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How to Get Cigarette Smoke Smell Out of Your House

Angela loves researching new facts, especially those about science and history. She feels that knowledge is essential in growth.

This guide will tell you everything you need to know in order to get those undesirable smoke smells out of your house.

This guide will tell you everything you need to know in order to get those undesirable smoke smells out of your house.

Cigarette Smoke Removal: A Step-by-Step Guide

Smoke smell is often a strong deterrent when house shopping, but it doesn't have to be. With some hard work, a few supplies, and several hours, you can get the smoke smell out of your house.

I have written a step-by-step guide for how to rid your entire house of unwanted cigarette smoke odors. It took my husband and me a whole weekend to complete this task throughout our entire home. It is very time-consuming but very worth it in the long run.

How to Eliminate Cigarette Smoke Odors From Your House

Here are the main steps you'll need to follow to rid your home of those nasty cigarette smoke odors:

  1. Air Out the Entire House.
  2. Wash or Clean All Clothes, Fabrics, and Linens.
  3. Clean Your Ducts and Replace Filters (Air, Furnace, and Air Conditioning).
  4. Clean Your HVAC Evaporator Coil.
  5. Wash or Clean All Furniture and Surfaces.
  6. Wash Your Walls Down.
  7. Clean the Baseboards and Various Fixtures.
  8. Prime and Paint Your Walls.
  9. Clean or Replace the Carpet.
  10. Leave Out Some Deodorizers.

1. Air Out the Entire House

As with most any cleansing to get rid of funky smells, the first thing you should do is air everything out. Open up all the windows and doors and turn on the fans. Let as much of the stale air that's been sitting in the house find its way outside.

You can also place fans in strategic places to increase airflow and help encourage funky odors to vacate the premises, which naturally won't magically restore the house to perfect condition. However, it will still do a good amount of the work for you with little to no effort on your part.

Consider Using Air Purifiers and Dehumidifiers

It's also worth considering investing in a modest air purifier to help suck up some of the dust and particulate matter in the air while you work on eliminating some of the trickier smells that have attached themselves to the walls, floors, and the rest of the house.

Additionally, you might want to think about also using a dehumidifier. Since moist air tends to hold odors, drying out particularly smoky rooms will help some of the stronger smells to dissipate.

2. Wash or Clean All Clothes, Fabrics, and Linens

As anyone who has smelled the clothes of a smoker can attest, fabrics are a magnet for stinky odors. All fabrics and linens should be gathered up and washed. Even if you don't think an item smells all that bad, it's still best to round everything up and clean it anyway—especially since it's possible that it does indeed smell bad, but you don't happen to notice it as much due to the stronger odors around it.

Naturally, this goes for all your clothes too. If they have been in a house permeated by cigarette smoke, then it's pretty likely that they've absorbed some of it as well.

Note: Considering how easily fabrics can reabsorb funky smells even when washed, it's probably best to store your clean clothes in another location until you've successfully rid your house of the smoky odors.

3. Clean Your Ducts and Replace Filters

Even if you cleaned the walls and floors all across your house, much of that progress could easily and quickly be undone if you neglect to address your dirty air ducts. Cigarette smoke and various chemicals can cling hard to air ducts—even if nobody has smoked in the house in a while—and be blown out into your home, filling every room with that repulsive smell once again. So it's essential to clean your ducts early on in the process, so you do not make more work for yourself down the line.

Though it's possible to clean your air ducts yourself, it can be a complicated process, especially if the ducts in your home are a real pain to access. So in most cases, it's best to hire a professional to do so. Just make sure you shop around and research any companies or procedures you're thinking of going with in order to avoid being taken advantage of or paying more than you should.

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Read More From Dengarden

Replace the Air Conditioning Filters, Furnace Filters, and Air Filters

Similarly, it's essential to change the various filters in your house to prevent those smells and chemicals trapped in them from re-entering your home, which applies to furnace filters, air filters, and air conditioning filters, all of which are in many houses.

