How Humidifiers Can Help With Smoke By Adding Moisture

Ile Kauppila

Written By

Ile Kauppila

Expert Reviewed By

Josh Mitchell

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I love my fireplace, but even with careful use, it sometimes belches smoke into my home. I probably don’t need to tell you how dangerous that is.

If you’re like me and own a humidifier, you might wonder if the unit can help with smoke.

Unfortunately, your trusty humidifier doesn’t do much for smoke. It’s simply not built for it.

In this guide, I will teach you what your humidifier can and can’t do to help you deal with smoke in your home.

Key Takeaways

  • Humidifiers do not remove smoke. They do, however, improve the air quality making it easier for you to breathe in a smoky environment.
  • To remove persistent smoke from your living space, an air purifier is recommended instead.

Will A Humidifier Help Remove Smoke Inside The Home?

A humidifier can’t help remove smoke from your home. As much as I love my humidifiers, they are simply not designed to clean air — only to add humidity to it.

Do humidifiers help with smoke

If you want to actually clear the air of smoke, recommend using home air purifiers.

Although humidifiers don’t remove smoke, they can improve indoor air quality in a smoky room.

Smoke often contains various air pollutants, such as ash, that can cause foul odors and irritate your airway.

Maintaining indoor humidity levels between 40%-60% can allow moisture to condensate around these airborne particles.

The added weight pulls them down to the ground, which keeps you from inhaling them and makes it easier to clean them up. (1)

Important Note:

There is also a third device known as Air Washers. These humidify as well as clean the air. They are generally more expensive compared to standalone humidifiers and air purifiers.

Additionally, humidifiers can relieve eye and airway irritation from being around smoke.

I’ve listed below how the most popular humidifier types can help with smoke.

humidifiers vs air purifiers

TL;DR: No, a humidifier will not remove smoke. In order to remove smoke, you need an air purifiers and yes, you can sue both humidifier and an air purifier together in the same room.

Evaporative Humidifiers Have A Basic Filter

Evaporative humidifiers absorb water into a wick filter and blow air over it to produce water vapor.

In addition to humidifying your living space, an evaporative unit may slightly reduce pollutants in the air.

Water in the humidifier’s tank and its air intake may absorb some ambient air pollution that can then get trapped in the filter.

However, this effect will be so slight that I wouldn’t recommend relying on it.

Ultrasonic Have No Filter

Ultrasonic humidifiers break water into a fine mist with a vibrating plate.

They are very efficient at increasing humidity levels, so they can be useful for relieving respiratory issues caused by smoke.

However, ultrasonic humidifiers generally have no filters.

If your unit’s water tank happens to get contaminated with smoke pollutants, the humidifier will spew them back into the air.
ultrasonic vs evaporative humidifiers

As such, I recommend you avoid using ultrasonic units in smoky environments.

Important Note:

While evaporative humidifiers do have a filter, and they do provide some air quality benefit compared to ultrasonic humidifiers, they are not primarily design to clean the air.

TL;DR: The two most common types of humidifiers are ultrasonic and evaporative humidifiers and neither are design to remove smoke.

Whole-House Humidifiers Have Filters But Do Not Clean The Air

Whole-house humidifiers attach to existing air conditioning systems to disperse humidity into the entire house. They are also called furnace humidifiers.

They may be able to reduce smoke smell and ambient air pollution throughout your home.

Furnace units are expensive, though, and installing them on central air conditioners often requires a professional.

how does a whole house humidifier work

Since they don’t actually remove smoke any better than your existing HVAC system, I wouldn’t buy one if your goal is to only get rid of smoke.

TL;DR: Even whole house humidifiers with their large filters are not designed to get rid of smoke.

Warm Or Cool Mist – Neither Matters Much

In general, it makes no difference whether you use a cool or warm mist humidifier.

Neither unit can clean the airso the choice comes down to the other benefits you seek.

A warm mist unit is better for wintry conditions as it will retain the humidity better in your home.

Cool mist humidifiers are generally more effective, so they can be better at removing levels of airborne particles.

The cool mist can also relieve dry throat and skin resulting from smoke exposure.

Air Purifier/Humidifier Combo

If you want to get rid of smoke in your home, you can look into air purifier/humidifier units.

These devices combine a humidifier and air purifier into one unit and can help with the removal of smoke.

I recommend purchasing a machine that has a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in the purifier component.

These filters can bind even the tiniest particles and significantly improve air quality in your home.

For the best results, ensure the source of the smoke has cleared before running the device.

Use Humidifiers After The Smoke Source Has Been Eliminated

Since humidifiers don’t actually remove smoke, my #1 tip is to get rid of the smoke’s source before you turn the unit on.

After that, follow my advice below to help the humidifier lower indoor particle levels.

  • For marijuana or cigarette smoke, clear the room of smokers, lit cigarettes/joints, and cigarette butts. Run a humidifier with plenty of ventilation until the smoke is gone.
  • For cooking, make sure that you have finished and the stove is off. Run the humidifier in the kitchen until the mist or smoke has cleared, with a window or door open and a kitchen fan on.
  • With an open fireplacemake sure the fire is completely out, including any embers. Keep the humidifier close to the fireplace and run until the smoke has dissipated.
  • In a wildfire situation, you should keep all windows and doors closed to stop smoke from entering your home. Run your humidifier with everything closed to alleviate any irritation from the smoke.
  • After electrical fires, make sure the damaged devices or power lines are powered off and unplugged so the added humidity won’t cause sparks. Keep the humidifier at least three feet away from all electronics.

