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Fine Black Soot
updated: Feb 11, 2013, 5:00 PM

By Edhat Subscriber

The insides of my apartment windows and sliding doors accumulate a fine black soot. If you take a tissue and wipe the glass, there is a very black, fine dust. Does anyone know what this might be, or where I could have it tested? There are no smokers in the household and no neighbors smoke. I occasionally burn beeswax candles but there is dust even when I don't. This is not the usual dust. Thanks for any info you can provide!

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 373392 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 05:03 PM

Anyone smoke pot? You would be amazed at what a mess it makes of your walls.


 COMMENT 373396P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 05:05 PM

Or your lungs.

No smoking here, but we also have alot of ash that is left over from the fires a few years back.


 COMMENT 373399 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 05:10 PM

Or if you live near the hyway or aps or any other main drag the soot from car tires and engines is amazing how much of it there is also thre ash from the fires every big wind seems to stir up more and more even afterr all this time..


 COMMENT 373400 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 05:10 PM

You may want to have your heater checked; we did a year ago and apparently it was soot from the heater and could be dangerous.


 COMMENT 373406 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 05:23 PM

I bet it is not soot, but black mold. It is common, especially on the Mesa, beach or any cool moist environment.


 COMMENT 373407 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 05:23 PM

It could be soot from your candles. Any kind of candle can cause this. It's mainly from the wax, but sometimes from a cheaply made wick.

If it's there when your candles aren't burned (and I mean for days on end without lighting a single candle) it's likely mold.

Ash from fires that happened four years ago is incredibly unlikely unless you haven't cleaned in four years.


 ROGER DODGER agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 05:24 PM

I live next to the freeway and tracks get alot of that.


 COMMENT 373416 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 05:39 PM



 COMMENT 373419 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 05:49 PM

When I worked downtown there was always a layer of that fine black grit over everything in my office. You dust it off and it's back in a few hours. I wrote it off to cars, etc., on State Street. Surprisingly, I've never noticed this at my home on the upper Westside.


 COMMENT 373421P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 05:52 PM

I have had that in a house and it was black mold. I swore the wall must have once burned, because the black looked like charred residue. It was mold.
Not sure where you get it tested...maybe call UCSB?


 COMMENT 373422 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 05:56 PM

My guess would be ash and soot from all our fires, which builds up on the screens to windows and sliding doors. Pop the screens off, wash them w/ soapy water and see if it helps. Good luck!!


 COMMENT 373432 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 06:05 PM

She said tested, in other words she wants to sue her landlord to get free rent. Try turning on the bathroom fan more often and crack a window once in a while.


 COMMENT 373437 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 06:08 PM

Mold on the cool condensation of the windows. Clean them and you're fine.


 COMMENT 373449 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 06:36 PM

If you want to know if it's mold spray freshly opened hydrogen peroxide on the black stuff and if it fizzes, it's mold.


 COMMENT 373450 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 06:37 PM

Like others have said here, it may be mold. The other things that commonly cause this are: automobile brake shoe/pad dust, airborne skin particles, petroleum residue, and/or a combo of all the above. You can buy a mold testing kit at any hardware store. Maybe you should hire one of those industrial cleaning companies to go through your house - sometimes filth is just filth.


 COMMENT 373460 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 06:47 PM

in 99 percent of the cases, it's mildew, not mold. ignore the scare mongers, clean with bleach and wait for spring when you can air the place out


 COMMENT 373487 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 07:52 PM

It may not be soot, in could be mold. Spray with bleach water regularly and then wipe. Don't dry dust or vacuum, it will get into the air and you'll breathe it in.


 COMMENT 373498 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-11 08:23 PM

It's just mildew, caused by condensation as the warm/humid air in your house meets the cold window frame. Just take a cotton ball, dip it in bleach, and wipe the black stuff away. Easy.


 COMMENT 373552 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-12 02:59 AM

It's harmless mold. Your window areas need to be wiped down, cleaned more than you think. In the winter, there's a lot of condensation in the window area from keeping the windows closed, the heater "on" and our "breathing. Together with dust (EVERYONE has it), it makes for the black mold. Also "air out" closets - shoes especially carry mold - you'd be surprised.

IT IS HARMLESS - so don't start trying to see if you can sue your landlord.....this is YOUR responsibility to keep things clean.

Hey, and thanks for reminding me!


 COMMENT 373592 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-12 07:52 AM

Tire dust and exhaust residue if It's a uniform coating on horizontal surfaces, mold/mildew if it's "spotty" on walls or windows especially on inside of north and northeast facing exterior walls. Closer to the ocean and upwind from freeway i.e.Mesa, westside, more likely mold/mildew.