While it is undoubtedly easier to replace them outright—and you might need to if they're badly damaged or too worn out—in many cases, it's preferable to clean them with the kind of TSP solution detailed later in this article. Just soak the filter in the TSP solution for no longer than an hour, and use a brush to scrub out any odors and visible dirt. Then rinse thoroughly with water and pop them back in.

Note: Always remember to use protective gloves when handling TSP in any capacity.

Replacing or cleaning dirty air filters helps reduce the amount of smoky odors circulated throughout your house.

Replacing or cleaning dirty air filters helps reduce the amount of smoky odors circulated throughout your house.

4. Clean Your HVAC Evaporator Coil

When someone smokes in a house, those fumes can often get pulled into the coils of an HVAC unit. From that point on, when you turn on that same HVAC unit, the cold or hot air that it emits will be laden with undesirable smoky odors. So you'll want to clean the evaporator coils on your HVAC units before using them again.

To do this, you'll need to turn off the unit and remove its access panel. Although you can clean coils with DIY solutions of diluted bleach or diluted detergent, it's generally much easier to go with the kind of self-cleaning coil cleansers you can find at your local hardware store. These products use the condensation generated by the unit to wash themselves away, which is particularly helpful, as many coils are not easy to reach. Despite only being best cleaned thoroughly by removal, only professionals should remove them.

For more information on how to clean your HVAC's coils, check out this useful DenGarden article on How to Clean Air Conditioner Coils.

5. Wash or Clean All Furniture and Surfaces

Believe it or not, even furniture and most surfaces can absorb and retain unwanted odors. So you'll need to clean these as well if you want your house smelling good again, which includes everything from floors and ceilings to windows and fixtures.

Use Baking Soda on Furniture

When it comes to furniture and mattresses, baking soda is likely your best tool for deodorizing. Sprinkle the powder all over your smelly furniture and let it sit for 30–60 minutes. (Using a colander to help you disperse the powder can be quite helpful.) You can also do a little light rubbing on any, especially smelly areas to improve the baking soda work its magic.

Once the baking soda has been given time to absorb the odors, go ahead and vacuum it all up.

Use Vinegar or Diluted Bleach on Non-Fabric Surfaces

Both vinegar and bleach are especially good at breaking up the resins and tars found in cigarette smoke.

  • For vinegar solutions: Mix equal parts water and distilled white vinegar. Use this to clean plastic, wood, and metal appliances and furniture. You can even put it in a spray bottle for easy application. Be sure to rinse down sensitive surfaces with water afterward. (If you're concerned about the vinegar smell, feel free to mix in a few drops of essential oils, such as citrus, rosemary, or lavender.)
  • For bleach solutions: Mix 1/2 cup chlorine bleach to every 1 gallon of water. Use this to clean countertops, sinks, showers, bathtubs, glazed tile, vinyl, and floors. And always remember to rinse thoroughly with water after cleaning.

Note: Do not use bleach on any surface you just cleaned with vinegar and avoid mixing them in general.

Wash or Replace Window Treatments

Window treatments like blinds and curtains are notorious for absorbing unwanted odors. So you'll want to wash or replace all of these items.

If made of fabric, like most curtains, you can throw them in a washing machine or steam clean them. Just be sure to check their respective labels for any potential special care needs they might have.

As for the blinds, they can be washed with a TSP solution like the one detailed below, or with plain old vinegar, which may not always fully eradicate the odors, however. So if they remain smelly even after you've cleaned them, then they might need to be replaced.

Note: It's also a good idea to give the windows themselves a good cleaning, as smoke can often leave a kind of film that tends to smell pretty bad when warmed up by direct sunlight.

A diluted TSP solution is particularly effective at cleaning walls, blinds, and baseboards.

A diluted TSP solution is particularly effective at cleaning walls, blinds, and baseboards.

What Is TSP? How Do You Use It?

TSP stands for trisodium phosphate, which is a heavy-duty general purpose cleaner located at most hardware stores. TSP is an effective cleanser that is safe for walls, woodwork, and floors. It will not only remove the smell of smoke off of your walls but any stains that may have been left due to heavy smoking as well.