Common Types Of Smoke Found Indoors

Any smoke in indoor air poses an extreme health hazard. I’ve listed here the most common sources of dangerous indoor smoke.

Cigarette Smoke Is Full Of Toxins

Whether you’re smoking tobacco or marijuana, cigarette smoke is hazardous to your health.

Even if you’re not the one puffing away, you will absorb the same toxins and particles through passive smoking. (2)

If you want to get rid of cigarette smoke, my best tip is to simply stop smoking.

Indoor Wood Fires Contain Lethal Carbon Monoxide

I love a fireplace or wood-burning stove on a cold winter night. But the fact stands that open indoor wood fires emit harmful particles, in addition to lethal carbon monoxide. (3)

I’m asthmatic so I always ensure my fireplace’s ventilation works properly before I light it.

Cooking And Burning Smoke

If you have a gas stove, then you will inevitably be exposed to the gasses released from cooking.

Yet even electric stoves can burn food and release smoke.

Always keep an eye on your cooking, get your stove serviced regularly, and don’t leave anything on the stove without supervision.

Wildfire Smoke Traveling From Huge Distances

Wildfire smoke can travel for thousands of miles and enter your home through open windows and doors, HVAC air intakes, and cracks or joints.

The smoke from wildfires is incredibly harmful to your health.

Important Note:

If you’re in a high-risk area, you should always follow the advice from public health officials, keep vents and windows closed, and evacuate when the authorities tell you to do so.

Fire And Electrical Accidents

Anything in your home can catch fire and produce smoke.

I once had an electric kettle that sparked overnight and left my kitchen stinking of burnt plastic for days.

The toxic emissions from burnt electronics and other objects can be extremely dangerous, so ventilate your home well after any accidental fires.

TL;DR: Understanding and identifying sources of smoke will help you mitigate and manage them. The most common daily indoor sources of smoke are cooking and cigarettes' smoking. Ventilate your home well.

Health Risks Caused By Smoke Exposure

Smoke exposure is always dangerous, and it may very well be lethal. I’ve listed here some of the most significant health risks caused by smoke.

Leads To Serious Irritation

Short-term exposure to smoke often causes irritation on the mucous membranes of the throat, eyes, and nose, resulting in itchiness, coughing, chest pain, and difficulty breathing.

Continued exposure (more than a few minutes) can damage these areas and lead to illness.

Aggravates Pre-Existing Conditions

Smoke will aggravate symptoms of existing respiratory diseases and conditions, like asthma (as I know very well).

Smoke — particularly cigarette smoke — can also make heart conditions worse. (4)

Causes Respiratory Diseases

It’s no secret that smoking increases your chances of developing lung cancer. Inhaled air pollutants from even a regular fireplace are dangerous. The best defense against this is to keep smoke out of your indoor environment altogether.

Higher Mortality Due To Irreversible Damage

Smoke kills. The damage smoke causes in our bodies is often irreversible and can lead to premature death by depositing pollution deep in your lungs.

Keeping yourself and your home smoke-free is the best way to avoid smoke damage.

TL;DR: Both short and long term exposure to smoke can be dangerous. It all depends upon the type of chemicals present. Smoke with CO can be particularly lethal even in short term. Daily household cooking smoking can pose long terms risks.

FAQs

Do Humidifiers Help With Smokers’ Cough?

A humidifier may help with a smoker’s cough by moisturizing the airway and reducing inflammation. However, the best treatment for a smoker’s cough is to quit altogether.

What Absorbs The Smell Of Smoke?

Standard soaps and detergents can absorb smoke smell from your home. For additional help, you can try leaving bowls of vinegar, baking soda, or activated charcoal sitting in your home for several days.

Does Water Help Get Rid Of Smoke?

Water can help you get rid of the smell of smoke, but it doesn’t reduce the actual amount of smoke.

A warm water and vinegar solution can help you clean smoke residue from your home. An appropriate humidity level may also lower indoor particle levels.

How Long Does The Smell Of Smoke Last?

Smoke smell may last from a few hours to even weeks, depending on its cause. Proper ventilation and thorough cleaning can help get rid of the smell faster.

How Do I Stop The Fireplace From Smoking In My House?

Get your chimney swept and serviced regularly to keep smoke from the fireplace out of your home.

Always open the damper fully, keep your fires toward the back of the fireplace, and start with a small fire if you haven’t used the fireplace recently.

So, Humidifiers Can Help But Do Not Eliminate Smoke

Smoke is always dangerous. As much as I rely on my humidifier for my respiratory health, it sadly can’t do much against smoke.

You now know how your humidifier can help you if smoke happens to get into your home.

But my best piece of advice is to do your best to keep your home smoke-free. You can then concentrate on getting all the other awesome benefits from your humidifier!

References: 

  1. https://lungsrus.org/protecting-yourself-from-wildfire-smoke/
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/secondhand-smoke/about.html
  3. https://www.epa.gov/burnwise/wood-smoke-and-your-health
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/sgr/50th-anniversary/pdfs/fs_smoking_cvd_508.pdf
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Ile Kauppila

MA Multimedia Journalism / BA English Philology

Ile Kauppila
Ile Kauppila is a globetrotting writer and editor living in Virginia. Ile holds an MA degree in Multimedia Journalism and a BA in English Philology. Ile has written for a variety of home, HVAC, and energy-related websites and publications. He has covered HVAC solutions, insulation, and energy-efficient construction, automotive AC systems for multiple auto dealerships and garages.

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