9 Tips for Getting Cigarette Smell Out of Your House

Ginny Bartolone
Written by Ginny Bartolone
Updated July 22, 2021
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Follow these nine steps to track down and get rid of the persistent cigarette odor in each room of your house

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You've finally found your dream home, but there's one caveat: the former resident was a smoker. Known as third-hand smoke, cigarette residue on the walls, in the rugs, and on other hard surfaces is both stinky and a danger to your health. Follow these nine tips and tricks to rid your living space of the smell, stains, and residual soot from recently smoked cigarettes in your home.

Getting That Cigarette Smoke Smell Out: Where to Begin

If you're battling the stench of old cigarettes in your home, you may have recently moved into a new home owned by a former smoker or said goodbye to a smoking friend or family member who came to visit.

In the first scenario, there's a good chance of significant smoke residue in your carpet, walls, and floor. The smell may, unfortunately, require heavy cleaning, professional help, or even carpet replacement. Visiting smokers, however, may only leave minor odors, making it much easier to rid your home of the residue.

When you walk into your home and get hit with that familiar stench of smoke, try not to panic. There are ways to have a bright-and-clean-smelling home once more. Here are some step-by-step tips for regaining a fresh and breathe-easy space once more.

We'll walk you through each step below, noting when it's best to take on the job yourself or hire a pro:

1. Ventilate Your Home

Before starting any major cleaning job, create as much ventilation as possible. Open the windows, prop the doors, and set up fans to bring in that fresh air. Not only will this help with getting out the cigarette smell, but it will also keep you safe once you break out the cleaning supplies.

2. Gather Your Tools

Depending on the severity of the smoke smell, you can either opt for a store-bought cleaning solution or one made from ingredients you may already have one hand. For example, a solution of white vinegar and water pairs well with baking soda to neutralize odors and break up residue.

Remember: never mix cleaning supplies, even with milder ones such as vinegar, and be sure to read the labels for proper use and ventilation.

We recommend gathering:

  • Vinegar

  • Baking soda

  • Empty spray bottle

  • Cleaning rags

  • Bucket with fresh water

  • Wet and drop mops or microfiber floor cleaners

  • Vacuum

  • Carpet cleaner

  • Glass cleaners

  • Paper towels

  • Store-bought cleaner (optional)

3. Determine the Source of the Smell

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Always start with the major cigarette-odor culprits first. By getting rid of the majority of the smell, you can hone in on the smaller details hanging on to the residue later. The most common trouble areas are:

  • Wall-to-wall carpeting or area rugs

  • Linens, curtains, and other soft goods

  • Walls

  • Windows

  • Hardwood or tile floors

  • Hard surfaces such as countertops

  • Small details like doorknobs, decor, and appliances

Create a game plan for removing the smell, starting with the most potent items and working your way down.

If the odor affects your clothing or other washable linens, pop them in the washing machine with your regular detergent and a quick coating of baking soda. Line dry each item to let the fresh air remove any remaining smells.

4. Clean or Remove Carpets

For lighter odors, sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda on your carpet and let it sit for 30 minutes before vacuuming it up. If this doesn't do the trick, spray a store-bought carpet cleaner or a solution of one-part vinegar and three-parts water to the rug and allow it to dry.

More severe stains and odors may require renting a steamer or hiring a local professional carpet cleaner. If you've just moved into a home with wall-to-wall carpeting with years of smoke settled into it, it may be most cost-effective to replace your carpeting altogether.

5. Clean and Paint the Walls

You may be able to spot the effects of years of cigarette smoke at the tops of the walls and around the corners of the room. Begin by scrubbing the walls with a wood-safe cleaner to remove the soot. You can also purchase trisodium phosphate (TSP) from your local hardware store for extreme issues.

Once the walls are clean and dry, adding a fresh coat of paint is one of the best ways to start fresh. Speak with your local paint store about a special shellac or primer ideal for covering stains and odors, or consider investing in the cost to paint the room by working with professionals.

6. Focus on the Floors

Sweep, vacuum, and mop up tile or hardwood floors as you would for any other deep clean, opting for floor cleaner safe for your specific finish. If necessary, create a paste from baking soda and water to scrub out any cigarette burns from vinyl flooring.

Since you will only be able to clean the top finishing on hardwood floors, it could be worth adding a new layer of varnish to completely eradicate the smell.

7. Clean Your HVAC Vents

Do you get a breeze of cigarette odor every time you flip on the AC? Soot could be building up inside your HVAC ventilation system. Contact your local air duct cleaners and tell them that you're specifically working to get rid of cigarette smells and smoke residue.

8. Clean Hard Surfaces

Move onto the hard surfaces within reach, such as:

  • Windows

  • Counters

  • Cabinetry

  • Built-in shelves

  • Appliances

  • Doors

  • Window and door frames

Both DIY and store-bought solutions can cut through cigarette soot on these surfaces. Let the areas airdry with the windows open whenever possible.

9. Finish Up With the Details

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Be sure to catch all the smaller areas of the room often missed by the mop and vacuum. These may include the ceiling fan, light fixtures, and knobs. If there was furniture and decor in the room with the smoke, pay extra attention to soft areas with odor-neutralizing cleaning solutions.

Cigarette smoke can permeate your home over time. If you're new to a space, you should be able to start fresh—with fresh air at the top of your priority list. When DIY methods aren't quite enough for the job, hire the best odor removal specialists near you for an even deeper clean.

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