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Puff Backs Are Dangerous But Can Be Avoided

Puff backs are the result of a misfire in your furnace that sends soot billowing out through your heating system and into your home, depositing it on your walls, ceilings, furniture, and more. It’s messy to clean up and dangerous to your furnace.

Your furnace can misfire for a couple of different reasons:

  • The oil burner didn’t ignite immediately, so oil fumes built up and “puffed” out, the way a car’s ignition backfires
  • The oil burner ignited, but there was a buildup of debris that exploded on ignition.

When this happens, soot and debris shoot out through the exhaust system and straight into the rooms of your house, especially if you have a forced-air system, which is particularly efficient at spreading heat … and, in this case, soot. And those rooms will take on a scorched appearance. Not something you want to have happen.

That’s not all the bad news: the cleanup can be far more involved than you think because puff backs produce soot that’s black and sticky and very, very hard to remove. Do not attempt to clean it yourself, you’ll make it worse. 

To avoid puff backs and their consequences, make sure that your furnace and oil burner are cleaned regularly, at least once a year. Try to make it one of your fall activities, getting ready for turning on the heat in the winter.

And if you do experience puff backs, remember that you’re not alone! We’re here to help, and there are some things you can do to get started:

  • Turn off the furnace and leave the house. Soot is made up of tiny particles of impure carbon, the result of incomplete combustion. These particles are so small that they stay lodged in your respiratory system. Don’t take chances. 
  • Call someone in to look at your furnace and clean or repair it right away.
  • Get rid of any food that may have become contaminated.
  • Wash or dry-clean affected fabrics (curtains, bedding, clothing, etc.)
  • Call us. We have been here before, and we know the best way to clean, and disinfect your rooms and get your home back to normal as quickly and painlessly as possible.

If you don’t have the results of a puff back professionally cleaned, long-lasting health problems can result in precisely the place where you want to feel the safest: your home. We’ll clean and treat it in the same way that we’d deal with fire/smoke damage so that there are no lasting health threats to you and your family. 

It’s always discouraging when something affects your home – it’s your space, the one place where you feel like you’re in control, and then something like this happens and you feel a loss of that control, that sense of safety in your space. We understand that, and we want to restore your confidence as well as your environment by working quickly, efficiently, and thoroughly to get you back to normal.

Remember: we’re always just a phone call away.