To begin, you will want to collect your materials.

  • some large rags (ones that you don’t mind throwing away later)
  • scrub broom
  • sponge mop
  • (2) 5-gallon buckets
  • TSP powder

Prepare the Area Before Using TSP

  1. In one of the 5-gallon buckets, mix the TSP with water using the ratio requested on the outside of the TSP package. Make sure you do not fill the 5-gallon bucket so full that you cannot carry it.
  2. Fill the other bucket up about halfway with plain water.
  3. Once the buckets are ready, be sure to place large rags underneath the section of the wall where you plan to work. (My husband and I used a small ramp, where we set the cloths over the end of it. The rags were pressed securely against the wall above the baseboards. That way, when we were washing the walls, there was no water damage to the baseboards because it dripped on the towel, not the baseboards.
  4. Since this is very tiring work, you will want to choose a 5-foot section to begin with. Then, once completed, go on to the next 5-foot section, working your way around the room until you finish the room.

6. Wash Your Walls Down

To scrub the walls, you will want a long broom handle with a scrub brush on the end. One that extends is most useful for tall walls with cathedral ceilings. Take the scrub brush and soak it in the TSP mixture for a few seconds. Then scrub the walls aggressively, going from bottom to top, which may seem counterintuitive, but there is less streaking this way due to the chemicals in the TSP compound.

Rinse the Walls

Once you finish scrubbing the first section of the wall, take your sponge mop, soak it in the clear water, and make sure you squeeze out all excess water. Then wipe up the scrubbed wall from top to bottom, which is the opposite of what you did before. Feel free to rinse the sponge frequently to get out excess water and keep the mop clean.

You will need to change the water often. Otherwise, you are putting the same junk on your walls that you scrubbed off. A good rule of thumb is once the water is no longer see-through, it is time to get fresh water.

Wipe the Baseboard of Excess Water

Once the section is scrubbed and rinsed, wipe the baseboard of any excess water that got past your rags. You will want to do this before moving on to the next section to prevent any water damage that could result.

Protect the next section of baseboards by placing your rags tightly against the wall. Then repeat scrubbing and rinsing until you have gotten around the room. Even though my husband and I used a ramp that allowed the rags to press against the wall firmly, we still had some seepage and had to check between moving spots. The cloths will get quite wet, and you may want to have more than one set.

7. Clean the Baseboards and Various Fixtures

Once all the walls are scrubbed and rinsed, take a small rag and wash the baseboards using the TSP mixture. You must wear gloves during this portion since there will be direct contact with the TSP mixture. The mixture will irritate your skin if you have prolonged exposure to it. This process goes much more quickly than cleaning the walls, though there is a lot of bending.

You can also use the TSP mixture to clean cupboards, light fixtures, and any other object saturated with tar. Just like the walls, you will want to wipe the other fixtures from bottom to top, then use a wet rag to rinse the chemicals off top to bottom. If you use the TSP mixture on wood, be careful not to saturate the wood too much. Water saturation can cause water damage.

Even things like light fixtures and window treatments can absorb odors, so make sure to clean all the furnishings and furniture in your house.

Even things like light fixtures and window treatments can absorb odors, so make sure to clean all the furnishings and furniture in your house.

8. Prime and Paint Your Walls

After this process, your rooms should smell much better. Despite all your hard work, sometimes there is still a slight odor and even a tint of brown that will not escape. Although, in our case, the smell was significantly better, we still found it imperative to use a primer on our wall before we began painting.

There are primers specifically intended to stop odor and prevent stains from seeping through your paint color. There are even kinds that target smoke smell. One such primer is KILZ. Some have had luck using KILZ primer alone, but if the scent is strong, primer alone will not do the job. Either way, I recommend scrubbing your walls beforehand.

For one, it will allow the primer to lie more smoothly on the walls. Once the primer is on the walls, you cannot clean the walls underneath the smoke smell. Therefore, do this before you begin painting with primer.

Although this is a lot of hard work, I strongly recommend following this procedure when washing your walls. It is very effective, and you will have a nice, clean-smelling house in the end.

