How to Clean Cigarette Smoke Odors

Open window in bedroom
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Overview
  • Skill Level: Beginner

There are few odors as permeating or hard to get rid of as cigarette smoke. It's a resilient smell that's often resistant to simpler tactics you might attempt, such as opening windows, to get rid of a less-pervasive odor. To fully eliminate cigarette smoke, particularly in a place where a smoker lived for a long time, you will need to rigorously and thoroughly clean the carpet, walls, and other permeable surfaces. Don't just clean some surfaces and not others; smoke gets into virtually everything.

Tip

If no one smokes in the house, you should be able to eliminate the cigarette odors with one or two thorough cleanings. If there are smokers, however, you will have to clean the walls and floors regularly to ward off the odors.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Rubber gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Bucket
  • Cleaning rags
  • Vacuum

Materials

  • Ammonia- and glycol-based cleaners
  • Rug cleaning solution
  • Wood cleaner
  • Vinegar

Instructions

  1. Prepare the Cleaner

    Use cleaning products that contain ammonia and glycol, both key ingredients for neutralizing the smell. Mix the product (as needed), following the package instructions. Test an area of the walls and ceiling first just to see how the paint will withstand the cleanser.

    Tip

    Wear rubber gloves when mixing and cleaning with chemical cleaners. When cleaning ceilings, wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from drips.

  2. Clean the Walls and Ceiling

    Thoroughly clean the walls and ceiling in each affected room. Let the surfaces dry, then smell the walls. If you still smell cigarette smoke, repeat the cleaning process. Keep checking after a day or two, as the smell of the cleaner may be masking the smoke.

  3. Clean the Carpets

    Carpets are responsible for retaining a lot of the smell of cigarette smoke. Use a strong rug cleaner and apply the product generously around the room, getting into all of the corners and edges. Follow the instructions, leaving the product on for the maximum time allotted. Vacuum the carpet thoroughly, let it dry completely, then do a smell test. If you can still smell smoke in the carpet, you may need to hire professionals to do a deep cleaning.

  4. Clean the Floors and Doors

    For wood floors and doors, make sure you use a cleaner that is wood-friendly. Mop the floor thoroughly, and change the mop water regularly. If necessary, you may need to hand-scrub corners and floor edges. Clean the baseboards and door frames. 

    Some wood floor cleaners contain oils or waxes that leave a residue on the floor and may eliminate the possibility of recoating the floor's finish in the future.

  5. Clean the Drapes and Blinds

    Remove all drapes and blinds. Drapes may need to be dry-cleaned. If so, make sure you talk to the dry-cleaner about removing the smoke smell. If your drapes can be washed, wash them in hot water. Add some vinegar to the wash water; vinegar is a great odor neutralizer and natural cleaner. Use one cup vinegar per full load, but make sure you add the vinegar to the water before placing drapes into the washer. Vinegar is a natural bleach and will fade colors, so you should never let fabrics sit for a long time in vinegar and water.

    To clean mini blinds, place the blinds in the bathtub. Fill the bathtub with hot water and a cup of vinegar. Let blinds soak in the tub for 15 minutes, then scrub them using a fine scrub brush. Hang the blinds to dry.

Tips to Eliminate Cigarette Smells for Good

Cigarette odors can linger even after you've done a thorough cleaning, but following a few tips can help rid your house of the odors permanently.

  • Replace the air: Fresh air is your friend in the fight against stale odors. Open windows and doors to get as much fresh air into your home as possible. While this won't get rid of the smell, it will help to improve conditions while you attack the sources of the smokiness.
  • Improve cross-ventilation: The best way to air out a home is with cross-ventilation. If possible, place box fans or window fans in one or more windows so they blow out. Then, open doors or windows on the opposite side of the house or in other rooms to let in fresh air, replacing the stale indoor air.
  • Invest in an air purifier: If you have an air purifier, this is a great way to help defeat a smoke smell. It takes time for the air to become clean, so it's best to keep the purifier in the room you use the most. During the day, that might be the kitchen or home office. At night, the bedroom. Purifying the air is essential for any family member who is allergic to cigarette smoke.
  • Repaint the walls: If you can still smell smoke over time, consider repainting the walls and ceilings. Talk to your local paint store about your problem. They can sell you a sealant that should be applied to the walls and ceilings first before repainting. This will seal off the smell and prevent it from seeping through your new paint job.