Cliff is an online marketer and freelance writer. He is passionate about health, sports, and travel.
Have you ever bought a used car or moved into a new place and noticed that you can't stand staying inside for too long because of a strong, repugnant smoke smell? Apparently, the previous owner was a smoker, and now you have to deal with the remnants of their nasty habit.
Smoke odor is very resilient and will penetrate just about anything, including carpets, drapes, furniture, clothes, and yes, even walls. It’s everywhere!
Cracking the windows open is a start, but it doesn't completely remove the odor.
Luckily, there are a lot of ways to get rid of smoke smell, whether it's from cigarettes, barbecues, your fireplace, or from burning food. You only need items that you likely already have in your kitchen. If your house or car smells like a massive ashtray, try the following deodorizing methods.
How to Get Rid of Smoke Smell
- Boil some vinegar, or use it to wash affected items.
- Sprinkle baking soda on affected items.
- Lay out bowls of charcoal.
- Set out bowls of coffee grounds.
- Soak cotton balls with vanilla extract.
- Cut apples in half, and lay the halves around your house or car.
- Scrub walls and floors with a mixture of ammonia and water.
- Use an air purifier with a carbon filter.
1. Remove Smoke Odor With Vinegar
You can use either white vinegar or apple cider vinegar, which are non-toxic and environmentally friendly. There are a few different ways to use vinegar to neutralize and remove bad odors like cigarette smoke:
- Boil some vinegar and allow it to diffuse through the house. You can also use the boiling vinegar to steam your clothes by placing smelly clothes above the heated vinegar.
- Mix 2 cups of vinegar in a gallon of warm water, soak a clean rag in it, and scrub down smelly surfaces, including walls, ceilings, floors, counters, and furniture. You can also wave the rag in the air to capture new odors.
- Add half a cup of vinegar to your laundry instead of your usual detergent. Not only will this remove bad odors, but it will also leave your clothes brighter and cleaner!
- Place small bowls of vinegar around the house or in your car to draw out bad odors.
How to Get Rid of Vinegar Smell
You've used vinegar to rid your things of bad odors, but now, you notice everything has an unmistakable, sour smell. Don't worry! Just use baking soda to neutralize the acidic vinegar.
- Scrub some baking soda into affected items.
- Leave it on for a few minutes.
- Wash it off with a clean, wet rag, or throw it in the washing machine.
You can place small bowls or open boxes of baking soda in affected areas to remove any remnants of vinegar odor. You can also just leave it be. The vinegar smell will go away on its own in a day or two.
2. Sprinkle Baking Soda on Affected Items
Baking soda isn't only used to get rid of dark spots on face, but it also works wonders for absorbing odors and drawing out excess moisture from the air. You can also use scented baking soda for some added freshness.
- Dust baking soda on your carpets, rugs, furniture, and car seats.
- Leave it on overnight up to 24 hours, depending on how strong the smell is. This gives the baking soda time to neutralize the smoke smell and other unpleasant odors.
- Vacuum it up thoroughly.
- If the smell isn't gone after a day, repeat the process.
- Keep repeating until the smoke smell is gone.
Another way to deodorize is to place small containers or open boxes of baking soda in problem areas to soak up the odor.
3. Lay Out Bowls of Charcoal
Charcoal is an effective, non-toxic cleanser that is often used to detox the body and to filter bad tastes from drinking water. It is also used to filter air because of its amazing ability to absorb contaminants and strong odors, like that of cigarette smoke.
- Place the charcoal into several small bowls or containers.
- Leave the containers around your room or inside your car for a couple of days.
- If the smell isn't gone, dump the old charcoal and replace with a new batch.
Using many smaller containers is better than one large container because it increases the surface area used to absorb lingering odors. You can also replace the charcoal as needed without wasting a bunch of unused charcoal.
What Type of Charcoal Should I Use to Remove Odors?
Both activated charcoal and the regular charcoal briquettes you use for the grill are effective at removing odors.
Some people recommend using activated charcoal, or activated carbon, because it is processed to make it more porous, increasing its surface area and maximizing its ability to absorb odors, contaminants, and toxins.
Activated charcoal comes in both powder form and in capsules, and can be found at almost any grocery store, drug store, or home supply store.
Charcoal briquettes contain some impurities that can make them slightly less effective than activated charcoal. Nevertheless, briquettes are still useful for getting rid of bad odor. To maximize their potential, you can increase their surface area by grinding them into a powder.
4. Lay Out Bowls of Coffee Grounds
Don't throw your coffee grounds away after you brew your cup of joe. They have many alternative uses. In this case, you can use them to remove bad odors like smoke smells from your home.
- Allow the coffee grounds to dry.
- Place them in small bowls or containers.
