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How To Get Rid Of Lingering Smelly Cigarette Smoke

Smoking. What could be worse (especially when you are a non smoker) than to take over an apartment, house or a vehicle where the previous owner or tenant was a smoker and the evidence is all too obvious.

But don't despair, there are many solutions

Preferably, these should be carried out before you even move in but I realize that this is not always practical. The ideal scenario is warm sunny weather and an empty property. Do not be tempted to use any artificial commercial room fresheners.
  • Step 1 before anything else is to open as many windows as possible. While this will be so much easier on a warmer day, even if it's cold, try to open the windows to allow fresh air to come inside. While you won’t get rid of all the smoke smell, it will be a very good start, working even better when there is a slight breeze to help move the air through the house.
  • Hang as many items as possible outside in the sunshine. The sun and wind act as natural methods of dispelling those cigarette odors. UV rays are excellent for neutralizing smoke smells so leave any furniture in direct sunlight for a couple of days if possible.
  • Use electric fans by placing into the open window backwards (or reverse the direction it sucks air through - if possible). The aim is for the fan to be able to suck any odor out the room and into the outside. Place a second fan in the far opposite corner of the room, angled towards the other fan. Hopefully, it will then blow any offending odors into the other fan so that they will then be removed from the room.
  • Remove any bedding, clothes and soft furnishing items that might be on the property. All should be washed and any that cannot, then dry cleaned. Curtains, upholstery and carpets can be successfully steam cleaned. Carpets are prone to retaining cigarette smoke and should therefore be deep cleaned. Blinds can be washed in the bathtub while vinegar can be used both in the laundry and to clean blinds. Another method is to sprinkle baking soda on affected surfaces and furniture and leave for up to 72 hours, before vacuuming off.
  • Depending on the intensity and concentration of the cigarette smell, running air purifiers can help although they may take a while.
  • As mentioned earlier, vinegar is a great all-purpose cleaner. But it also helps to deodorize a room. Set out a bowl of vinegar in each room and after a few hours, the house should smell noticeably better.
  • As a cleaner, vinegar can be used with water either as a spray or can be wiped onto the furniture to deodorize. A solution of one part lemon juice to four parts water can also be used, if vinegar is unavailable.
  • Then it is time to get down to some deep cleaning. Residue from smoke builds up on the walls and can be removed by a solution of vinegar, ammonia, dish soap and warm water or by using cleaners containing glycol and ammonia. While we definitely avoid such toxic chemical cleaners in normal circumstances, this might be just one occasion when they are necessary if natural substances are not up to the task. Just be sure that when you do use these chemicals, you do so in a well-ventilated area with no pets and children on the property. A word of warning is that any overexposure to glycol ethers can cause anemia, intoxication as well as irritation of the eyes and nose. In animal studies, low level exposure has been shown to cause birth defects and damage to sperm and testicles. So PLEASE take any necessary precautions to protect yourself.
  • Ceilings are often overlooked but are one of the top places in the home to be saturated with smoke residue.
  • Don’t forget to clean the windows and mirrors because smoke can leave a film on glass surfaces which can be successfully cleaned with vinegar.
  • Often overlooked, light bulbs can be another source of smoke smell because as time goes by, residue builds up before being released when the light bulb is turned on and warms up. You will need to replace with brand new light bulbs.
  • Another point to remember is to clean all the heating and cooling ducts.

As a last resort

If you can still smell smoke on the walls and ceiling (even after a thorough cleaning), a fresh coat of zero VOC paint can be a simple way to get rid of the smell and give the property a whole new look at the same time. While not a natural product, Room Shocker from Biocide Systems and available online from Amazon.com is another possible solution. The advertising blurb says:
  • Revolutionary new technology facilitates the use of Chlorine Dioxide for home interiors and the purposes of deodorizing like nothing else can.
  • Improves interior air quality.
  • Not a masking agent, will remove odors permanently!
  • Easy to use. Just ad water and leave to set for minimum of 4 hours to a maximum of 24 hours depending on severity of problem.
  • Guaranteed to remove any odors caused by cigarette, mold and mildew, pet odors, and even skunk odor - or your money back.
A friend was telling me about her move to a new home just last week and how the sun room smelled strongly of cigarette smoke and she wondered what she could do to get rid of it. I hope this will help...