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How to Get Smoke Smell Out of Your House

Aroma oil diffuser on table at home air freshener
Bohdan Bevz / Getty

There is little less welcoming than smelling stale smoke in a home, especially when you are a non-smoker. In 2020, 12.5% of American adults were smokers. If you don’t smoke, perhaps a previous occupant of your home did. Our guide will explain how to get smoke smell out of a house and home furnishings quickly.

The cleaning required depends on how long the smoker was on the property and how often they smoked. The odor is third-hand smoke. It can seem to linger everywhere — in the furniture, curtains, and clothing, and even on the walls themselves. But by following this guide, you will know how to get rid of the smoke smell in houses for good. We have detailed some easy steps and highlighted the products and tools that can help you.

Steps for getting rid of smoke smell

These easy steps will help you get rid of nasty odors quickly and easily. Once you know how to get the smoke smell out of house furnishings and walls, you can keep on top of it.

Anything that has had a cigarette in it will keep the offensive smell. Start by throwing away any ashtrays, cigarette butts, packets and lighters.

2: Open up all the windows in the house

A quick start on how to get smoke smell out of house furnishings is to open up all the windows right away. It’s also important to open windows before you start cleaning, so there’s ventilation if you’re using any harsh cleaning products.

3: Increase the air circulation

Use two ventilators to boost air circulation and speed up the removal of the smell. Use one ventilator to push air across the room. Place the second near a window or door to further expel the stale air.

Make a 50/50 mixture of hot water and white vinegar. Use a spray bottle and some rags to wipe down all hard surfaces. Include decorations, doors, kitchen counters, fan blades, light fixtures, and picture frames. Use a mop and bucket to clean the floor with the same mixture of water and vinegar.

4: Clean carpets and fabric-covered surfaces

Baking soda is a handy household cleaner as it can neutralize odor molecules. Sprinkle it on carpets and fabric surfaces and leave it for a few days. Then vacuum, and if needed, steam-clean your carpet.

5: Machine wash laundry-safe fabrics

Toss any washer-safe cushion covers, curtains, pillow covers, sofa covers, and linens into the machine. Do one wash cycle with .5 cups of white vinegar and then a second cycle with your usual detergent. Let them air dry outside until the house is clean.

6: Replace HVAC air filters and clean air ducts

Replace any HVAC filters that may have accumulated odor molecules. You could also consider using a carbon (activated charcoal) or a HEPA filter to remove odors. Check all air ducts and remove any blockages or dust that might have smoke residue in them.

Products and tools you’ll need to get smoke smell out of your house

Ammonia

You can buy ammonia from a hardware store. 

Cost: $1.98 for 64 ounces.

Use: There are many ways to safely use ammonia and all begin with diluting in water. A safe mixture is 1 cup of ammonia per gallon of water. Scrub floors, walls or other surfaces to remove odors. Remember to open windows and keep the area well ventilated while you work. 

Safety: Please note that ammonia is very toxic, so it is advisable to use gloves when using this product. Never mix with bleach as it will create a highly toxic gas that can harm you.

Zep Professional Strength Smoke Odor Eliminator

The aerosol claims to remove “the smell of smoke caused by cigarettes, cigars, and fire at the source.” 

Cost: $5.99 for 16 oz. aerosol can

Use: Spray directly in room or on items affected by odor

Safety: It is recommended that you keep children and pets out of the room while the product is being used. Allow the spray to fully dissipate before allowing your pets into the area.

Febreze

The popular air freshener and odor eliminator uses a chemical compound called cyclodextrin, a sugar-like substance that absorbs odors. 

Cost: $11.30 for 3 pack

Use: Spray as directed on surfaces and in areas affected by odors

Safety: Although considered safe to use in a home with pets, remove birds from the room you are spraying first and don’t let any animals come into contact with the wet surfaces as you spray. Definitely do not spray your pets directly.

Steam cleaner

For deeply soiled or odorous carpets and other appropriate surfaces, buy or rent a steam cleaner. They come in hand-held versions, uprights or canisters. 

Cost: Varies, average is $149.99

Use:  “Once turned on, water is heated beyond the boiling point and the heated vapor comes out of an attachment. This pressurized water vapor not only loosens dirt, it also removes allergens and bacteria, kills mold, dust mites,” according to The Family Handyman.

Safety: Do not use on your laminate flooring!

Air filter

Buy a new air filter to replace the existing one harboring smoke molecules. 

Cost: $38.48 for a 4 pack

Use: Check out the air exchanges in your home that are connected by vents to your HVAC source. Air filters come in sizes, so make sure you write down the size of the filter you are replacing.

Safety: Change your filter every 90 days to keep your home fresh and free of allergens.

Air purifier

If you want to improve overall air quality, buy or rent an air purifier that has a HEPA filter. 

Cost: $116

Use: Purifiers have filters and a fan that pulls in your room’s air, removes pollutants and recirculates back into the room. 

Safety: Ozone purifiers can be harmful. If you have asthma, consider that “Specific effects may include throat irritation, coughing, chest pain and shortness of breath, as well as an increased risk of respiratory infections. Some ozone air purifiers are made with an ion generator, sometimes called an ionizer, in the same unit,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

Don’t want to use chemicals? Here’s how to get smoke smell out of your house naturally

If you’re concerned about toxic or harsh chemicals that may be in some cleaning products, there are several naturally-derived things you can do. Place activated charcoal, apple cider vinegar, or white vinegar in a bowl in each room. If you are a coffee lover, you could also use coffee grounds. All these substances can help to absorb odors in a non-invasive way.

You can also mask the smoke smell with vanilla extract. Use a cloth to wipe it over different surfaces in the home, or put some on cotton balls. You can also do the same with essential oils or use scented candles to get rid of the smell. House plants are also excellent at absorbing chemicals and purifying the air. Buy some and place them throughout the house.

Homemade mixtures

Keep a spray bottle handy that you can fill with any homemade mixtures and apply them to hard surfaces safely. One popular mix is making a 50/50 mixture of hot water and white vinegar in a bowl and using a towel to wipe down all surfaces and items. If you can’t stand the smell of vinegar, try adding some lavender oil to the mix to cut the tangy odor.

Baking soda

You might find baking soda in your baking supplies at home. Or buy it from a supermarket. It’s great for making simple cleaning pastes and soaking up odors.

Cost: An inexpensive solution, a 15 lb. bag is $3.45

Use: Put some in the area that needs to be cleaned (on the carpet, in your shoes) and let it sit or put some on a plate or paper towel and let it sit out to absorb odors.

Safety: Note that baking soda can be toxic to dogs if large quantities are ingested.

Charcoal Bags Odor Absorber

Activated bamboo charcoal is a natural odor eliminator that freshens up the air and is gentle on mother nature. Our bamboo charcoal bags can be “reactivated” by placing them in the sun for a few hours monthly, allowing them to last up to two years.

Cost: $14.40 for 4 pack

Use: Leave them in a closet or room to absorb odors

Safety: Safe to use around pets and people, even for people with sensitive skin.

The bottom line on how to get smoke smell out of your house

Start by airing out the house in general. Then use robust cleaning products to clean all hard surfaces. Then wash all carpets and any fabric-covered areas. Clean all air ducts and replace air filters. To finish the job, you can follow up with an air purifier.

Frequently Asked Questions

What percentage of tobacco residue stays in people’s homes?

Research has found that 70%-90% of nicotine and chemicals can remain as residue inside people’s homes.

Does painting a property get rid of the smoke smell?

Because paint is porous, it is tough to get rid of the smoke smell completely from a wall. It’s best to re-paint. Clean the wall first, then use an odor-sealant primer before you start painting.


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