ideally, you should try to get rid of as much loose soot as possible before you begin wet cleaning. Excessive soot buildup may create an unmanageable mess when you subject it to moisture or water.
You may use standard white vinegar that has become an all-purpose cleaner in many homes. Distilled vinegar mixed with warm water can be as effective as dish soap or detergent, if not more.
Use equal proportions of vinegar and water, spray the mixture on the sooty metal, and clean it with a piece of microfiber cloth. Don’t use a soot sponge or lambswool duster in any wet cleaning method.
Like water, vinegar can make iron vulnerable to quicker rusting and may also leave some spots on aluminum.
However, since you’re dealing with rigid soot on metal, the vinegar mixed in water is unlikely to react much with the underlying metal.
Sodium bicarbonate or baking soda is so effective in cleaning metal that it’s used industrially for non-abrasive blasting.
Soda blasting is an eco-friendly and nonhazardous cleaning method, but you may have to call the experts for such an exercise at home.
An alternative is using a baking soda paste. You may use only baking soda and water, or add some dish soap to the mix, too. Here are the steps:
- Remove as much loose or removable soot as you can with a dry cleaning method.
- Make a dense paste of baking soda in water.
- Apply the paste on the sooty metal.
- Let the paste work for at least 1 hour.
- Remove the paste, and most of the soot will come off with it.
You may use a microfiber cloth, nylon brush, or dry soot sponge to remove the paste, but steel wool is more effective in this case.
Steel wool doesn’t have the absorption ability to be suitable as a standalone dry cleaning method for soot on metal. However, its abrasive effect is handy and impactful when you have to remove the baking soda paste along with soot.
At least four chemicals are effective on soot: trisodium phosphate, borax, ammonia, and hydrogen peroxide. Most of these can also clean other materials, such as wood, fabric, and wall.
You may use a combination of some washing soda and trisodium phosphate in water. You may replace the latter with borax or ammonia.
Some states have banned the use of phosphate in a few consumer products, but you may shop for trisodium phosphate online or at hardware stores. Borax and ammonia are available in most nationwide stores.
If none of the three is available, you can use hydrogen peroxide with regular detergent and water. You may also mix some isopropyl alcohol in the cleaning solution. Here are the steps:
- Begin with 2 to 3 tablespoons (30 to 45 ml) of trisodium phosphate or ammonia for 1 gallon of water to remove rigid soot from metal.
- Don’t increase the proportion unless necessary. Hydrogen peroxide may work at a 3% concentration. Increase the proportion if required.
- Always wear protective clothing and gear while dealing with chemical solutions.
Note: Using washcloths or rags instead of microfiber for wet cleaning methods is more economical.
Soot cleaners are a readymade solution. Products available on Amazon such as the Meeco’s Liquid Soot Remover can be used on different materials, including metal, stone, and tile.
A typical challenge is deciding how much of any soot cleaner you may need for your mission. Also, some of these soot cleaners require you to prep the sooty metal surface before using the solution. Hence, the somewhat tedious dry cleaning methods in this guide are still necessary.
Soot is sticky. Prolonged suit buildup on a metal surface needs an abrasive cleaning method.
Besides, bare metal oxidizes and rusts in time, which complicates any soot cleaning process.
A scraper is suitable for hard and sturdy metal objects. Standard scrapers may work on flat or broad metal surfaces. Grills and similar objects can be cleaned with tools such as the Kitchen Perfection Grill Brush, which can be used as 2 in 1 grill brush and scraper.
The last but unavoidable option if all methods fail is contacting a local soot removal service. In some cases, calling an expert should be the first step, especially when the soot is due to a fire or other accident.
The pros have various industrial soot cleaning and removal techniques, including specialty equipment. They can opt for ultrasonic cleaning, sodium bicarbonate blasting, air scrubbing, and other comprehensive removal and restoration methods.
Soot is hazardous if inhaled or ingested. It can cause several diseases, including aggravated asthma, acute bronchitis, heart attack, and a few types of cancer.
Soot particulate matter can be as little as 0.1 microns, hence invisible to the human eye. You won’t know in real-time if you inadvertently get exposed to these loose particles in the air while cleaning any soot-laden object.
Exercise caution while cleaning and removing soot from metal. Wear protective gear at all times. Call an expert if you aren’t sure about safety while removing soot on your own.