Are you struggling to get rid of a smoke smell in your house? The solution is often simpler than you think. Read on to learn more about both avoiding smoke smell and neutralizing any stubborn smoky odors in your home.
Updated July 30th, 2019
Ridding your home and furniture of a smoke smell can be a tedious, time-consuming, and expensive process, especially if the smoke is strong or stale.
Whether it's leftover cigarette smoke or residual smoke from a house fire, getting rid of a smoke odor typically takes a lot of scrubbing, soaking, and deodorizing. If your home has severe smoke damage, you may even need to replace sections of flooring or furnishing.
If you're thinking of buying or selling a home with a smoke odor, we recommend that you discuss your negotiation/listing options with a top agent in your local area.
In the meantime, we've compiled a guide to minimizing or eliminating unpleasant smoke odors from your home.
How do you get smoke smell out of your house?
Smoke particles can penetrate even the smallest nooks and crannies of your home, making it very difficult to budge a smoke smell once it's set. Professional cleaners are often the only viable option if you need to eliminate long-term smoke odors from your house. However, for less severe or more recent smoke odors, there are several simple techniques you can use to minimize or remove the smell.
What kills the smell of smoke?
Most DIY methods for getting rid of smoke smell rely on either white vinegar or baking soda. These two household ingredients are a popular option because of their natural deodorizing properties. When applied directly, vinegar and bicarbonate soda will also neutralize the pH level of any smoke particulate matter or residue trapped on the surface.
Why does smoke smell linger?
Resin and tar are the main chemical components in smoke that lead to a lasting smoke odor. When you light a cigarette inside, the resulting tobacco smoke leaves behind a filmy residue of resin and tar on your walls, ceilings, light bulbs, toys, bedding, and furniture fibers. Smoke smell will become particularly hard to budge in the porous materials of your couch, carpet, and walls.
How long does smoke smell last?
The smell of smoke can last anywhere between a few days to a couple of months (or even years if you're a heavy smoker). The intensity and longevity of the smoke smell will ultimately depend on how frequently and how long someone was smoking inside the residence. Ventilation in the room, or lack thereof, can also affect the permanency of smoke smell.
How can leftover smoke in a home impact your health?
Leftover smoke, whether it's cigarette smoke or otherwise, poses a significant health risk to any exposed parties. Even after it seemingly dissipates, leftover smoke can continue to affect you and your family's health through exposure to residual Third Hand Smoke (THS).
Although the health impacts of leftover smoke are not yet fully understood, medical professionals believe that persistent contact with THS is linked with an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory problems.
Does smoke smell affect selling your home?
According to brokerage estimates, the final selling price of your home can be reduced by up to 29% if you (or a previous tenant) have regularly smoked inside the residence. If regular smoking occurred over a long period, your home will not only suffer from a smoke smell, it will also show signs of mild to serious smoke damage, further decreasing the value of the property.
Smoking inside your home also puts you at a serious disadvantage when trying to attract buyers. In fact, a 2013 habits study by Pfizer found that 56% of home buyers were reluctant to even consider a property previously owned by a smoker. If you're about to put a home with a smoke smell on the market, having your house professionally cleaned, rather than cleaning the house yourself, will greatly improve your chances of finding a buyer.
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Tips for Removing Smoke Odor
So, now that you understand the impact a smoke smell can have on your property sale or purchase, you're probably wondering what's the best way to remove smoke odor from your home. To get you started, we've listed three practical tips for getting smoke smell out of your house.
What is the fastest way to get rid of cigarette smell?
If you need to remove the smell of cigarette smoke quickly, make sure you've opened up your windows and removed any cigarette butts and ash trays. If the smell hasn't dissipated, try soaking a cloth in white vinegar and wiping down both the upholstery and hard surfaces in the affected rooms. This should neutralize any smoke residue that has settled on your furniture or walls.
Hiring a home restoration company is the fastest and most effective way to eliminate smoke smell from your home. If your home has a severe smoke odor, restoration companies can use specialist equipment, such as steam deodorizers or ozone generators, to thoroughly cleanse surfaces and fabrics. If this doesn't work, home restoration professionals will use a specialized sealant to trap any remaining odors.
Remember, professional restoration companies will typically be more expensive than removing the odor yourself. However, if you're worried about the health risks of a smoke smell or you're trying to sell your home, hiring a professional is almost always a more reliable alternative.
