Removing Cigarette Smoke Odors

I am cleaning a home for someone who is allergic to cigarette smoke and the house just reeks of it. Any suggestions on how to get it out of the carpet and off the walls?

Jenny from Anamosa, IA

Answers:

Removing Cigarette Smoke Odors

A rug cleaner should help your carpets. I used orange cleaner on my walls. A little vinager in a dish in each room will help take the odor out of the house once the carpets and wall are done. (02/21/2006)

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By ANNE

Removing Cigarette Smoke Odors

We moved into a house that had been closed up for 6 months and the previous resident was a serious smoker. It was horrible! I cleaned the bedroom carpets, but in the living room I only used a bottle (the whole bottle) of Febreeze and it worked well.

For the walls and ceilings I used vinegar and water. I used a sponge mop to apply it. I also cleaned the windows and other places with vinegar Windex. There was a lot of yellow nicotine buildup on the smooth surfaces and when I finished my vinyl windows looked white again!

Oh, we also moved in June so we were able to leave plenty of windows open with fans on to bring in the fresh air.

Good Luck! (02/21/2006)

By Lilygloves

Removing Cigarette Smoke Odors

I agree that Febreeze is not the answer for this problem. I am also allergic to Cigarette Smoke, but I am also sensitive to Febreeze. When I sprayed a chair with it that was reeking of cigarette smoke, the Febreeze scent actually was worse for my asthma than the smoke smell. I had to move the chair to the garage unitl it stopped reaking of Febreeze. After that, the smoke smell was reduced, but still there. I just left the chair outside to "air". (02/21/2006)

By Jess

Removing Cigarette Smoke Odors

It has been my experience that painting, staining or polyurethaning anything in the room helps. Vinegar and baking soda mixed with warm water is a good wash for any type of wall, paneling, or wallpapered surface. The carpet will be harder and I would hire a professional carpet cleaner. Sam's Wholesale Club sells a cleaner and deoderizer called Odoban that works GREAT for any kind of odor. Good luck! (02/22/2006)

By suzi_homemaker01

Removing Cigarette Smoke Odors

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Ten years ago we bought a used couch from an older couple who were moving to Arizona. We went to their home to see it and decided to buy it. We didn't realize until we got the couch to our house that they smoked. It smelled really awful. I cleaned it (saturated it) with my carpet cleaner about eight times and finally got the smoke smell out. Getting rid of smoke is really tough. A professional company may be the best way to go. (02/23/2006)

By Jan

Removing Cigarette Smoke Odors

Febreeze is absolute garbage. I am so stuffed up right now from a mattress I bought that had febreeze used on it that I can hardly breathe. The stuff is aerosol cancer. (03/07/2006)

By Stuffy

Removing Cigarette Smoke Odors

I just purchased a home and have the same problem. The previous owner was a heavy smoker. The house smells horrible! I had the seller have the carpets professionally cleaned and I am having the ceilings and walls in the whole house painted and am using an ionizer. The ionizer really does help but leaves a temporary stange 'ozone' odor in the house in place of the smoke that dissapates after a while. The smoke smell keeps persisiting but not quite as strong. I'm going to try the vinegar and baking soda trick as well. If that doesnt work I may have the house "bombed" or hire an arsonist... just kidding. Good luck to everyone! (09/02/2006)

By Elizabeth

Removing Cigarette Smoke Odors

This works very well on carpets: depending on how large your carpeted area is, buy several tubs of bicarb of soda (my lounge is quite large) so around 6 tubs, then into each tub put around 10 drops of pure essential oil, I prefer lavender but you can use your own preference, replace the lid and shake up, leave overnight to absorb the oil. Then sprinkle the tubs onto carpet, a fine sprinkling all over will do, leave on floor for around 4 hours then simply hoover up. The bicarb will remove the odour and leave a lovely fragrance behind. For walls i reccomend washing down with vinegar. I have cleaned properties with this method, and use same at home, and it WORKS. (09/27/2006)