9. Clean or Replace the Carpet

Since carpet is so notorious for absorbing unwanted odors, this step can be a bit tricky. Here's three approaches:

  • Use baking soda: If you have a lot of carpet in your house, you'll want to try the easiest approach first. Sprinkle a good amount of baking soda all across your carpet, making sure to disperse some powder in every little corner. Just like with the furniture, let it sit for about an hour before vacuuming it back up.
  • Use a steam cleaner: Should the baking soda approach not work, you can try renting a carpet steam cleaner or hiring a company to steam clean it professionally.
  • Remove the carpet: If neither of these two methods works and you're still detecting stinky smells rising out of your carpet, your only recourse left is to remove the carpet altogether. It's an unfortunately time-consuming and costly last resort. But if nothing else works, you probably don't have much of a choice left.

10. Leave Out Some Deodorizers

Now that you've removed most of the smoke smells from your house, it's time to soak up some of the last bits of unwanted odors still lingering.

Here is a list of chemicals you can leave in bowls around your home that will help absorb some of the last remnants of undesirable smells:

  • vinegar
  • coffee
  • baking soda
  • activated charcoal

By leaving bowls of these around your home, it will not only help remove the last traces of smoky odors, but it will also help keep your house smelling fresh and clean.

Works Cited

  1. Ference, Audrey. (2018, September 25). Retrieved on 23 January 2019.
  2. Morgan, Lee. (2018, September 12). Natural Ways to Get Smoke Smell Out of a House. Hunker. Retrieved on 23 January 2019.
  3. Spelman, Mark. How to Get Smoke Smell Out of Your House. Wikihow. Retrieved on 23 January 2019.
  4. Thomas, Amanda. (2015, April 9). 6 Tips for Removing Smoke Odor from Your Home. Quick and Dirty Tips. Retrieved on 23 January 2019.

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.

Questions & Answers

Question: The previous owner smoked in the house for twenty years. Some rooms were repainted, but we do not believe that they did it properly. Can we use the same methods described above to get rid of the cigarette odor?

Answer: The washing of the walls is only going to take the stuff off that new paint away. You may just need to buy a nice primer that specializes in masking smells and discoloration, then painting it. Do not buy a primer paint in that situation as it will not be nearly as effective.

Question: What if the walls have already been painted without all the prep work of actually cleaning the walls of the cigarette smell?

Answer: If you do not prep walls that have a strong odor, then two different things could happen. One the smell may remain. The second, the tar from the cigarettes could eventually leak through the paint leaving tinted walls. A good primer might do the trick if one of these two things happened, but that would mean repainting the walls again. It might be worth it depending on how severe the problem is.

Question: Will Kilz latex primer work or do you have to use an oil based primer?

Answer: Kilz works great, and is what I primarily would recommend because we personally had great success with it!

Question: My dad's friends smoke. I use my shirt to cover my nose because it is hazardous, but I can still smell it. What should I do to protect myself from second-hand smoke? I don't want to develop health problems.

Answer: I have asthma, and my biggest trigger is cigarette smoke, so I definitely get where you are coming from, but the best solution is to go somewhere else. Stay away from it the best you can. Very occasional exposure is not going to cause you to develop lung cancer or asthma, it's more of the day in and day out exposure. Do your best to go in another room or outside. Hang out where they are not.

Question: If the wall have already been painted over without using the TSP method, will using the Killz primer only work to get rid of the smell?

Answer: Killz should also prevent bleeding through of the discoloration. I cannot guarantee that Killz alone will do the trick, but it definitely is worth a shot.

Question: My previous tenant was a serious chain smoker, and both the smell and discoloration are absolutely awful!!? How do I remove cigarette smoke smell from the ceilings?

Answer: Ours was really bad when we moved in as well. We just painted a special primer over the ceilings then painted it because our ceiling was textured and we could not scrub it. That was enough to get the smell out of the house. I do know we scrubbed the light fixtures and even the bulbs that were still in the house. None of the coloring leaked through the primer and white paint.

