A few months ago, I moved to San Francisco and rented a medium-sized apartment in Nob Hill. I soon realized that the previous tenant was an inveterate smoker. The couches, carpets, shower curtains, bathroom mirrors – everything seemed to carry a lingering smoke smell. As a non-smoker, nothing could have been more frustrating. It took me 4 months to finally get rid of the stubborn smell once and for all.
Here is a 8-step checklist I would recommend to anyone trying to get rid of smoke smells once and for all:
1. Get Rid of Smoke Smell in the Air
Start by getting rid of smoke smell in the air. For most people, this may be all you need.
Because of its acidity, white vinegar works by neutralizing two substances in smoke: resin and tar. Pour vinegar into several bowls (one for each room) and let them sit overnight.
Ammonia works in a similar way to vinegar. However, ammonia has a much stronger smell, so it is best to open the windows and air out the house at the same time. Also, remember to keep ammonia out of reach of children.
Charcoal is another great way to get rid of smoke. You can either put out packs of charcoal or use Moso bags (yes, those Oprah recommended).
Peel a few oranges and leave the orange peels in strategic locations around the house. Orange peels absorb smoke smells effectively and leave a pleasant citrus odor.
Lighting a few candles (especially scented ones) will often also do the trick and neutralize smoke odors in the house.
Air Purifying Plants
Some of the best air purifying plants include palm trees, rubber plants and English ivy.
Air purifiers do a good job with smoke that is airborne. Three things to check for in the air purifier:
- High CADR rating for smoke – this is an indicator of the air purifier’s ability to remove smoke
- Coverage area – make sure the air purifier covers a large enough area
- Activated carbon filter – not all air purifiers come with this. Having an activated carbon filter will greatly enhance the air purifier’s ability to remove odors
For many people, this may be all you need. Open all the windows and air out the house for a few hours.
2. Carpets and Couches
Baking Soda and Vacuum
Carpets and couches are the next biggest culprit of smoke smells. For these, baking soda is the best solution. Sprinkle baking soda over the affected furniture and let the baking soda absorb the odor for a few hours, ideally overnight.
Next, vacuum thoroughly. Be sure to hit the edges of the carpet by using the narrow wand attachment. If the smell persists, use more baking soda and repeat the procedure.
Carpet Steam Cleaner
For more persistent carpet smoke smells, you will need a carpet steam cleaner. If you anticipate the smoke smell being a recurring problem, get a steam mop and a special deodorizing shampoo. If it is more a one-off problem, have the carpet professionally cleaned.
3. Blinds and Curtains
Remove all blinds and curtains and place them in your bathtub. Fill with hot water, and add a cup of vinegar. Vinegar, as mentioned above, neutralizes the resin and tar in smoke effectively.
After soaking for 15-30 minutes, scrub thoroughly and hang to dry.
Closets are another area to clean out when getting rid of smoke smells.
Fill a sock with coffee beans and place the sock between your clothing. Coffee is a great odor neutralizer that can work wonders.
Newspapers are interestingly a great smell absorber. Stuff your closet drawers with small wads of newspapers to absorb the smoke smell that may be in there.
5. Walls and Ceilings
Getting rid of smoke smells in walls can be difficult. Especially in environments with high humidity, odors that you thought were long gone may resurface over time if they are trapped in walls.
For a thorough removal of odors, it is therefore important to seal the odors in walls. You can do so by following these four steps:
- Start by cleaning the target area with standard household cleaner. In this step you should try your best to remove any dirt and dust
- If there is mold or mildew growth, get rid of the mold or mildew using a diluted bleach solution (mix bleach and water)
- Use a strong primer such as Kilz or Zinsser Bullseye to seal the odor. Go for oil-based and shellac-based primers for a more thorough blocking of odors. Use water-based primers if the smell is not that strong and a quick dry time is more important
- Finally, re-paint the area with water-based or oil-based paint
The smell of smoke can also seep into floors. To get rid of the smoke smell in floors, mop with the following solutions:
Ammonia and Water
Ammonia, as mentioned previously, is an excellent neutralizer. Remember to open all windows before using this solution, and use a higher concentration of ammonia for greater effect.
Olive Oil and Vinegar
Olive oil and vinegar also work very effectively at removing smoke smells. For the optimal mix, try a olive oil to vinegar ratio of 1:24.
7. Light Bulbs
Light bulbs are interestingly smoke absorbent when turned on. For a thoroughly cleaning, remember to remove your light bulbs and clean them as well.
Mirrors and other types of glass absorb a significant amount of smoke as well. Use a cleaning solution such as Windex to clean all mirrors around the house.
Hope this 8-step checklist on how to get rid of smoke smell was helpful. Have you tried something else that also worked well? Please leave a note below.