By Sonia

Removing Cigarette Smoke Odors

We are a physician family. Let me share with you an experience we had with a house that a Smoker lived in, which we purchased. A complete disaster and 2 yrs of preparing for trial, as the fraud was so blatant in concealing that the owner was a smoker, we had no choice but to file a lawsuit and pleased to report, we won. Our family was awarded all of the damages it took us to remidate the house of cigarette smoke. Buyers beware if you go to see a house for sale if there are numerous scented candles in the house, or open windows. Experts across the country all agreed that the first warning sign of a Seller's attempt to mask odors, is lighted scented candles. Sadly, we were unaware of this type of concealment.

Our realtor let the Seller know that I was coming to look at her house and that I had a "hypersensitivity to cigarette smoke." It is not an allergy, as some people perceive. There are no allergy tests available for the simple fact that it is not an allergy but a "hypersensitivity" to cigarette smoke. The Seller concealed the odors by numerous scented lighted candles in the house the morning we looked at it, which blocked the nerve endings in my nose to be able to detect that she was a smoker.

The Seller also intentionally frauded me when I personally asked her on 3 occasions before closing if she was a Smoker, for which she denied smoking each time. We learned later that it was her intent to conceal to us and mask the fact that she smoked in her hope for a quick sale. We took her word for it that she did not smoke, plus when seeing the house, the odors were masked. We lived 7 hours away and did not return to see the house again for we, and our Realtor were convinced that she was telling us the truth, that she was a non-smoker and had never smoked in the house.

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We bought the house, she left, moved out, took all of her belongs, the lighted scented candles were gone. When we arrive to take possession of the house, it reeked with the residue of her 1 pack per day smoking. During Trial she lied and said she told me she smoked one pack a day for several years. She also lied and told the Court that she told my Realtor she smoked and blamed it on him for not telling me she was a Smoker.

So obvous was the odor that we could not move our furniture in and spent the next 3 weeks gutting the house, trying to rid the house of the smoke odor to no avail. My body responded with tingling on my face, lips, swelling of my tongue then throat. In 3 weeks I developed lung pain, then infection and was forced to leave this house, buy another one and begin the process of trying to decontaminate the house. Two years later and 25,000, we managed to clean the house from the odor. We loved the neighborhood, and we determined that with our investment to remove the smoke, if we ever sold the home, we would recoup our loss as home values in this neighborhood increase.

Vinegar has little affect. Only commercial sealing products painted over all surfaces will seal a portion of the odor. Yes, it is very important to wash all the surfaces first, before painting. We learned from the Experts that cigarette smoke nicotine is also a waxy substance and that surfaces must be washed with a product such as 409 to dissolve the substance. However, we then learned that 409 does not reach the gases of the smoke that saturated the drywall and insulation! We also learned that vacuuming the ductwork in the home has no affect. Paying a duct cleaning company to remove cigarette smoke from ductwork will have zero affect. The ductwork must all be removed and washed with a 409 product to clean the residue from the ductwork. We discovered that the price of removing all the ductwork to clean it and put it back would cost the same as replacing all the ductwork so that is the route we took.

It also penetrates the coils of air conditioning units and furnaces, so when those units are turned on, the house fills again with the smoke particles, gases and chemicals so we were forced to put in a new air conditioning system and furnace. Air filters will not work either, no matter what the air filter companies claim. It destroy carpets, going deep into the fibers and pads, it also finds its way into oak wood floors, which we had to professionally seal also. The waxy substance in the nicotine itself clings to everything. The gases of the cigarette smoke travels through air cleaners. The smoke bleeds through dry wall and penetrates the dry wall and insulation, saturating both. Depending on the weather outside, for instance if it is a hot day, the heat in the atmosphere outside of the home, heating the roof and the exterior of your home, will actually cause the gases of the cigarette smoke inside the drywall and insulation to push through the Kilz and the paint. Water based paint is more porus so if you are using a Kilz product along with painting, oil base acts as more of a sealant, although not 100%.

