Smoke odor in your home? Here’s how to remove it.
You can’t control the habits of previous owners of your new home, or the previous tenants of that new apartment or condo you found. You know, habits like smoking. You don’t always notice the odor of smoke when you’re doing a walk-through, but once you settle in…the smell hits you at once. Don’t despair, though. While removing the smell will not be an easy task, with time, patience and a lot of dedicated “elbow grease” you won’t even know that anyone other than yourself occupied your new digs.
If you’re renting a house, condo or apartment it might be best to speak with your landlord before you begin any type of cleaning regimen. You wouldn’t need permission to do basic cleaning, of course, but removing smoke odor might be more complicated. And it’s possible your new landlord might prefer to use a specific company for such cleaning.
You should also review your rental lease to find out what rights you have as a tenant. The landlord might be responsible for ridding their property of any smell and will pay for any costs associated with the cleaning, such as contracting with professionals.
It’s time to clear the air
Allowing fresh air to enter your home is the first course to take when dealing with smoke and fire damage. Just open every window in your home or apartment and let the cross-breeze begin the freshening process. This action won’t rid your home of smoke smell, but it’s a good start. Another way to hasten the odor-banishment is to set bowls of white vinegar in various areas of your home, at least one per room. If the room is large, you may want to add another bowl or two. Just be sure to keep them out of reach of small children and pets, of course.
Using air purifiers are a great way to reduce that nasty smoke odor. If you don’t have a unit of your own, see if you can borrow a couple of units from friends—or just go to your local department store or hardware store and buy your own. It might be a good idea to have a few air purifiers on hand—you never know when a guest might sneak a cigarette. Be sure to place purifiers in the rooms you use most; this might be the kitchen or a home office during the day. In the evening you should place one in each bedroom. If any family member is allergic to cigarette smoke, placement in that bedroom should take priority.
Next: Walls and ceilings
You might assume that only your walls are affected by the smell of smoke, but ceilings are often overlooked and are notorious for retaining odor. Just remember that every surface needs to be cleaned, and that includes your ceiling. Don’t neglect that important detail!
As for cleaning products, make sure that the ones you use contain ammonia and glycol which are key ingredients for neutralizing odor. Remember, however, that these are harsh toxic chemicals and should be handled carefully. Be especially mindful to keep small children and pets away from the area(s) where you’re working. Also, be sure to test each cleanser on a small hidden section of your wall or ceiling to ensure that the paint can withstand the particular cleanser you’re using. Work on one room at a time.
Once you’ve finished thoroughly cleaning all surfaces and those surfaces are completely dry, use your nose to determine if there is any residual smell. If you can’t smell cigarette smoke, you’re almost there. Spend another couple of days giving those surfaces the smell test. What you may be smelling is the cleanser, which could be masking the smoky smell. If, after several days, you no longer smell smoke, you’re done. If, however, you do still smell smoke it may be time to repaint the walls and ceilings. Consult with your local paint store regarding your smoke smell situation. They should have a sealant that can be applied to the walls and ceilings first before the actual repainting. Doing this will seal off the odor and prevent it from seeping through your fresh paint job.
Because they’re basically fabric, carpets retain all sorts of smells, particularly smoke. If your home is carpeted try using a strong rug cleaner. Be sure to spread the cleaner generously around the room you’re treating. You should pay close attention to corners and floor edges to ensure full coverage. Every rug cleaning product is different, so follow the instructions and let the product do its thing for the maximum recommended time.
Once the product is completely dry, thoroughly vacuum the carpet. Once that’s done do a smell test. If your carpet fails the smell test it might be time to contact a professional company for some major deep cleaning. When calling for quotes be sure to tell them that you’re trying to remove smoke odor. Ultimately, this will be good investment since a deep cleaning by professionals should do the trick. If you’re a renter, speak with your landlord first. It should be the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that your apartment is clean before you move in, and that includes odors left behind by the previous tenant. You might also want to check your lease.
Next: Floors and doors
Wood floors require cleaners that are wood-friendly. The floors should be mopped thoroughly and you should also change the water as often as possible. You might need to hand-scrub corners and floor edges as well. Make sure the baseboards and door frames are cleaned.
Next: Drapes and blinds
Take down all drapes and blinds. Most drapes need to be dry-cleaned (check any labels to be sure). If they must be dry-cleaned inform the dry-cleaning company about the smoke odor problem and that you want the smell completely removed. They may need to use special solvents for this purpose. If your drapes are able to be washed, wash them in hot water (if possible), adding some vinegar to the wash water. We mentioned earlier that vinegar is an effective odor neutralizer and natural cleaner. Use one cup of vinegar per full load. Be sure to add vinegar to the water before placing the drapes into the washer. Vinegar is a natural bleaching agent and can fade colors; never allow fabrics to sit for an extended period of time in a vinegar and water solution.
If you’re cleaning non-fabric or non-wooden blinds, lay the blinds in a bathtub. Fill the bathtub with hot water, adding a cup of vinegar to it. The blinds should soak in the tub for at least 15 minutes. Afterward, scrub the blinds with a fine scrub brush and hang the blinds to dry. For other types of materials (wood or fabric) follow the previous instructions for wood floors or drapes.
Next: Windows and mirrors
A vinegar and water solution is great for cleaning windows and mirrors. Be sure to clean into corners—and don’t forget the sills and window frames, too.