If you have black or dark brown marks around the plugs of your outlet
receptacle(s), you might indeed have signs of electrical arcing. This
could be a life-threatening situation. Your house could also burn
If you feel condident, you should shut off the circuit breaker or fuse
to the outlet(s) in question. Then test them with a $10.00 plug
tester (or radio or lamp) to make sure you got the right fuse. Remove
the outlet from the electrical box and check for other signs of arcing
or damage (check the wires and screws for blackening or burnt
If you are not sure if the "stains" are from electrical arcing, you
could try and clean the outlet --WITH FUSE REMOVED OR BREAKER
'OFF'--and if the stain does not clean up, then it likely IS from
electrical arcing. Try soap and water, try varsol/ mineral spirit/
turpentine, try a dry cleaner fluid like Goof Off, try WD40.
If the "stain" truly is from electricity arcing, you should replace
the outlet. This will cost you $5.00 at the hardware store, if you
are able to do it yourself.
check out these websites:
The public library usually has good reference books as well.
If you do not feel confident, call a licenced electrician--electricity
can kill you. A bad wiring job can burn down your house.
Mr. Fixit eh