What Is a Puff Back? How To Prevent and Clean Them

Your heating system can function efficiently throughout the whole period with regular checks and inspections. When you turn on your furnace in winter, however, you can suffer a messy and hazardous puff back if your heating system is blocked, poorly ventilated, or not working properly.

When an oil burner malfunctions and backfires, smoke, and soot are shot into your property or place of business. Puff backs may severely damage the foundation of your property and heating system, causing everything from little irritation to catastrophic damage. The good news is that puff backs are avoidable with good heating system maintenance and early detection of the warning signals.

To learn what is a Puff Back and how to prevent and clean them, read the article.

What is a Puff Back?

puff backs on chimney

A puff back is an oil explosion that occurs in a boiler, water heater, or furnace’s burning chamber. The furnace may suffer severe damage, soot may be released onto walls and furniture through the exhaust system, requiring expensive cleaning and restoration.

Leaky pipes let oil build up on the bottom of the oil container while the furnace is operating. As it builds up, it will catch fire when the next burning cycle begins. A puff back can also happen when the burner’s shutdown process has flaws or when the furnace’s parts have not been properly maintained.

Tips on How to Prevent and Clean Them

You can avoid puff backs that severely damage your property and possessions by taking proper precautions and paying attention to the warning signs. Homeowners can avoid puff backs in the following ways:

Recognize the Symptoms of a Puff Back

Find a heating system issue before it becomes too serious. Before a puff back occurs, the heating appliance will usually show several other indicators that it is not functioning properly. Here are a few warning signs that your heating system may experience a puff back:

  •       Noise after switching off
  •       Small “puff” or “bang” sound
  •       Soot on the ceiling or the walls in the furnace room
  •       Unusual odors
  •       Visible oil leaks

Address Issues Right Away

Any problems that could trigger a puff back or cause damage to your heating system can be repaired by a skilled repairman. It is advisable not to try to diagnose or fix puff backs yourself because they can be caused by a wide range of issues with boiler or furnace operation.

 Regularly Maintain Your Heating System

puff back

Cleaning your heating system as part of routine maintenance will remove soot that always builds throughout the heating season. It stops excessive soot buildup from blocking airflow or hindering ventilation, both of which might indirectly result in a puff back. Also, you should check that all of your heating systems are in good working condition and replace your oil spray nozzle if it is blocked or dirty. If you’re not satisfied with your checking, heater repair professionals can spot puff back warning signs that you might have overlooked.

To stop further damage, you should turn off your heating system as soon as you sense a puff back. If there is a lot of smoke, carbon monoxide, or a fire risk, leave your property and dial the Fire Department. You must take the following steps after making sure the heating system is turned off and the property or building is secure:

Keep A Record of The Incident

If it is safe to do so, take pictures of the damage as soon as the puff back occurs if you are planning on reporting the incident to your insurance provider. Owners of residential and commercial properties should take photos of the building’s soot coverage and heating system damage.

Call A Heating Repair Professional

Before turning the heating system back on, get in touch with a heating repair professional to have it inspected. The repairman may assess the safety of the heating system and pinpoint the root cause of the puff back. The heater repair professional will be able to determine what repairs could be required and fix any issues to stop puff backs in the future.

Call A Cleaning Service

certified mold remediation contractor cleaning living room

Even though it can be tempting to start cleaning the soot as soon as the puff back happens, haste cleaning could end up doing more damage. Because puff back soot also contains oil, insufficient cleaning could spread soot onto furniture and walls. A bad smell from puff backs may be difficult for you to get rid of on your own. Hire a professional cleaning service to effectively remove soot and chemicals after a puff back.

Clean And Get Rid of Dirty Items

Clothes, curtains, and other fabric materials may be cleaned by you on your own or taken to a dry cleaner. Clean up any loose soot and debris from the carpets and furnishings, and throw away any food that has come into contact with smoke or soot right away.

Causes of Puff Backs

The following are the most common causes of oil buildup and puff backs:

  •       Clogged chimney or exhaust
  •       Clogged or broken gasoline nozzle
  •       Clogged or broken oil spray nozzle
  •       Combustion Gas Venting Issues
  •       Excessively manual system resets
  •       Installation problems with the chimney or the heater
  •       Leaking combustion chamber
  •       Oil Supply Pipeline Leaks
  •       Problems with Heater Shutdown
  •       Tarnished, rusted, or blocked burner


You shouldn’t attempt to clean up a puffed-back mess in your household by yourself. Your entire property might be damaged by puff backs. Before a severe puff back happens, call a repair service. The soot particles are tiny and extremely challenging to get rid of.

Any issues with the heating system in your property or place of business can be immediately identified and repaired by experienced repair professionals. Also, your property’s odors and soot will be skillfully removed.


Serving South Central Pennsylvania and Northern Maryland
PA# 019590 MD# 108211
We also do : Water Damage Restoration, Drying & Dehumidification, Fire, Smoke & Soot Clean Up, Sump Pump Failures, Restoration and Mitigation, Crime Scene Clean Up, Pack Outs, Biohazard, Puff-back Cleanup, Mold Remediation, Sewage Clean Up, Water Extraction and General Contracting

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1214 East Market Street
York, PA 17403



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