O ver the years, studies have linked many health issues to smoking, while the effects of vaping on human health are still to be discovered. Nevertheless, one thing is certain: these products release a series of substances and volatile compounds that are either inhaled by the smoker, reaching inside the lungs and even the bloodstream, or linger into the air, with high chances of ending up in non-smokers’ breathing system. In the second case, we are dealing with second-hand smoke or vapor, which can be just as dangerous.
The smoke or the vapors retain a strong smell of the substances in the product. Whether is tobacco or an aroma, it will, in the end, settle on upholstery, curtains, carpets, and walls, and ruin the quality of the air indoors. As the particles in smoke and vapors are so tiny, it can be a struggle to remove the odor, but a good air purification system may be a good idea.
In this article, we will focus on answering the following questions:
- What does second and third-hand smoke/vapor exposure mean?
- Will an air purifier help eliminate the odor?
- Do all air purifiers work?
- How to pick your device?
- How to improve its efficiency?
Second and Third Hand Smoke/Vapor Exposure
Smoking or vaping indoors is one of the most serious sources of pollution. Not only that the smoker is inhaling a cocktail of unhealthy and dangerous compounds, but the product easily contaminates everything around.
Second hand exposure appears when the smoke/vapor implied in the process spreads into the air and affects non-smokers.
It contains all the substances a smoker inhales, including those that have been related to cancer, and it can come from two sources:
- Smoke/vapor exhaled by the smoker
- Smoke/vapor released by the cigar or the vaping device
Both the smoke and the vapors contain ultrafines, nicotine, and other toxic substances, which, combined, leave behind a strong odor. If asthma sufferers or non-smokers who suffer from allergies come in contact with them, it is most likely that they will develop symptoms like coughs, skin irritations, and breathing problems, and a big part of this problem is played of something called third-hand smoke.
Third hand smoke/vapor appears when the substances in the air settle around the house on the walls or fabrics.
They are responsible for odors lingering inside even after the source has been put off and the air has been cleared. They are still a source of pollution, as they can come in contact with the skin or be inhaled if they have deposited on the bedding. The only way to remove them is by washing all the surfaces exposed carefully and more often. Home cleaning is essential, especially where children or family members with lung illnesses live. Nevertheless, third-hand pollution can be prevented if you remove smoke before it has the chance of covering everything in a smelly yellow nuance.
Will an Air Purifier Remove the Odor?
First of all, we should clear up that in order to remove odor, we should first remove the source, which in this case is the smoke or the vapors. Some tricks can help, like keeping the windows open or using a room fan to circulator the air, but the tests have shown that they will only remove the visible side. Harmful substances will linger for a long time and will, in the end, settle around the house.
On the other hand, an air purifier can do more than just circulating the air. There’s a complex technology behind it and tightly-webbed filters which have been treated to deal with odors and allergens. One thing though needs to be discussed before investing your money in one of these machines: will any of them work?
What Type of Air Purifier Works for Odor Removal?
There are plenty of models you can choose from, but all must have an essential element: an Activated Carbon Filter. Sure, ionizers work well, when it comes to removing small particles, and a UV lamp will prove useful if you are trying to remove bacteria and germs, but they will have no effect on the smell. Not even a HEPA filter, if taken alone, won’t help, as it is designed to deal with small particles, not with the toxins and VOCs that are responsible for heavy air.
How Does an Activated Carbon Filter Work?
Charcoal filters have become a big part of our lives. We find them in water purification systems, masks, industrial processes, and air filtering technologies. What is true about them is that they are useless when it comes to removing pollen, dust, or other allergens, but they are the standard in the industry for neutralizing gaseous compounds and removing toxins, a process that implies odor removal as well.
So, how do they work? Activated carbon has been previously chemically treated to become more porous and retain more contaminants. In general, carbon that has been obtained from coconut is preferred, as it already comes with denser pores, being more efficient, but wood and coal are often used as well. Carbon filters come in thick packs that need to be inserted into an air cleaner. The air is drawn through them and here a process called adsorption happens, which means that gases and toxins are collected into the adsorption sites and stick to the carbon. They are not absorbed and thus don’t alter the chemical composition of the filter.
In time, the carbon layer saturates, and you will need to replace the filter. This will happen once in three months, so more often than with a HEPA filter, but the good news is that they are cheaper.
Always check for the filter to be fully made of activated carbon. Filters that have only an external layer of charcoal will not function properly. Furthermore, it is better to pick a thicker filter, as it will have higher adsorption power.
Although HEPA filters are not efficient against smoke and vapor odor, it is essential to include one in your filtering system. Both smoking and vaping release fine particles, which can easily be inhaled by non-smokers, so you can protect your family by filtering the air through HEPA’s thick weaving.
What to Consider When Buying an Air Cleaner for Smoke/Vapor Odor Removal?
Air cleaning machines are the heroes of the day, but even they can fail if they don’t get a bit of help from your part. Therefore, before picking one, make sure you check the following criteria:
- The machine should cover the entire room – First measure your room to find out the volume of air that needs to be filtered. Multiply the height by length and by width and compare this value with the one found in the technical specifications of the product. You will want to pick a model that can cover a larger volume, so you can use it at low speed when necessary.
- It must have the power to deal with vapors and smoke – You will want it to change the air for more than six times in an hour and, for this, it should have a high CADR and a powerful fan. Each machine has its own clean air delivery rate for pollen, dust, and smoke, which show how many cubic feet it can clean in a minute, so pay attention to them.
- AHAM certification – It isn’t enough for the manufacturer to claim that the device can cover a certain area. It would be more reliable if the machine would have been tested, and this is what AHAM does. So, look for their sign on the product, to make sure you are not spending your money in vain.
- Thick carbon filter – As mentioned, you will need a high-quality and thick charcoal layer that can handle large quantities of smoke or vapors. Unless they are only occasional activities, they will constantly fill the house with harmful substances and strong odors.
Help Your Device
- Smoke in only one room and keep the door closed – Your unit will work efficiently only if it is used in a single room and the door is closed. Thus, it can filter the air inside multiple times until it becomes clean. Plus, by keeping the door closed, you will prevent the spreading of the smoke/vapor in the other rooms.
- Position it far from the wall – The air intake will be maximized if you leave some space between the device and the wall. Most of them come with long cords, so you will not find it difficult to perform this task.
- Run it all day – If you are smoking all day, it should work all day. Turning it on for 5 minutes while you smoke will just not do the trick. We even recommend leaving it running over the night for it to have the chance to perform a thorough air cleaning.
- Change the filters on time – Make sure to order filters on time so you can keep it running efficiently. If three months have passed, replace the charcoal layer. And if the filter replacement indicator is on, then it’s time to replace the HEPA. Or maybe clean it. Some models are permanent or washable and will stand periodical cleaning.
We all want our homes smelling fresh and feeling like they have just been thoroughly cleaned all the time. But if giving up smoking is not in question, the only solution that stands is a great air purifier. In fact, it is the only efficient measure you can take to prevent second-hand smoke from turning into third-hand smoke. The same goes for vapors. If the source of the smell is removed fast, it won’t have time to settle and become a stinky part of your fabrics and walls. Do you think your problem is not so serious? We suggest taking a white damp cloth and wiping just one corner of your kitchen tiles. The yellow-brownish substance is what results from smoking and one of the sources of odors.