How To: Get Rid of Interior Cigarette Smoke Smell

Make that house smell brand new again using natural cleaning solutions, a bit of elbow grease, and fresh paint! Read on to learn tried and true methods to remove cigarette smoke odor from your interior. When your house smells like you instead of whatever was there before you, the reward is worth the work!

Oh how I searched the internet to find the gold standard for this one! Smells can have a huge impact on our emotional reactions to something. When we toured our Riverdale Ranch for the first time, the cigarette smoke odor bothered my husband so much he waited outside. I will admit I have never quite smelled anything so pungent, it was very off-putting. We made an offer anyway, and I don’t think my husband was thrilled when it was accepted because he was convinced the cigarette smell would never leave. It then became my mission to prove him wrong and officially change the scent of our Riverdale Ranch. 

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Clorox Flip & Switch Spray Mop

-White vinegar

Kilz primer

-Interior paint of your choice

-Optional: lemon essential oil

-1/4 cup of vinegar, squirt of dawn dish soap and bucket of hot water to wash windows

-powdered tide and hot water in bathtub to wash window screens

-bins and odor absorbing substance (i.e. cat litter, baking soda, coffee) to place around house

Step 1: Remove anything that absorbs smells

Get rid of any and all cloth, carpet and fabric. Luckily the house had new floors put in before we moved, but there was still carpet in the closets that we ripped out. The breakfast bench had a cushion that we unfortunately had to replace (it was custom), and some curtains were left that had to be disposed of. 

STEP 2: Air it out

Open the windows. Air out the house as often as possible

STEP 3: Wash those walls!

I used my Clorox Flip & Switch Spray Mop with a solution of 50% water and 50% white vinegar with 5-10 drops of lemon essential oil and scrubbed every wall, ceiling, baseboard and floor in the house. It was tedious, it was not fun, but it was necessary. It helps to be methodical about the process, so I cleaned top to bottom, left to right.

**You could also use TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) which is a heavy-duty chemical cleaner safe for walls, woodwork and floors found at most hardware stores. I get hesitant using hard core chemicals, I typically prefer natural cleaning solutions. I also did not like that it would be a 2 step process of cleaning all the surfaces, then rinsing all the surfaces. I crossed my fingers the water and vinegar would be sufficient, and along with priming and painting it was. 

STEP 4: Address the windows

I washed all the windows using water, vinegar and dawn soap (both interior and exterior), as well as removed the screens to get the tar out of that surface as well (let @gocleanco teach you how to clean window screens by watching their story labeled “window screens”, they tell it best!).

STEP 5: Prime

Prime using Kilz primer- this brand is recommended for covering up odors. I had originally planned to only do the walls, but when I noticed how yellow/orange the “white” paint on the doors, trim, and baseboards was next to the white primer I knew that had to be primed and re-painted as well. 

STEP 6: Paint

Freshly paint everything that was primed. 

STEP 7: Air vents and registers

Remove your air vents and registers. Ours had cheesecloth taped inside by the previous owners- we think it was in an effort to keep the ducts from building up with tar? Regardless, we soaked the registers in watered down bleach and  powdered Tide in the bathtub, then spray painted them a lighter Heirloom White color before putting them back up.

dirty air vent

**We looked into getting a quote for duct cleaning, however it seems to be more suited to removing allergens or debris from ducts. They basically hook a vacuum up to your ducts to clean them out, not scrub them like I imaged when I heard duct cleaning. So we decided to skip this step.

STEP 8: Continue to freshen the air

We continued to frequently air out the house whenever the weather was nice. I also strategically placed odor eliminating substances such as coffee, baking soda and cat litter in bins around the house in areas where I still smelled smoke. By month 2-3, our guests honestly said they would have never known anyone smoked in the house (when in fact it had been smoked in for almost 30 years). 

It CAN be done, and I used it as an excuse to begin carrying out my vision for the house with all fresh paint. Don’t let the smoke smell deter you from your dream house!