Depending on your own body's hypersensitivity, sealing the interior of the home completly with an oil base Kilz and then paint, may be enough for your body to adjust, however, if you are like me and you are highly hypersensitive, expect to still have a reaction at times, depending on the weather. I learned that a vinyl wall paper, or many quality wall papers will block the gases from escaping more effectively than painting. However, over time, depending on the saturation of the house, how heavy the cigarette smoke was in the house, the gases will eventually push through the papers and of course the ceiling.

Over time, often many years, the gases in the cigarette smoke that penetrated the walls and drywall will become less potent, however, depending on the amount of saturation it could take years. In our state if a Seller lies to a Buyer and denies they are a smoker when asked, it is considered fraud. We are working with legislature to make it law to add this question to all Seller's Disclosures, however, as politics go, this may take some time. Thankfully on our side was the law that if we asked the question and the Seller lied to us, we could sue.

We also learned too late that the numerous lighted scented candles in the house that morning when we looked at the house should have been a major red flag. The Seller was anxious to sell, she was told by my Realtor before I saw the house that I was hypersensitive to cigarette smoke and we learned that she immediately went to work to mask it so I could not detect it. A tragic lesson learned. If ever I buy a home again and I see a number of candles lit inside, I will view it as a reason for concern, will leave and ask that the candles all be removed from the home, then return. Experts told us had I done that, and gone back, with all the candles out of the house, we would have been able to tell it was a "smoke house"

The Seller is now threatening Bankruptcy so we can't collect on our lawsuit, however, we still feel a sense of closure and justification that we did not let this go. The attempt to mask and fraud us was so intentional, we had no other choice to sue this individual and thankfully we won the lawsuit. If any one you reading this post has a hypersensitivity to cigarette smoke, insist that when you look at a home to buy that all lighted candles be removed from the house, and drop by unannounced to "look at the house again." We lived 7 hours away and this was not possible for us to do so we relied solely on the Buyer's statements to us that she was not a smoker and had never smoked in the house.

I made the mistake of believing this individual. Call it naive if you will, I certainly expected honesty when I asked her direct on 3 separate occasions if she smoked. I also went into great detail with her how my body would respond if I came into contact with cigarette smoke and she still had the nerve to lie to me, and convince me she never smoked inside the house. The Seller went to great lengths to mask the fact as well. We are pleased that we won our lawsuit and have learned a very painful, and costly lesson. (02/27/2007)

By MDCDO

Removing Cigarette Smoke Odors

I learned from the PROs... We had a fire in our house & believe me, I cannot even describe to you the awful smell that is left in the home after a fire! There are many things I learned from the PROs... Pros, who are paid to come to your home by your insurance company to get rid of the smell of smoke. They do it, & they do it quick with an ozone machine & Coke-a-Cola.

Ours was a home fire, not cigarette smoke, but believe me it was much worse than cigarette smoke!

  • Rent a LARGE ozone machine.... They brought in an industrial ozone machine & ALL of the smoke smell was gone within 2 days! You are supposed to leave the house when it's running, but, I just stayed in a room as far away from it as I could with the door shut. You will need to move the ozone machine from room to room. Believe me when I say they work MIRACLES & you may need to do nothing else, this machine really does the trick! You can either rent them by the day at a rental company or look under "Fire & Flood" in the yellow pages, & call the pros & ask them where they rent them from or if you can rent one for 2 days from them. (You may need only 1 day for cig smoke)

  • The second thing I learned from the Pros was how to remove smoke from clothes & fabrics. COKE-A-COLA.
    Yes, I said Coke!

    DIRECTIONS: Put 1 can of Coke (not Pepsi, & not sugarless, just regular coke-a-cola) in the washing machine with each load you wash & just add your detergent. I couldn't believe it, but it works GREAT! No more smell! None at all!

