Cigarette Smoke and Odors
by Building Inspector and Indoor Air Specialist, Dan Schilling
© Copyright 2002 Residential Inspections LLC, All Rights Reserved
A home, office, or auto that has airborne smoke or tough smoke odors can become a problem. There are many people will not eat in restaurants where smoking is allowed, or purchase a car used by a smoker. Real estate is also impacted as oftentimes home buyers and renters will not purchase homes or rent apartments that have had smokers inside.
Most smokers simply cannot smell the odors being created indoors. They get accustomed to the smoke smell and therefore have difficulty recognizing the ill affects related to second hand smoke. Furthermore, some smokers cannot even remember what it was like to breathe indoor air without smoke in it, and as a consequence, find it difficult to understand how nauseously offensive smoke can be to other people and to house pets. Fortunately, more smokers are becoming increasingly understanding as they recognize the problem of residual smoke and odors.
In order to eliminate smoke odors, one must first understand that smoke consists of approximately 4,000 different chemicals in both gaseous and particulate forms. Aside from the serious physical health affects, some of the chemicals act as bonding agents which cause the stench of smoke to adhere to hair, skin, clothes, furniture, walls, carpet, and literally anything that is nearby. The microscopic particles and chemical gasses created from smoke can not only be offensive to nonsmokers, but can cause illnesses; particularly to children, seniors, and those with breathing sensitivities.
Before discussing what works on airborne smoke and smoke odors, let's understand what does not work. On the top of the list of things that don't work would have to be chemical deodorizers. Trying to mask over offensive odors with chemicals, vaporizing foggers, incense or candle burning, plug-in devices, or cover-up sprays, is totally ineffective. Using these products is nothing more than an attempt to fool the nose and actually makes indoor air worse. Second to ineffective masking chemicals, would be air filters. You could use an air filter in every room and still have very little effect on airborne smoke particles and virtually no effect on the gaseous odors created from smoke. This is because microscopic particles and especially the gasses from smoke can pass right through most air filters.
Effective solutions to smoke odors can include elimination of sources, manual cleaning, and natural air purification:
1) To eliminate smoke odors, the first and most important step is to stop smoking indoors. Not only will this benefit the health of any occupants, but it will help to keep the odors from becoming cumulatively worse. If smoking cannot be discontinued indoors, at minimum, it should be contained to a room with an exhaust fan to remove most of the smoke from the air and help prevent the chemicals from spreading to other rooms. If smoking will be continued indoors without being confined to a room with an exhaust fan, an air purification system should be used to keep up with the continual production of indoor smoke. Natural air purification systems which replace electrical ions and activated oxygen (ozone) indoors, to the same levels as found in fresh air outdoors, will work best.
2) Cleaning of surface areas entails wiping clean all hard surfaces such as windows, walls, furniture, flooring, and even personal items. It often amazes people to see how much tar and nicotine that comes off of these surfaces. Washing or shampooing soft surface items like, furniture, carpets, and drapes, is also important. As much as it helps to clean, the smoke odors will never fully go away until the indoor environment is treated with ozone.
3) A natural air purification system will by default include the replacement of electrical ions to the indoor air; removing the physical airborne smoke particles. However, to remove smoke odors, the primary function of natural air purification is to replace natural levels of ozone to the indoor air. Have you noticed in spite of all the smoke outdoors from cigarettes, cigars, pipes, grills, camp fires, fireplaces, automobiles, forest fires and even volcanoes, that the air outdoors does not smell like smoke? This is because nature creates ozone in the outdoor air. A portable air purification system duplicates this natural process indoors, allowing your indoor air to perform like outdoor air.
While virtually every air cleaning device on the market wants to claim smoke removal, at the writing of this article, there is only one company that has had air purifying efficiency claims governmentally validated for effective elimination of odors, tobacco smoke, and even second hand smoke. These air purifiers are currently being used to remove smoke and odors in rental cars, hotel/motel rooms, restaurants, bars, offices, apartments and homes.
To remove the utmost stubborn smoke odors, a purifier equipped with adjustable ozone output is essential. In order to accomplish stubborn odor removal in short order, the system must be turned to its highest ozone sanitizing setting while the area is temporarily unoccupied. Unlike masking products, after the odor is removed with ozone, it will not come back.
If you smoke or live with someone that does, the advice above will help you to immediately control and eliminate smoke and smoke odors.
with those you care about.