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What Absorbs Cigarette Smoke and How Can You Remove it From Your Home?

Updated on February 16, 2023
Written by
Paul Allen
Paul is a staff writer for HouseFresh, with a focus on product recommendations and advice for smokers and apartment dwellers. He started writing in November 2020, when he joined the content production team at NeoMam Studios (our parent company).

Our verdict

When someone lights a cigarette, smoke spreads throughout the environment, latching onto our skin, clothes, and furnishings. It covers everything it touches with carcinogenic particles that are not only extremely harmful to our health but leaves a lingering, stale scent. 

The best way to remove the smell from the home is to stop smoking, but if that’s not for you, we recommend an air purifier with a heavily loaded activated carbon filter. These filters are capable of capturing the toxic particles from cigarette smoke, leaving the air in your home feeling fresher and healthier to breathe.

Despite the known dangers smoking poses to our health, more than a billion people continue to smoke cigarettes worldwide. Not only does smoking run the risk of causing respiratory issues, heart disease and cancer, but it also contributes to a cast of other nasty consequences, from litter in the street to the smell in your home. 

The Smell of Danger 

As we all know, smoking cigarettes can be a deadly habit. In the U.S. alone, 480,000 people die each year. And for each person who dies, at least 30 people live with a serious smoking-related illness. What fewer people realize, however, is the dangers you incur when simply being around cigarette smoke. 

Environmental smoking, whether second or third-hand, can also have profound health implications. As smoke deposits a carcinogenic residue on everything it touches, toxic particles permeate hard and soft surfaces throughout your home. They will continue to emit harmful toxins for weeks and months. 

These dangers don’t only apply to those who smoke, either. Perhaps you quit years ago but still can’t shift the reminisce of smoke from your home. Maybe you’ve recently moved into a house previously occupied by a smoker or even live in an area where smoke can enter your home from a neighbor or nearby street. Third-hand smoke can still take a toll even if you’ve never directly smoked.

Beyond the dangers smoking poses to your health, it also happens to leave a pretty horrible smell. Whether on your hands, clothes or in your home, the smell smoke leaves behind is just one of the many unwelcome side effects that come hand in hand with cigarettes. It’s important to remember that many people will go nose blind after being exposed to smoke for a while, so they may not realize the full extent of smoke pollution in their homes. However, wherever you can smell smoke, there is a threat to your health.   

What Absorbs Cigarette Smoke

Those of you who live in a smoker’s home will know just how difficult it is to remove the reminisce of smoke. While using candles, air fresheners, or cracking open a window may be useful for covering up the smell for a short period of time; they do little to remove smoke entirely.

So are there any successful ways to achieve lasting freshness and help eradicate cigarette smoke for good?

Thankfully there is a solution that can work wonders against the putrid pong of old cigarette smoke. Namely, carbon filtering. 

This simple yet effective technology utilizes carbon substrate, most commonly in the form of charcoal, to capture volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including hazardous fumes, gasses, and odors.

As charcoal is naturally a very porous material, when odors and gasses pass through the carbon filter, they are attracted to and latch onto the charcoal’s pores in a reaction known as adsorption. What’s more, before the charcoal is used in this way it goes through an activation process. During which, the charcoal is exposed to high levels of steam and heat to enlarge its pores, giving it a much larger surface area and increasing its ability to capture VOCs.  

In fact, once carbon has been activated, it increases the surface area to between 300-2,000m2 per gram of charcoal. That means each pound (450g) of activated charcoal you have, equates to over 75 football fields worth of adsorbent material ready to extract odors from the air. 

Carbon filters are jam-packed full of activated charcoal, most commonly found in specific air purifier filters or standalone charcoal bags. By utilizing these filters in your home, they are able to capture cigarette smoke from the source and when used alongside natural ventilation and cleaning practices, can help keep your home feeling fresh and free from smoke. 

How to Remove Cigarette Smoke From Your Home

1. Buy an air purifier with an activated charcoal filter

Air purifiers equipped with HEPA and activated carbon filters will capture cigarette smoke. Thanks to the powerful fans air purifiers utilize, they can draw vast quantities of air from your space, removing any toxic smoke along the way. 

2. Wash your upholstery and curtains

Soft furnishings and textiles are super absorbent so you can expect the fibers in your curtains and upholstery to be riddled with smoke particles. Wash or steam clean any textiles thoroughly to remove any existing build-up, and try to stick to a regular washing schedule to keep them feeling fresh.

3. Make/buy a charcoal bag 

A budget-friendly alternative is to make or buy a charcoal bag. These simply are small bags filled with activated charcoal which you can place around the home. Although they don’t have any means of airflow, so they can only capture odors directly around them, they offer an excellent solution for targeting specific areas in the home.  

4. Use bowls of baking soda and/or vinegar

Vinegar and baking soda are miracle workers when cleaning your home. As well as proving to be an effective chemical substitute when cleaning, they act as awesome odor-absorbers. 

Simply leave bowls of vinegar or baking soda around the home and unwanted smells will begin to dissipate. You can also target specific areas directly onto affected furnishings or carpets. 

5. Keep the room ventilated

Whenever you or someone in your home would like to smoke, ensure there is adequate ventilation within the space. Open windows and doors and ideally aim to localize smoking well within the ventilated areas. Utilizing fans to direct smoke towards the window is another excellent way to reduce third-hand smoke from building up. 

6. Repaint ceilings and walls

Revitalize your space with a new coat of paint. Beyond changing the cosmetic appearance of the room, this will refresh any surfaces previously tainted by cigarette smoke. Be sure to wash your walls with a mild soap detergent or a baking soda and vinegar solution first to remove any smoke residue.

About the author

Paul Allen

Paul is a staff writer for HouseFresh, with a focus on product recommendations and advice for smokers and apartment dwellers. He started writing in November 2020, when he joined the content production team at NeoMam Studios (our parent company).