- Pace them in problem areas around the house or in your car.
- Leave them overnight.
- Remove or replace if the smell is still there.
Coffee grounds, like baking soda and charcoal, can absorb odors from your room. The strong smell of coffee also helps overpower any lingering smells. If you don't want your house or car to smell like coffee, then go with baking soda, which has no odor.
5. Soak Cotton Balls With Vanilla Extract
Vanilla has a strong, sweet aroma that can quickly fill the air and eliminate the smell of smoke and other bad odors. There are a few different ways to use it:
- Place several drops of vanilla extract onto cotton balls or gauze pads and leave them in smelly areas for a day.
- Place a few drops onto a wet sponge or rag to wipe down surfaces.
- Pour 1-2 tablespoons into small cups and leave them out for a day.
- Heat up 1-2 tablespoons of vanilla extract on the stove (for 20 mins on low heat) or in the microwave (for one minute on high) and allow the aroma to permeate the air.
6. Lay Out Apple Halves
Grab some apples to freshen up your home. Apples are surprisingly good at absorbing odor. I've found that his method works best in small spaces.
- Cut an apple in half or into slices.
- Leave them overnight in areas of your house or car that have a strong smoke odor.
Not only will they take away the smoke smell, but they will leave your house or car smelling like apples! This also works with other produce, like pears and potatoes. It's not an exact science, but some foods—like fruits, dairy, and bread—can absorb odors easily.
7. Scrub With Ammonia and Water
Many odors will penetrate walls, ceilings, and floors, and linger for weeks. If none of the other gentler methods haven't worked, try using a mixture of ammonia and water to really kill that smoke smell. Like vinegar, there are a few different ways to use ammonia:
- Mix 1 cup of ammonia in a gallon of warm water, and use it to scrub stubborn smells off of hard surfaces.
- Add 2 cups of ammonia to a gallon of water, bring it to a boil, and let it diffuse through the air.
- Add half a cup of ammonia to your laundry to remove smoke odor from your clothes, bedding, towels, and other fabrics.
- Place small bowls of ammonia around the house or in your car for a day to absorb smoke odors.
How to Get Rid of Ammonia Smell
Also like vinegar, ammonia can leave behind a distinctive, pungent smell—like that of a cat's litter box. The smell will eventually go away on its own, but if it's really bothering you, use baking soda to scrub the areas you cleaned once the ammonia has done its job. You can also leave baking soda out in a bowl or in its open box to absorb the odors.
When using strong chemicals like ammonia or bleach, make sure to wear nitrile gloves and work in well-ventilated areas. Open the windows, use a fan, or wear a mask that will filter the vapors. Both bleach and ammonia can cause skin irritations, and exposure to large amounts of ammonia vapors can cause eye, nose, throat, and lung irritations.
8. Use an Air Purifier With Carbon Filters
Although they're less economical than the other methods, air purifiers with activated carbon-based filters will remove all traces of smoke smell and other odors from the air.
Make sure that you get an air purifier with a carbon filter.
Even HEPA filters alone are only designed to remove particles as small as 0.1 microns, including dust mites, mold spores, and allergens such as pollen and pet dander. However, they cannot effectively remove odors and chemical vapors, which are smaller than 0.1 microns. That is why most HEPA filters also have a carbon filtration layer to remove odors like cigarette smoke.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2012 Cliff Mendrez
Dale Anderson from The High Seas on August 20, 2020:
Hey this was good because now maybe we can smoke our cigars inside the house! Going outside to smoke is OK but not much fun here in the middle of summer in Phoenix, Arizona USA.
Bert Gruder on March 12, 2020:
Clean indoor air is critical – especially for those who are susceptible to respiratory ailments, colds, viruses, and bacteria. Compare the various types of air purification systems and the operating cost. l
Tremaine Bell on November 03, 2019:
I’m 14 and one of my biggest insecurities is smelling like smoke / cigarettes. My mom has been an Big smoker from before i was born and i’m finally getting close to convincing her to stop smoking cigarettes but to more of a vape. i still need help on getting the smoke smell off of my household. it’s become soo much of a thing that the smell clings to our family name and only ONE person smokes . it’s sunken into our clothes , tables , carpet , tables , our everything. Any help or suggestions will be great ??
Delcee M on June 11, 2019:
LOL on the weed smoke
Janis on April 19, 2019:
I use an air filter, I scrub with ammonia, my walls are horrible. Look upon ANRF @ 2nd hand marijuana smoke and how many chemicals are in that!