Try APCD air pollution control district


 COMMENT 373596 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-12 07:59 AM

Soot is a fine dry powder like material. Black mold is generally in the local water supply and only grows where there is as source of some moisture. It does not have the fine, dry and powdery consistancy of soot. Many recent fires produced a fine ash dust that the wind carried for many miles. Some may remember after the Zaca fire, huge clouds of fine ash were blown over the mountains from the valley causing semi-darkness in some areas. That very fine airborn ash worked it's way into everything including window and glass door runners. That kind of gritty abrasive ash is very damaging to many things, particularly mechanical devices and also one's lungs! I had to change my air filter on my car and probably should have worn a face mask.


 COMMENT 373603 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-12 08:09 AM

Had this in some of the windows in my house. The black "soot" rurned out to be aluminum dust from internal rubbing of worn out window mechanisms. Lived with it until we put a second story on the house, and then we replaced all the windows to match the style (and quiet and energy efficiency) of the upstairs. No more black dust (except for traces from the freeway a few blocks away and other standard sources such as gas stove and candles).

If you have a gas heater, do have the gas compnay check it out if there is any doubt. Carbon monoxide is no joke.


 COMMENT 373661 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-12 10:09 AM

I've had that black soot in the tracks of my windows and believe it to be residue from the fires. It has decreased after being washed a couple of times. Praying for a break from the fires for awhile.


 COMMENT 373662 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-12 10:17 AM

If the OP is a renter, get your landlord to test it. If it's your home, get it tested. I just searched google for "Santa Barbara mold" & a few modifiers (testing, remediation, inspection) & a bunch of links came up that are likely to help you out. Oh, and I just found an old edhat thread with referrals (search Mold Remediation). Not a bad idea to get it tested just in case. But regular cleaning (yay bleach!) is a must.
392: pot leaves a resinous residue, not soot (unless someone's dumping the ash everywhere).
432: Assumptive much? I do that in my bathroom (leave fan on for a while after & have the window wide open) & we still have mold. OP never said s/he rented (or that s/he is a she) and I'm pretty sure you couldn't sue your landlord by going behind their back & testing for mold WITHOUT TELLING THEM. (Well, you could. You just won't win.)


 COMMENT 373672 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-12 10:42 AM

I believe 399 and ROGER and others are correct.

I've lived in a second floor apartment near Cota & Bath (i.e. about two blocks from the 101) for ten years.

There's a continual accumulation on my outdoor porch, stairway, and outside windowsills, reaccumulating after washing off.

There's little or no evidence of anything resembling this inside during times of the year when my windows are closed most often.


 COMMENT 373698 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-12 11:30 AM

Topcat, Stachybotrys is toxic black mold. It is NOT harmless. Exposure to the mycotoxins present in Stachybotrys chartarum or Stachybotrys atra can have a wide range of effects. Depending on the length of exposure and volume of spores inhaled or ingested, symptoms can manifest as chronic fatigue or headaches, fever, irritation to the eyes, mucous membranes of the mouth, nose and throat, sneezing, rashes, and chronic coughing. In severe cases of exposure or cases exacerbated by allergic reaction, symptoms can be extreme including nausea, vomiting, and bleeding in the lungs and nose.
OP, I'd get it checked out. I've used a product call "Molderizer" which actually kills the mold and not just bleaching it like bleach does. No, I'm not a rep for Molderizer.


 DEE D agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-12 12:20 PM

My experience has been aluminum dust also - are the windows aluminum? Other than that, there is always some sooty residue from traffic, if you are nearby. Many molds and mildews are harmless, and the kind of thing you mention is ubiquitous.


 COMMENT 373769 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-12 02:37 PM

It is most likely vaporized rat poop. You probably have a huge nest of rats in the attic, and the insides of your walls have rat feces and rat pee oozing down them.


 COMMENT 373799 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-12 04:07 PM

Look more closely. If it's evenly spread, it's soot. If it's mold, it'll be uneven and splotchy. Soot is usually from gas burner jets not functioning properly, usually in the heater, but could also be the jets need adjustment/cleaning and aren't burning all the gas efficiently. This could also be a gas venting problem, vents clogged or otherwise not working properly. Don't mess around-

Get a carbon monoxide alarm yesterday. Install it yesterday. Have the gas company come out to inspect all appliances which they will do for free. About those candles... be careful and safe, have them in a tray of some kind, not near window coverings, blow out before leaving the house, even if only for a 'few minutes', etc.


 COMMENT 373920P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-13 07:23 AM

Such definitive statements based on so little information. I thought I was on Craigslist for a minute.


 COMMENT 374073 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-13 01:51 PM

Do you live anywhere by the Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch? We have a similar problem but it is from their wood burning BBQs that they light twice a day to cook the rotisserie chicken with.


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