Thirdhand Smoke: Here’s What You Need to Know

January 18, 2023

thirdhand smoke

There’s not a lot of good that comes with smoking. Not only is the habit incredibly destructive to your personal health, but it also has a profoundly negative effect on the people around you — and the buildings you live and work in.


The main indirect effects of smoking are referred to as second and third-hand smoke. Second- hand smoke is when other people accidentally ingest tobacco fumes from a nearby smoker and are then exposed to the same negative health hazards.


While most people are aware of second-hand smoke, third hand smoke can also be incredibly harmful. Third-hand smoke is a much larger and potentially longer-lasting consequence of smoking cigarettes, especially when it comes to your home or office.

What Is Thirdhand Smoke?

Thirdhand smoke (or THS) refers to the pollutants that linger and settle indoors after cigarettes are smoked. Tobacco smoke contains numerous toxic gases and particles, and these contents will cling to countless nearby surfaces including hair, clothing, cushions, carpets, walls, and more. Even if a cigarette is never smoked in that indoor space again, harmful residue will stick around and potentially cause the same kind of health problems that come from lighting a cigarette yourself.


When analyzing the larger indirect health consequences of smoking, many people focus only on second-hand smoke, and for good reason. The fact that smoking can harm others based simply on proximity (most of these victims are friends, spouses, or children) is incredibly alarming. But as it turns out, THS is just as dangerous — if not more so. The tiny particles embedded in surrounding indoor surfaces are unnoticeable, but their toxic gases can still cause long-term damage to anyone in the area. In fact, a study done in 2010 showed that thirdhand smoke can remain in homes even months after the smoker has vacated the property.


Over the last few decades, THS has been heavily studied, and although it’s not often mentioned in the discussion of potential indoor safety hazards, the medical community sees it as a very real threat. That means it’s certainly worth taking measures to test your home or office for THS and remove it to avoid long-term health hazards.

Health Effects of Thirdhand Smoke

The scariest thing about thirdhand smoke is the way it tends to stay under the radar in your home or office. Tiny toxic particles from tobacco can seep and embed themselves in walls and furniture, settle with dust, and stick to surfaces. And while these smoking particles are typically completely invisible to the naked eye, they’re still causing significant damage to your home or office as well as your health.

Here are a few of the ways exposure to thirdhand smoke can negatively affect your health:

  • Toxins can cause damage to DNA and increase the risk of developing certain cancers.
  • Thirdhand smoke can worsen — or even initiate — chronic conditions like asthma.
  • Toxic chemicals disrupt cell generation which can lead to a variety of potential problems like insomnia, poor wound healing, infertility, and more.

How to Find Thirdhand Smoke in Your Home or Office

While it’s nearly impossible to see the actual toxic particles lingering on the floors and furniture of your indoor areas, there are several ways to spot potential damage so you can clean and remove the hazards.


One of the easiest ways to detect the presence of thirdhand smoke is by noticing the smell. Just like the toxins from tobacco smoke tend to become embedded in the room, the strong odor sticks around too. Another key indicator is the slight staining or discoloration of floors, walls, furniture, and other surfaces indoors.


Unfortunately, finding the sources of thirdhand smoke in your home or office isn’t always that simple. Just because you can’t see or smell anything doesn’t mean there’s no risk of underlying damage and health hazards.

Schedule Independent Testing for Thirdhand Smoke

Contact a reputable indoor air quality professional like IndoorDoctor experienced with sampling for thirdhand smoke residue on surfaces. Often there are other indoor air quality concerns in addition to smoke residue.


If you’ve never had anyone actively smoking in your home or office, it’s still worth doing a check for thirdhand smoke. If you’ve recently bought or started renting a property, harmful particles and toxins can remain from previous owners and still affect you negatively. As a responsible property owner, it’s important to take initiative and look into all potential health hazards, and that includes the underlying potential for thirdhand smoke.

Protect Your Indoor Spaces Now and in the Future

While it’s nearly impossible to see the actual toxic particles lingering on the floors and furniture of your indoor areas, there are several ways to spot potential damage so you can clean and remove the hazards.


One of the easiest ways to detect the presence of thirdhand smoke is the smell. Just like the toxins from tobacco smoke tend to become embedded in the room, the strong smell sticks around too.

Finally, while it may seem obvious, the best way to prevent any future presence of thirdhand smoke is to forbid others from smoking in your home or office altogether. The residue from just a few cigarettes has the potential to linger for months on end in indoor spaces, so you should establish a strict no-smoking policy without exceptions. Otherwise, you and your family, friends, or coworkers won’t just be exposed to second-hand smoke — you’ll have to deal with potential long-term effects without knowing it.

Find and Remove Thirdhand Smoke with Our Experts

Ready to get rid of any potential for thirdhand smoke and finally enjoy true peace of mind at your home or office space? At IndoorDoctor, our experts are fully trained to find lingering nicotine particles in the air, in the walls, or on any furniture or surfaces around your indoor areas. We use state-of-the-art testing equipment to ensure without a doubt you and your family are safe from the effects of thirdhand smoke. Plus, we’ll give you a comprehensive rundown of our findings after our search. Contact Our Team to Schedule Your Smoke Test!

References: 

  1. Does the Smoke Ever Really Clear? Thirdhand Smoke Exposure Raises New Concerns
    – National Library of Medicine
  2. The Dangers of Thirdhand Smoke to You and Your Children – Banner Health
  3. Frequently Asked Questions About Thirdhand Smoke – Live Smoke-Free
  4. Can You Test for Thirdhand Smoke? – ThirdHandSmoke.org