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You know it when you see it, but what exactly is smoke? The dictionary describes smoke as,  a visible suspension of carbon or other particles in air, typically one emitted from a burning substance. In addition to several known carcinogens, smoke contains fine particles composed of wood tars, gases, soot, and ashes. Things like cigarettes, cigars, wood burning stoves, fireplaces and even the kitchen stove can emit these particles of carbon into the air, and affect the quality of the air we breathe.

Tobacco smoke and its power to linger

Tobacco smoke typically consists of particles smaller than 1 micron in size. The finest elements of tobacco smoke (the part that we smell) can stick to other tiny microparticles in the air. Once airborne, these particles can carry the tobacco odor throughout your house for days or even weeks, eventually settling on your furniture, carpets, bedding, etc. Anytime you touch or move any of the items where the particles have settled, they'll be released into the air again and the cycle will repeat itself. This means that once smoke is in your home, it takes a thorough cleaning of surfaces and the air to reduce it.


Tobacco smoke, second hand smoke and side-stream smoke (the smoke released directly from the burning paper and tobacco), are extremely hazardous to our health. The EPA estimates exposure to secondhand smoke causes approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths per year in nonsmokers. And while it's now common knowledge that tobacco contributes to lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease and other illnesses, it's often forgotten that it causes typical allergic reaction like sneezing and runny nose. Exposure to smoke can also cause burning eyes, bronchitis and trigger asthma attacks. In fact, more than half of US children with asthma are exposed to secondhand smoke, reports the EPA. Because prolonged and frequent exposure compounds and takes a toll on those breathing it in, reducing exposure is critically important.


The extremely small size of smoke particles approximately 1 micron makes the especially difficult to trap. While mold, dander and pollen can be captured with filters rated MERV 8, it takes a MERV 13, MPR 1500 or FR 810 to keep smoke and tobacco smoke out of your indoor air. For cases of extreme sensitivity to smoke, a supplementary air purifier can be an effective tool. They'll trap and kill the bacteria and pollutants that float in the air, but typically can only treat a single room. The range varies between products, so consider how large of a space you need to treat before buying.

Ultimate: MERV 13

  • Traps house dust and lint, pet dander, mold spores, pollen, dust mites, fine dust, auto emissions, smoke, tobacco smoke, bacteria, very fine dust, odor


It's important to routinely replace your filter for clean air and optimal efficiency. To maintain clean air and optimal efficiency, it's important to routinely replace the air filters in your home. Manufacturers will recommend the ideal replacement time for their products, but the common advice is every 3 to 6 months. Following the recommendation is important because a dirty, clogged filter greatly reduces its efficiency, restricts airflow, and increases pressure on the fan side putting strain your air conditioner or furnace. Maintaining airflow rate is important because low airflow can negatively impact your home's air quality.


What can I do to reduce smoke from the air in my apartment?

It might be helpful to invest in an air purifier, they are a great way to capture smoke, pollen, pet dander and smoke in apartments, dorms and even offices. They quietly emit clean, purified air into the room, reducing your exposure to allergens.

If a MERV 6 is good, is a 12 twice as good? Is a higher rating better?

While a higher rating often means better, it's not necessarily the case with air filters. Higher MERV ratings can restrict airflow, which would be counterproductive. MERV ratings above 13 are used in hospitals, particularly in surgical suites, because their rigorous design can be supported by industrial-grade ventilation system.

Do I really need to change my filter every 3 months?

If that's the manufacturers suggestion, it's wise to follow it. Depending on the air quality where you live, it might be wise to replace it even more often. It's important to routinely replace filters because they lose their effectiveness over time. As the impurities are trapped, they build up and eventually clog the filter, slowing efficiency and decreasing the ability to purify. In addition to replacing your air filter, make sure the filter on your vacuum cleaner is routinely washed or replaced. A dirty, clogged vacuum filter loses its effectiveness. By cleaning or replacing the filter, you'll keep the allergens contained and not causing irritation.


For answers to filter-related questions, recommendations on the air filters, or general air quality questions, contact us.