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Cigarette Smoke Odor Removal

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What is cigarette smoke odor removal?

Cigarette Smoke is made up of very fine particulate soot and permeates inside a building wherever there is a path of least resistance. Not only does cigarette (and cigar) soot find its way across all visible surfaces, but also between the spaces where carpet meets the baseboard, behind switchplate covers, on and inside forced-air intake vents and ductwork, behind electrical panels, door jambs, window casings, ceiling fan grilles, furnace plenums, insulation pockets, and virtually every crack and crevice inside the structure that was exposed to cigarette smoke.

Cigarette and cigar smoke is comprised of carcinogens such as tar, nicotine, and hundreds of other chemical compounds, many of which are gummy and sticky. As the smoke rises and follows microclimatic air paths within the home or business, it cools and clings to the surrounding surfaces. Severity of odor and subsequent cleanup depends on the number of smokers, number of times (months/years) smoked in the indoor area, and frequency of smoking exposure in the home or business. If the smoker(s) occasionally used the area, topical cleaning and airing out the structure with fans may work sufficiently. However, if the area was smoked in often over the course of months or years, complete odor and stain removal can be a difficult or impossible without proper knowledge, equipment, and tools.

All cigarette smoke odor removal tasks begin with a thorough assessment of the job at hand by doing a detailed inspection of the area(s) including exposed surfaces as well as trapped smoke residues. The restorative cleanup efforts are then graded accordingly:

Light Restoration

If the odor is very slight, a Light Restoration may be required. This includes thoroughly cleaning all of the affected surfaces including walls, ceilings, fixtures, appliances, ceiling fans, switch and outlet plates, smoke alarms, doors, trim, windows, window treatments, cabinets inside and out, appliances, vents, upholstery, carpeting, rugs, tile and grout, stone, vinyl, wood, and any remaining interior surfaces and contents. With a Light Restoration, normally the structure does not need to be vacated.

Medium Restoration

A Medium Cigarette Soot Restoration includes higher detailed cleaning of all exposed surfaces as mentioned in the Light Restoration method above, and also includes pressurized odor destroying gasses such as ozone, hydroxyl, and high-pressure vaporized steam. Most Medium Restoration jobs require applying an oil-based shellac stain sealer over the painted surfaces to encapsulate any remaining microsoot particles that cannot be cleaned off. With a Medium Restoration, the structure may need to be vacated until restoration is complete.

Heavy Restoration

If the smoke odor and/or staining is severe, a Heavy Restoration is needed. This entails the previous Light and Medium Restoration steps, and also includes, but is not limited to: cleaning behind switch and outlet plates, fixtures, behind electrical panels, treating attic insulation, duct cleaning (including kitchen, bath(s), and dryer vents), removal of baseboards to treat the gully, restorative cleaning and sealing of remaining appliances, furniture, and window treatments, injection of heavy odor-destroying gasses like hydroxyl, ozone, and live steam, and several other steps. With a Heavy Restoration, vacating the premises is required until restoration is complete.

Please be advised that ozone is considered an indoor environmental pollutant by the EPA and should not be used in occupied dwellings.

Do-It-Yourself or hire a pro?

Some of our clients prefer to clean up cigarette smoke odors themselves, and if you’re a meticulous cleaner and handy with applying the proper sealers, you may be able to take care of Light Restoration yourself, if you choose. However, when the cigarette soot is beyond topical and has permeated into hidden parts of the structure, you’re probably going to need some industrial equipment and expertise to rid the structure of cigarette odor and soot. Our company specializes in cleaning carpet, upholstery, rugs, and tile/grout and heavy duty ozone gas treatments in the cigarette odor removal process. A painter, an after-construction cleaner, an electrician, duct cleaner, and an HVAC specialist may be required to provide the rest of the cigarette odor restoration process, especially if the structure requires above Light Restoration efforts.

What about those air cleaners that use ozone that I see at the store, or door-to-door sales?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns consumers that: NO agency of the federal government has approved these devices (ozone generators sold as air cleaners) for use in occupied spaces.”

The reason is because the safe limit of ozone output is between .05-.10 parts per million (ppm) at any time, and only for up to 8 hours of constant exposure. These low levels of ozone output are not strong enough to eradicate and remove cigarette smoke odors. Moreover, small home unit ozone generators do not have a accurate metering systems to ensure that your exposure is below the .05-.10 ppm standard safe limit imposed by various governmental health bodies such as OSHA, NIOSH, and the FDA.

Therefore, it is best never to use ozone generators in an occupied structure for cigarette smoke odor removal.

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