Question: How do you get the smoke smell out of textured walls?

Answer: Unfortunately, you may need to use just a heavy-duty primer. We had a textured ceiling, so we did not scrub that, but we did use a primer, and it was enough to hide the coloring and the smell. But we did pull up all carpet, scrub light fixtures, and walls, in addition to using the primer.

Question: What if the cigarette smoke is coming from the apartment under you?

Answer: Unfortunately, this is only for houses that do not have active smoking. If there is active smoking, then you really cannot get rid of the smell. Many apartment complexes are poorly insulated and smoking neighbors may cause your home to be infiltrated by the smoke.

© 2012 Angela Michelle Schultz


Biosweep Sacramento from Sacramento, CA on June 29, 2018:

Biosweep offers the best solutions for cigarette smoke odors and can permanently eliminate most odors in 24 hours or less. Our service providers pre treat all affected surfaces and deploy patented machines that are each 10x more powerful than ozone. We recommend using Biosweep before painting and permanently sealing those odors in the walls. If you are in need of odor removal services in the Sacramento, California metro area visit, in other areas of the world visit to find your nearest service provider. Good luck!

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.

Dallas W Thompson from Bakersfield, CA on August 01, 2016:

We learn!

yjuteau on June 28, 2016:

Use a garden sprayer for the application of the TSP. Cut 60% of the time...But you have to cut the pipe inside the can of 1 inch because the TSP powder can jam the system.

Vrvs from Palm Coast, Florida on February 08, 2013:

Stale tobacco smell. It clings to clothing, permeates wall paint, saturates upholstery, and brands everything it touches with that unmistakable scent. An all-natural paint additive has been developed. Air-ReNu, turns any newly painted wall surface, into an effective and permanent air purification system, no electricity or filters required. The Air-ReNu all-natural, technology permanently maintains healthy indoor air quality and continuously removes offensive odors.

Barbara Anne Helberg from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA on May 24, 2012:

angela_michelle...This is important information and well expressed as a Hub.

A non-smoker, I first became aware of the grimy after affects of cigarette smoking in any room when I purchased an old typewriter available from the office of a town clerk, where smoking was allowed during town meetings. When I attempted to wipe off the typewriter at home, just as a matter of cleanliness, the rag I was using quickly turned yellow from nicotine stains on the machine. Ugh! Those stains are everywhere in a house occupied by smokers!

A January '46 Baby Boomer, I suffer from COPD from years of second-hand smoke exposure. New public laws on smoking, and information such as you provide here help non-smokers exist.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 23, 2012:

OH, I had never thought to use on outdoor furniture. That may be useful. :)

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on May 23, 2012:

That TSP can do anything! We recently cleaned up the kitchen for someone moving into a house that had not been cleaned in quite some time. I'd never heard of the stuff but it sure did the job! Also lifts stains and stuff from outdoor wood furniture.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 18, 2012:

TSP is very strong and very effective.

Haydee Anderson from Hermosa Beach on May 18, 2012:

Thanks, I never thought to use TSP. I've always relied upon wiping down walls with a semi-wet rag and opening windows in hopes the smoky odor would eventually out-gas. Thumbs up!

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 17, 2012:

Prasetio, when I was younger my parents smoked in their house, now that they live in a new house my father always smokes outside. Thanks for commenting.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 17, 2012:

Thanks so much Cow Flipper. I'm trying to figure out how you came up with your name though. :)

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on May 17, 2012:

My house is free from smoking. My father occasional smoker and he did it outside my house. Very inspiring hub and thanks for share with us. Rated up and take care!


Sean Jankowski from Southern Oregon on May 17, 2012:

This one is AWESOME! Thanks for this information and I'm going to pass this one on and share it on FB. You ROCK!