A on April 13, 2019:
Does this work for weed smoke
Anita on January 09, 2019:
I use to be a housekeeper at a hotel and if the room smelled from smoke or even animals they had us use an ionizer and it pulled all the air out of the room and took care of the problem with any smell. You set the timer plug it in and leave the house until the time is up about 30 min. When you go nack into the house immediately the windows because it pulles all of the oxygen out of the air. By opening up the windows you let oxygen back into the air. Make sure you leave the windows open at least 30 min before you your kids and your pets go back in the house to be safe.
Lisa on October 04, 2018:
As a Metastatic Breast Cancer + Lung Cancer patient AND 25yr-current smoker yes, still, hell the damage was done why would i quit? Why & what reason do i have to QuIt now? go thru the withdrawls(i always suffered from, BAD) while alreaxy going thru most stressful situation & chemo, radiation, sickness, PAIN? ILL PASS LOL
Im sure ill smoke until i just cannot smoke anymore like both my parent. At age 36 diagnosed Smoking did not cause my cancer!!!!! Nor my breast cancer now both metastisized, i tested positive for over 15 gene mutations, both my parents were dx w LC, my mom 1yr after me, dad, 2yrs aftsr me & their youngest child. My dad has battled 3diff cancers but LC will take him & the quickest if us 3
Concerned reader on September 29, 2018:
To anyone living in a place with smoke or working with smokers, please note that you can't get rid of smoke. You may be able to mask or become accustomed to the smell, but your health will be affected.
I lived through a terrible experience being near frequent smokers a few years ago and since cannot be near smoke without being ill (digestion issues, skin rash/sensitive skin, sore throat, coughing, chest discomfort, etc.). I had to get rid of everything I had and buy new things. I clean those things frequently. I try to avoid smoke as much as possible. When there is smoke bothering me (at a store, restaurant, park, or at home), I speak up about the issue.
The sooner you make this change, the better it is for your health. You may find yourself the odd one out as some people don't understand the risks of secondhand or third-hand smoke. Don't give up. There is no price you can put on long-term health.
Rose on September 09, 2018:
I love the way u write and think.
kim on May 03, 2018:
I just recently moved into a new apt ( 2nd floor of a 4 family ) . The landlord did a beauitful job refurbing my unit , new pain , carpet , sanded hard wood floor, polyurethane . But the downstairs tenants smoke . I cannot get rid of the smell , I cannot put anything under the bathroom sink cabinet because the smell is so strong . It coming up from the their unit
Thank you in advance ,
Laurie on April 26, 2018:
My neighbors are chain smokers. Sometimes I can smell it so much I get a headache and my eyes water. No one is moving so I need to figure out how to eliminate the smell on my end. Any help is appreciated. Thanks.
Cliff Mendrez (author) from Philippines on April 09, 2018:
Yes, just regular charcoal.
Vickie on April 09, 2018:
Do u just use regular charcoal like for a grill??
Bert Gruder on November 30, 2017:
Smoking odors cling to clothing, permeate’s wall paint and wallboard saturate upholstery, and brand’s everything it touches with an offensive odor. The Ionic Paint Additive by Air-ReNu turns any newly painted surface, into an efficient permanent air purification system. The ion, technology permanently maintains healthy indoor air quality.
Cliff Mendrez (author) from Philippines on November 21, 2017:
Well, that's a little tricky. Maybe you bring a small bottle of essential oil with you and apply it to your temples, hands, or any area of the body you prefer so you could smell the aroma of the oil instead of the cigarette smoke.
John Simth on November 19, 2017:
I can instantly smell cigarette residue from my work colleague after his puff outside. We work along side each other.
What can I do? Help
Ellie on April 11, 2017:
This works so good I gave a wipe on everything in the room and left a bowl of apple cider vinegar smells better so quickly
mariam on May 02, 2012:
yes, i had to go on one weeks vacation so the baking soda and vinegar worked for me
Marlyn Schwander from Fort Eustis, VA on April 02, 2012:
I definitely there has got to be something out there that works. So that way I am not constantly cleaning
Cliff Mendrez (author) from Philippines on April 01, 2012:
ramurray3, very interesting indeed. You've got to try it.
passthejelly, I couldn't agree more.
thedirtfarmer, thank you too for reading!
marlyn, I hope the apples will work for you. I have another hub coming up regarding cat urine smell. You might want to read that one. Thanks for reading!
Marlyn Schwander from Fort Eustis, VA on April 01, 2012:
I definitely need to try the apples. I wonder if the apples can eliminate pet smell as well
Jill Spencer from United States on April 01, 2012:
Good tips for eliminating lots of odors. Thanks!
Mark Passarelli from Lakewood Colorado on April 01, 2012:
Hotels need to use this. Every time I go to one it seems to always smell like smoke.
ramurray3 from New York City on April 01, 2012:
The apple one is very interesting. Air purifier is excellent.