How to Get the Cigarette Smoke Smell Out of Your House: A Step-by-Step Guide
How to Get Cigarette Smell Out of Your House
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 rid of the smoke smell out of your house. First, it is nearly impossible to get the smell of smoke out of carpet, so most likely the carpet will have to be replaced. Even after pulling up the carpet, the walls will still hold onto the stench. Even if you cannot see it, there is most likely a layer of brown buildup over the paint due to the residue let off by cigarettes.
Here is a step-by-step guide in how to clean the walls. It took my husband and I, an entire weekend to complete this task throughout our entire home. It is very time consuming, but very worth it in the long run.
What You Need for Getting Smoke Smell Out of Your House
- 2 – 5 gallon buckets
- Sponge mop
- TSP (powder cleanser that is ideal for getting smoke smell out of the house)
- Scrub broom
- KILLZ Paint Primer
- Large rags
Cleaning With TSP
TSP stands for trisodium phosphate. It is a Heavy-Duty General Purpose Cleaner that can be found at Home Depot. TSP is an effective cleanser that is safe for walls, woodwork, and floors. It not only will remove the smell of smoke off of your walls, but any stains that may have been left due to heavy smoking.
To begin, you will want to collect your materials.The first items you will need are a few large rags that you don’t mind throwing away later, a scrub broom, a sponge mop, two five gallon buckets, and the TSP powder.
Prepare Area: First, in a five gallon bucket, mix the TSP with water at the ratio requested on the outside of the TSP package. Make sure you do not fill the five gallon bucket so full you cannot carry it. In the other bucket, fill it about halfway with plain water. Once the buckets are ready, be sure to place large rags underneath the section of wall where you plan to work. My husband and I used a small ramp, where we set the rags over the end of it. That way, the rags were pressed securely against the wall above the baseboards; therefore, when we were washing the walls, there was no water damage to the baseboards, because it dripped on the towel, not the baseboards. This is very tiring work, so you will want to choose a five foot section to begin with. Then, once that is completed, go into the next five foot section, working your way around the room, until the room is finished.
Begin Cleaning the Walls With TSP
Begin to Scrub: Wearing gloves is optional at this point, although if the liquid slides down the handle while you are scrubbing, it can irritate your skin.
To scrub the walls, you will want a long broom handle with a scrub brush on the end. One that extends is most effective 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. This may seem counterintuitive, but the streaking actually is less 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 into the clear water, and make sure you squeeze out all excess water. Then wipe up the scrubbed wall from top to bottom. This 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, make sure to wipe the baseboard off of any excess water that may have gotten past your rags. You will want to do this before moving onto the next section, to prevent against any water damage that could result. Then protect the next section of baseboards, by placing your rags tightly against the wall. Then repeat scrubbing and rinsing, until you have gotten all the way around the room. Even though my husband and I used a ramp that allowed the rags to firmly press against the wall, we still had some seepage, and had to check between moving spots. The rags will get quite wet, and you may want to have more than one set.
How to Clean Baseboards
Once all the walls are scrubbed and rinsed, take a small rag and wash the baseboards using the TSP mixture. It is important that you 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, although there is a lot of bending.
You can also use the mixture to clean cupboards, light fixtures, ceilings, 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.
Do you think people should be allowed to smoke in restaurants?
Painting Over Smoke Damage
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 KILLZ. Some have had luck using KILLZ Primer alone, but if the smell is strong, primer alone will not do the job. Either way, I recommend scrubbing your walls previously. For one it will allow the primer to lie more smoothly on the walls. Once primer is on the walls, you cannot clean the walls underneath of the smoke smell; therefore, this needs to be done 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.
Questions & Answers
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?
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.Helpful 30
What if the walls have already been painted without all the prep work of actually cleaning the walls of the cigarette smell?
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.Helpful 20
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.
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.Helpful 17
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?
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.Helpful 9
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?
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.Helpful 7
© 2012 Angela Michelle Schultz