Some of the most effective do-it-yourself options for removing smoke odors from your home include:
- Wipe down all hard surfaces with a vinegar and water solution. Placing bowls of white vinegar or coffee grounds in affected rooms will also help neutralize the smell.
- Remove and wash any smoke infused bedding, cushions, furniture covers, and curtains. For the best results, we recommend that you have larger items washed by a professional dry cleaner.
- Sprinkle baking soda on affected carpeted areas and leave overnight (or for as long as possible).
- Install an industrial-grade HEPA air purifier or air scrubber in your home.
- Use fragrant indoor plants to produce more pleasant interior odors.
Need help buying or selling a home with smoke smell?
If you're considering buying or selling a home with a smoke smell, or if you just want to know more about getting rid of nasty odors, it might be time to reach out to a professional. An experienced real estate agent will not only guide you through the ins and outs of buying or selling a home with a smoke smell — they'll also advise you on how to either disclose or confront a smoke odor during closing negotiation, and refer you to a reliable home restoration company.
To connect with a top-rated, local real estate agent, get in touch with Clever! Regardless of whether you're a home buyer or home seller, when you partner with Clever, you'll benefit from exclusive cost-saving opportunities, full-service agent support, and discounted commission rates.
Top FAQs About Getting Rid of Smoke Smell
Is it safe to buy a house from a smoker?
Although a medical consensus is yet to be reached, there is a strong correlation between frequent THS exposure and an increased risk of both cancer and respiratory issues. Other risks associated with prolonged THS exposure include liver and lung damage, hyperactivity, and insulin resistance.
Unless you are actively cleaning your home from the get-go, buying a home from a smoker can lead to months, or even years, of exposure to harmful tobacco residue, through both inhalation and ingestion. While having your home professionally cleaned may alleviate some negative effects of THS, the property will still need to be cleaned multiple times to fully remove any residue or smoke odor.
Will painting walls get rid of smoke smell?
One of the key indicators that your home was once occupied by a smoker is a yellowing of the walls and ceilings. A fresh coat of paint is an easy solution for yellowing walls; however, paint will not mask the smell of smoke. Because of the porous nature of paint, pre-existing smoke smell will permeate through any fresh paint that you apply over yellowing or cracking walls.
If you remove surface smoke odor from the walls and ceilings with a solvent-based cleaning mixture or white vinegar solution, you can then trap any residual smell in the wall with a sealant prior to painting. Smoke smell from a kitchen or house fire can have a similarly long lasting effect on your walls and ceilings. However, the solution and sealant process listed above should be sufficient to completely remove the ashy or smoky smell of a house fire.
Is it safe to stay in a house with smoke damage?
No, staying in a house with smoke damage is detrimental to your health. If your home's smoke damage was caused by a house fire, it's especially important that you contact a cleaning service that specializes in the removal of toxic smoke residue.
A professional post-fire cleanup crew will not only possess the appropriate equipment for removing the toxic byproducts of fire, such as ash, soot, tar and sulfur dioxide, they'll also be able to monitor and prevent a buildup of carbon monoxide — an invisible gas that can be fatal with prolonged exposure.
Does vinegar remove smoke smell?
Because of its powerful deodorizing properties, vinegar is one of the most effective household treatments for removing the smell of smoke. Placing a bowl of pure white vinegar in the room you wish to treat for smoke smell will typically soak up odors that would otherwise seep into your furniture or carpet.
For a more thorough cleaning, try spraying a mix of one-part water and one-part vinegar onto affected home surfaces — this will neutralize any smoke vapors that have penetrated the fibers of your furniture or walls.
How do you get the smell of smoke out of a mattress?
If you've inherited a mattress from a smoking household, you may have to deal with a smoky odor within the mattress itself. Cigarette smell in a mattress is usually difficult to mask and rarely dissipates on its own. To neutralize the scent, we recommend that you spray the mattress with a vinegar-water solution every morning and evening for at least a week.
Placing your mattress outside in the sun will also help with ventilating and killing odor causing bacteria in mattress fibers. If none of these methods work for you, try sprinkling some odor-neutralizing bicarbonate soda over the mattress. After 72 hours, vacuum the excess powder off and reevaluate the strength of the smoke smell.