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Home Homes Home Improvement Understanding Thirdhand Smoke | Ask This Old House

Understanding Thirdhand Smoke | Ask This Old House

Ask This Old House home technology expert Ross Trethewey and painter Mauro Henrique discuss how to remove a cigarette smell from a home and why it is important to do so

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Steps for understanding thirdhand smoke:
1. Ross explains that the lingering smell left behind by cigarette smokers is actually a form of smoke called thirdhand smoke.
2. Thirdhand smoke is a residue that contains the chemicals from a cigarette and sticks to any porous surface, including carpeting, drywall, furniture, etc.
3. Aside from the nuisance of the smell, thirdhand smoke is also as harmful as secondhand smoke; a recent study indicated that children exposed to thirdhand smoke had equal levels of nicotine in their urine as children exposed to secondhand smoke.
4. To remove the smell and the residue, Mauro suggests that, at a bare minimum, everything needs to be cleaned with a tsp solution. This process includes cleaning the ceilings, the walls, baseboards, floorboards, etc. and then painting over the materials with an alcohol-based paint to seal the building materials.
5. Ross suggests that cleaning the surfaces may not even be enough. If that thirdhand smoke residue has been on the surface for a long time, then the building materials have absorbed it and they need to be completely replaced, which would require a full gut renovation.

Expert assistance for this segment was provided by the Collins Research Group (https://sites.google.com/bucknell.edu/collins/home?authuser=0).
And Peter DeCarlo, PhD, Johns Hopkins Environmental Health & Engineering
To learn more about thirdhand smoke, visit thirdhandsmoke.org.

About Ask This Old House TV:
Homeowners have a virtual truckload of questions for us on smaller projects, and we’re ready to answer. Ask This Old House solves the steady stream of home improvement problems faced by our viewers—and we make house calls! Ask This Old House features some familiar faces from This Old House, including Kevin O’Connor, general contractor Tom Silva, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, and landscape contractor Jenn Nawada.

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Understanding Thirdhand Smoke | Ask This Old House


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