What this is about: Vaping, or e-cigarettes, and the residue they leave on the surfaces in your home.
Why this is important: Living in a clean home is important for calm and relaxing spaces. Also, if you can’t get it clean, or if vaping leaves an odor, it will affect the buyer appeal of your home when selling. Health risks are yet to clearly identified by government and health organizations.
Do you use e-cigarettes (also known as vaping)? The odds are that, if you don’t, you know someone who does. They are everywhere! Since my job and my interest is to promote and protect the value of homes as my clients prepare to buy, build, remodel, or sell, it is only natural that the topic of cleaning and odors be an important part of any conversation. After researching this pretty extensively, it seems to me that e-cigarette use, or vaping, definitely leaves a residue on all surfaces with which it comes in contact. Since it is airborne, that means it comes in contact with everything in the rooms you’re vaping in, even to the extent of getting into the air conditioning vents.
The vapor, which is mostly glycerin (not water as most people assume), is clear but slightly oily. It is similar to the vegetable glycerin used in fog machines and is more closely related to an aerosol gas than a water vapor. “The “vapor” emitted from an e-cig is actually not water vapor, but more like an aerosol gas, as the emissions consist of tiny particles that contain nicotine, glycerin/glycols, artificial flavorings and preservatives, among other chemicals, according to a new study from RTI International.” (Yahoo.com/Beauty) *
Cleaning E-Cig / Vaping Residue
Cleaning the residue can be very easy or very difficult, depending on the affected surface. Smooth, non-porous surfaces wipe down easily with a wet cloth or vinegar-water mixture. Some build-up on glass may clean best with straight rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. If you keep on top of the cleaning, this should not be necessary. Glass, computer screens, TV screens, tile floors, etc. cleaned with these methods will remove residue.
Step up your cleaning frequency and these surfaces should still look and smell as fresh as ever. If not cleaned regularly, residue on any surface will begin to attract dust, hair, and debris. So, over time, things look and are dirtier than they would have been without e-cig vapors in the house. Don’t forget about your ceiling fans! Dust build-up will happen faster because the residue is holding onto anything that floats by.
Fabrics and carpets are not so simple. The ultra-fine particles of the e-cig vapor falls into these and can’t be washed out with water. Professional cleaning may be required more frequently than before. Anything that is porous runs the risk of storing odors, just as they would if you frequently fry fish indoors, for instance. Fabric fresheners such as baking soda, and other commercially marketed freshener products that bond with particles may also help. Just be sure to read the instructions carefully, because most will require that you spray/sprinkle on the product and then vacuum it up afterwards.
Another surface in the home that requires special attention but many people don’t think about, is the walls of the home. Walls are porous and the pores seem huge compared to the ultra-fine particles in vaping residues. They will settle in these “caverns” to do what they are going to do. In addition to the paint on the walls, you have to consider the texture of the walls themselves. Any texture will offer additional ledges and crevices for residues to rest in and on.
Unexpected Cleaning Challenges
Cleaning the walls regularly is therefore a must! Water with a good scrub should do the job. If your walls have flat paint, they cannot be cleaned with water, as you’ve probably figured out. If you’re going to be using e-cigarettes near those walls, I’d suggest repainting before you start vaping. Kilz is a brand of primer paint that seals walls with great effectiveness, so nothing can get in or out. Again, the painted walls will still need regular scrubbing because of the porous quality of the paint as well as the texture of the walls that create catching places.
Another hidden issue is the air vents and ducts in the home, which may require professional cleaning if vaping occurs regularly and/or heavily. Since air ducts connect rooms throughout the house, they should be given extra attention to ensure against the spread of any odors. Individual air vent filters can be purchased and should have some positive effect in containing any residue.
Other than the reasons given above, focusing on living in clean spaces and the readiness of your home to be sold in a clean, fresh condition; there is the health safety issue to be considered. I’m nowhere close to an expert in that field, so I will only say that, especially if you have children or family members with respiratory conditions, serious consideration should be taken before making decisions about what you are putting into the air in your breathing spaces.
“Overall, the EC are a new source of VOCs and ultrafine/fine particles in the indoor environment…” – Schripp et al 2013, Indoor Air (from http://www.trdrp.org/files/e-cigarettes/williams-slides.pdf)
Not all of my research resources are listed below, but I have provided several that I found particularly useful and lucid.