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 17, 2012:

adawnmorrison, that was our biggest deterrent when we bought our new house. But we got it at such a good deal we thought it covered the cost of carpet and paint. I didn't realize how much work it was though> :)

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 17, 2012:

Dallas thanks for sharing, I had not heard of that before. :)

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 17, 2012:

Sharyn, I think you will be shocked at what comes off your walls when you scrub them.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 17, 2012:

moonlake, the hardest spot for us to get the smell out was cabinets. I think it's because we didn't scrub them as well as the walls, because we didn't realize how deep the smoke would get.

adawnmorrison from The Midwest on May 17, 2012:

Oh, how I wish I had known all of this four years ago! We went to an open house for a beautiful, handicap-accessible newer home that was completely permeated with cigarette smoke. Had I any inkling how to get rid of the odor, I would have put in a bid when it finally dropped into our price range(which it did, presumably, because no one else wanted it due to the odor).

Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on May 17, 2012:

thanks dallas9344

Dallas W Thompson from Bakersfield, CA on May 17, 2012:

To completely eliminate the smell of smoke, or any other "bad" smell use an ozone generator.

Insurance companies hire companies to repair fire damaged properties... and the companies (good ones - use ozone generators)to eliminate smoke damage. I have one and have used it on a fire damaged house. Please follow directions! You should not be around when it is operating.

Pot growers use ozone generators to eliminate the smell of pot when it is grown indoors...

Sharon Smith from Northeast Ohio USA on May 17, 2012:

We recently stopping smoking in our house and I need/want to clean everything and repaint. This hub is perfect for what I need to do and it is actually motivating me too. Thanks!


moonlake from America on May 17, 2012:

It has taken us a while to get the smell of cigar out of our house from the man that use to live here. At times when my husband takes another wall apart we will still smell it. Good information

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 17, 2012:

I should have probabaly pointed out that you need to wear gloves. I guess an edit is in hanks Just Ask Susan.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 17, 2012:

LOL, thanks neonjournal.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 17, 2012:

I'm not sure Goodlady. I don't see why you would not?

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 17, 2012:

Thanks for your input DeanCash, but it did take away all the smell. Since I am an asthmatic, I am very sensitive to the smell of smoke.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 17, 2012:

buckleupdorothy, wow that is a large percentage. This really worked to get the smell out of the house. It took us an entire weekend. That did not include the painting.

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on May 17, 2012:

When I was a teen, I was hired by an apartment manager to scrub walls in several apartments that had smoke damage due to a fire. I scrubbed the walls with just a rag and never put on gloves. After 2 days my hands were very sore and the TSP had eaten the flesh around my knuckles. My dad, bless his soul went in and finished the job for me. I learned a very important lesson. Always read the package before using a product. Especially cleaning products.

TSP is a great product, and it does work.

Very useful and informative hub.

neonjournal from Davao City on May 17, 2012:

How about an exhaust fan :) Just kidding. Great hub!

Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on May 17, 2012:

Wonder if we have TSP in Italy?

We have a log fire which always leaves a smell of smoke at the end of winter. We have to paint the rooms each year! (And yes, all the covers and cushions and curtains get washed or cleaned)

Interesting tips, so I'm voting useful and Up!

DeanCash on May 17, 2012:

Well it will remove some but not all of them (the smell). I want to share my cousin restaurant's experience, he did just that washing and rubbing until the walls didn't look good.

My cousin bought this "evaporative air-conditioner" that was what the product says - It has a fan, at the back was a honeycomb filter and water gets pump up. The dust and smoke gets stuck on the filter. You can mixed perfume into the water but you need to clean it once in a while. It is a natural air-conditioner. I don't recommend this on a place with lots of electronics appliance, it will bring moisture inside. I saw some restaurant having a combination of air-conditioner, fan and filter to get the bad smell out.

I think it is a good idea to filter some of the smoke than wait for it to do real messy stain and smell. Later we can clean up the rest using your method.

Thank you for your hub. I will share this.

buckleupdorothy from Istanbul, Turkey on May 17, 2012:

Oy vey. We have an ex-smoker in the family and in the year and a half since he's successfully quit, we've started to become sick at the smell of cigarette smoke. It's good to know there's a reasonably effective way to get it out of houses - here in Turkey I would guess that maybe 80% of the adult population smokes regularly.

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