Cleaning cigarette smoke

How to Get Rid of Cigarette Smoke in a Home

What if you’ve just found your dream home…but the previous owners were smokers? Or what if you’re getting ready to sell your home…but you’re a smoker and you know that lingering tobacco smell will turn off potential buyers? Or what if you just quit smoking (or are trying to) and you don’t want to live somewhere that triggers your former addiction…but you don’t have the money to move?

There’s no way around it: cigarette smoke is a major turn-off for realtors, homebuyers, and homeowners alike. Changing the carpets and repainting can usually do the trick, but not always. How do you get rid of the smell that’s embedded in the walls, ceilings, and floors? Here are a few ways to go about it.

  • Clean the air. Open the windows and leave them open for as long as you can. Also, change the air filters in the home. Vinegar, a strong-smelling substance itself, tends to soak up other strong smells. Set a bowl of it in each room (or more depending on room size) and keep it out of reach from pets or children. Air purifiers like this one may also help.
  • Clean! Clean! Clean! There are a lot of areas to clean in a smoky house. A good rule of thumb if you’re trying to use more natural cleaners is to use vinegar on walls, ceilings hard floors, and fabrics, and to use baking soda on carpets. Here are the main areas to tackle:
    • Walls & Ceilings. These are typically the biggest culprits of that lingering smoke smell. You can use vinegar to clean these areas, but you also may want to try something a bit stronger. Use cleaning products that contain ammonia (such as glass cleaners) and/or glycol (many all-purpose cleaners have this chemical). These chemicals help neutralize odors, but take the proper safety precautions when using these products. Remember to really get those ceilings – they can harbor the smell even more than the walls! If you smell the walls after they’ve dried and they still smell like smoke, try again. If they still smell like smoke, it may be time to repaint. Repainting can be costly at times, but it may be worth it in the long run. Your paint store can point you in the direction of a good sealant to use that will help mask the smell before you apply the paint. (Don’t forget to clean those baseboards too!)
    • Carpets. Carpets house that smoke smell all too well. Use a strong carpet cleaner like this, or make one yourself using a recipe like this one. If you still notice a smell after cleaning, it may be time to call in the professionals.
    • Floors & Doors. Use a wood-friendly cleaner. If you’re mopping, switch out the water regularly, and use a rag to clean the corners.
    • Drapes & Blinds. If you can, wash your drapes in hot water and vinegar (one cup of vinegar per load – but don’t let them sit too long in the vinegar water before starting them, as the vinegar may fade the color if left on the fabric too long). You may also choose to have them dry-cleaned. If your blinds are wooden, use a wood cleaner. If they’re plastic, soak them in a bathtub of hot water and vinegar for about half and hour and then scrub with a scrub brush. Let them air dry.
    • Windows & Mirrors. Use a glass cleaner, or a water-vinegar mixture. Remember the sills and frames too!
  • Use a deodorizer. There are several options on the market, such as this Smoke Blaster Spray or this smoke odor exterminator spray. Deodorizer bags (like this one) are also a good option, or try a smoker’s candle. These have natural enzymes in them that help to neutralize and remove odors from smoking, cooking, and pets.

If after doing everything listed here, there’s still a smoky smell, you may want to contact a professional and see what else can be done. Hopefully in time the smell will go away and you can enjoy your new, smoke-free home!