  • To Remove smoke from walls: Sorry to say, the only way to remove the nicotine from walls is to PRIME & paint them.... Do NOT just paint them, as the nicotine will keep leaching through the walls! (I've had this experience!) Buy a good SHELLAC BASED PRIMER like "Zinsser B-I-N" (These shellac primers are alcohol based & are made for schools & hospitals where the smell & allergens need to be minimal) The smell from the primer will be gone within 2 days. Follow with Paint & use the best brand you can buy & do not use flat paint, use satin, eggshell, or semi-gloss.

  • When the weather gets nice, leave the windows open as much as you can. If you can't air it out by taking it outside, (like a huge couch or rug) use Febreze' or another odor neutralizer. But we didn't have a choice, we had to throw out some of our upholstered furniture. But most was okay after the OZONE treatment! I can't say enough about the Ozone Machine! It worked MIRACLES! Amazing, Amazing machine!

  • You will need to rip out & get rid of the carpets. I don't think they can be saved. Before ripping them out, you can try washing them with an industrial machine & a product that "eats" organic smells & stains like "OUT!" or another "industrial odor remover with enzymes"... These products work by actually "eating" the organic molecules from pet urine. They MAY work for nicotine too. It's worth a try, but I doubt even they will work because the nicotine is way down in the rug-pads! Any small carpets can be washed with Coke-a-Cola & laundry detergent.

  • They had to dryclean our drapes, But I wish I would have just thrown them out, as it cost a fortune!
Hope this helps, I've had experience with both nicotine infested trailers & house fire smoke & this is what worked for me. If you have any questions ask the Pros. Look up "Fire Damage or Smoke Damage" in the yellow pages. They'll know the answers!

BUYER BEWARE:

We got ripped off when buying our place too: They left it a disgusting DIRTY mess! We had to throw out the oven it was so bad. PLUS they left a BUNCH of junk in the garage including an old fridge & a huge heavy, old metal desk from the 50's. No wonder the Realtor refused to let us see the place the day we signed the papers even though our Title Company insisted.

(We were afraid to sue them when we found fist marks in every one of the aluminum doors... The guy obviously had an anger problem & we didn't want trouble!) (02/27/2007)


By Cyinda

Removing Cigarette Smoke Odors

Please urge people that using a product like Febreeze to "cure" a place of odor is simply masking the odor, much like the scented candles the doctor was referring to their article. A natural way to get rid of ambient odors is to put dishes of white vinegar around the house till the smells dissipate. You will have to change the vinegar every few days. There are no "easy" answers to removing odors. It simply takes a lot of work, both in cleaning and replcaement. I just purchased a condo in Seattle, and the place was hazy with cigarrette smoke every time I've seen it. I know I have a task of washing with TSP on every single surface that can tolerate it. Those that cannot, I am going to use an ammonia/vinegar solution to solve this problem. I also have an ionizer I will turn on when I am not in the unit (as I have a severe reaction to the ozone created). After cleaning (i)every(/i) surface (including the ceiling), I am going to prime with Kilz primer, and then paint over that. I am ripping out the carpets (as they are not only smoky but disgusting), and looking forward to scrubbing the subfloor, then laying down laminate floor.

The only place I am scared of is the grout in the kitchen and bathroom. I suspect the grout will need to be cleaned with muriatic acid, then sealed in order to make it not "leak" smoke whenever I decide to turn on the shower or scrub the floors.

Another note: Since I have sensitivities to chemical cleaners, and I feel they are bad for the planet, anyway, I try to stick with natural cleaners. My "409" is a 50/50 combo of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. I use a non-toxic scrubbing cleanser like Bon Ami instead of Comet, and I use an eco-safe toilet bowl cleaner which is scented with actual pine oil. Please consider the impact you make on the air, water, land, and fellow humans and animals when you buy cheap chemical cleaners at the Mega-Mart! (02/28/2007)

By Mel

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