accident involving lots and lots of soot-like dust and my bedroom...
July 24, 2008 12:01 PM   Subscribe

accident involving lots and lots of soot-like dust and my bedroom...

my landlady has a bunch of guys converting the loftspace below her roof into a proper attic she can store items in. one of them broke through the floor and into my bedroom below. we're talking a big hole here - he actually landed in my bed.

the whole room is covered in 2cm of soot-like fine black dust. it went into all the cupboards and closets. all my clothes are severly blackened. it looks sort of what you'd imagine the inside of a chimney to be like and the stuff it itchy and makes me cough.

if you have dealt with this kind of problem before, would you mind giving me some basic info on what to do? I'm not talking financial issues here, obviously that needs to be worked out but my questions at this point are more basic:

how do I clean that kind of mess thoroughly?
are all my clothes ruined or can I get that stuff out?
is this something dangerous beyond just a hassle or nothing to be too worried about?
I'm also not sure what to ask her to do before I go back and sleep in there again. the mattress is covered, the sheets are ruined, do we need professionals to clean this or how do I do it?

one more thing on the soot: I washed my hands four times now and I still feel it all over them. this stuff does not go away easily.
posted by krautland to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
1. you can't. the landlady should arrange for a professional cleaning. 2 cm of dust is a lot.
2. maybe. try washing them and see what happens.
3. probably. how old is the building? the older it is, the worse the dust could be for you. i would stay out as much as possible. it's probably some kind of insulating agent.
4. ask her to clean it until it was like your room before the accident. don't stay there until it's clean.
posted by lester at 12:10 PM on July 24, 2008

Interesting warning: Check if this stuff is/contains pulverized asbestos. (There are testing kits.) It probably isn't, but from your description, it seems like it could be. If it is, there is an obvious health risk. Plus, you can probably open up a can of serious civil-court whoop-ass on all parties involved. Trial lawyers love asbestos, it's like liquid win for them.

It's not great if it is/has pulverized fiberglass, either.
posted by Citrus at 12:22 PM on July 24, 2008

Response by poster: I'd say this british townhouse is from perhaps 1950 or 1960 but I am speculating.

I am being told this isn't asbestos but the fibreglas/rockwool kind of stuff.
posted by krautland at 12:33 PM on July 24, 2008

Response by poster: update: the house was actually built in 1904. landlady thinks it's all just soot. I have no idea. long night of cleaning ahead.
posted by krautland at 1:31 PM on July 24, 2008

Take pictures, take samples of the soot. Hire professional cleaners with your landlady's approval, and call around to find a cleaner who specializes in tough cases. Note that you can tell if something is asbestos by looking at it, but you cannot rule out asbestos just by looking at it.
posted by davejay at 2:32 PM on July 24, 2008

I guess I don't know about Britain, but here in the union of states a landlord would be entirely legally responsible for cleaning this, fixing the hole, etc. If not legally, then she's certainly morally responsible.
posted by cmoj at 2:40 PM on July 24, 2008

I agree with the above. You really shouldn't be put out by this. Landlady should put you up elsewhere for a few days, pay for cleaning, repairs, and the replacement of anything damaged beyond repair.

Also: I would get a professional opinion on what the dust is.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 3:08 PM on July 24, 2008

Take a look at an almost identical previous question.
posted by jamjam at 3:40 PM on July 24, 2008

You should NOT be cleaning this yourself. There are professionals who do this (they're called something like disaster responders, and although that sounds hurricainesque, they typically respond to things like fires, murders, and other ugly happenings in fairly localized places). You should not be cleaning this because (a) you shouldn't spend your time on this when she's not likely to compensate you for it, (b) it really could be very dangerous to you (not just asbestos, but any particulate matter can really harm your lungs and maybe your skin), and (c) some of these things will require special cleaning techniques that you don't know of.

Really, stay at a friend's or in a hotel, and hire someone. Don't stay at that place, don't clean it, and don't take No for an answer from the landlady and the contractor she hired (who should probably indemnify her, but that's an issue for them to work out between them, and is not your problem).
posted by Capri at 4:24 PM on July 24, 2008

This happened to us when the plaster fell off our bathroom ceiling! Lots of black soot, it was very unpleasant.
It's a British terraced house, built in the very early 1900s. We thought it was just soot, so we didn't take any precautions, but being the bathroom we didn't spend much time there anyway. We cleaned it up ourselves, but only because the landlord paid us for the time spent on it! Also, it's a bit of a scabby house anyway, and we're students :) So definitely talk to your landlady about getting it cleaned.
We swept up the main bulk of it into dustpans, or onto sheets of newspaper (which were then wrapped up and thrown away). After that, we hoovered up as much of the rest as possible. It really does get everywhere though, so it took quite some time. It also seemed to get into all the tiny pores in the paint, but then we weren't trying that hard to get it back to how it was before. Our bathroom was rather grey for a few months until all of us were away for long enough for the landlord to have the whole room completely redecorated. It might be possible to wash the dust off the walls with a damp cloth (if yours are painted), otherwise they might need to be repainted.
I expect it is clear how scruffy we are since we lived with a hole in our bathroom ceilling for three months. If it makes you feel any better, none of us had any problems due to the dust! But it's probably best not to sleep in there, prolonged exposure would probably not be so good for your lungs.
About clothes (and other fabrics): it being the bathroom, there wasn't much like that in there, so I'm not really sure about whether it cleans out or not. Might be best to ask a professional about that.
I'd also recommend opening your windows, and otherwise ventilating the room as much as you can to clear the air - but keeps the door to the room shut as much as possible, to stop it spreading at all.
posted by pocketfluff at 5:22 PM on July 24, 2008

Response by poster: thanks, all.

pocketfluff: I think that our houses are rather similar. at present it looks like we're gonna wipe down all the walls, hoover everything, mop the floors, plaster up the hole and paint the ceiling. I'm at present getting half off my rent and if all that fixes it I'm okay with the situation. if however I end up finding myself coughing through my nights I suppose I'll move.
posted by krautland at 11:23 AM on July 25, 2008

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