So you’ve moved into the perfect home or have found a great apartment and want to settle in, but there’s just one problem: the previous residents were smokers and your new home smells of stale cigarette smoke. This is not an easy problem to fix, but with time, patience and a lot of hard work, you’ll be smelling sweet, clean air again.
Talk With Your Landlord
First, if you’re renting the space, make sure you speak with your landlord before doing any cleaning. Check your rental lease to see what your rights are as a tenant. The landlord may be responsible for getting rid of the smell and paying for any costs or both associated with the cleaning (i.e., hiring professionals).
Start by Cleaning the Air in Your Home
Fresh air is your friend so open all windows. Get as much fresh air into your home as possible. While this won’t get rid of the smell, it’ll help. Also, set bowls of white vinegar around your home, at least one per room (depending on the room size). Just make sure small children and pets are safe.
If you have an air purifier or can borrow one or two from friends, this is a great way to decrease smoke smell. It takes time for the air to become clean, so we suggest keeping the purifier in the room you use the most. In the day, that might be the kitchen or home office. At night, the bedroom. It is essential for any family member that is allergic to cigarette smoke.
Clean the Walls and Ceilings
When it comes to smells cleaning the entire home is key. It’s important to know that ceilings are the worst culprits for retaining smoke. Many people make the mistake of cleaning just the walls of their home, thinking that will be enough. But it’s probably more important to thoroughly clean both the walls and the ceilings, too.
Use cleaning products that contain ammonia and glycol – key ingredients for neutralizing the smell. Just be aware that these are harsh chemicals, so you need to keep pets and small children out of the room you’re working on. Test an area of the walls and ceiling first just to see how the paint will withstand the cleanser. Do one room at a time.
After cleaning thoroughly and letting surfaces dry, smell the walls. Can you still smell cigarette smoke? If you can’t – great! But make sure you keep checking after a day or two; the smell of the cleaner may be masking the smoke. If you can still smell smoke, you should consider repainting the walls and ceilings. Talk to your local paint store about your problem. They can sell you a sealant that should be applied to the walls and ceilings first before repainting. This will seal off the smell and prevent it from seeping through your new paint job.
Clean the Carpets
Carpets are responsible for retaining a lot of the smell. If you have carpet in your home, first try to clean it yourself. Use a strong rug cleaner. Make sure you spread the product generously around the room, getting into corners and covering floor edges. Follow the instructions, leaving the product on for the maximum time allotted. Vacuum thoroughly. Let the carpet dry, then do a smell test.
If you can still smell smoke in the carpet, you may need to hire professionals to do a deep cleaning. Call some professional companies for quotes, letting them know that you need to get rid of the smoke. In the end, paying someone to get rid of the smell in your carpets is a good investment. If you’re renting, make sure you talk to the landlord first. The landlord should be paying for the treatment. Again, check your lease.
Clean Floors and Doors
For wood floors and doors, make sure you use a cleaner that is wood-friendly. Mop the floor thoroughly, making sure you change the water regularly. If necessary, you may need to hand-scrub corners and floor edges. We also recommend cleaning the baseboards and door frames as well.
Clean Drapes and Blinds
Remove all drapes and blinds. Drapes may need to be dry-cleaned. If so, make sure you tell the dry-cleaner about the smoke smell and that it needs to be removed. If your drapes can be washed, wash them in hot water (if possible). Add some vinegar to the wash water – vinegar is a great neutralizer and natural cleaner. Use one cup vinegar per full load. Just make sure you add the vinegar to the water before placing drapes into the washer. Vinegar is a natural bleach and will fade colors so you should never let fabrics sit for a long time in vinegar and water.
To clean non-fabric or non-wooden blinds, place the blinds in the bathtub. Fill the bathtub with hot water and a cup of vinegar. Let blinds soak in the tub for 15 minutes then scrub them using a fine scrub brush. Hang blinds to dry. For other types of material (wood or fabric) follow the above instructions for wood floors or drapes.
Clean Windows and Mirrors
Clean windows and mirrors using vinegar and water. Make sure you clean into corners, and while you’re there, clean the sills and window frames, too.