How to Get Rid of Cigarette Smell

Even if you have a “no smoking” rule in place for your rental property, tenants can still break the rules sometimes. In the case of a vacation rental, especially, you are going to want to get the smell out fast.

You don’t want new tenants to be greeted by the unpleasant odor of cigarette smoke as soon as they walk in. So, here is a guide to getting rid of cigarette smell, including home remedies to innovative products.

Thirdhand Smoke

The smell of cigarette smoke tends to linger in areas all over your home. This is why you may notice your clothes smell like smoke after standing next to a smoker at a bus stop, for instance. The same situation occurs in the case of smoking indoors. If a tenant has smoked inside of the rental unit, anything made of fabric will probably be affected by thirdhand smoke. Thirdhand smoke refers to the residual nicotine that lingers on indoor surfaces.

You may notice that the walls of your unit will begin to yellow and breathing may become more difficult. The nicotine in tobacco smoke reacts with nitrous acid, which is a common component of indoor air. This leads to the formation of hazardous carcinogens. Nicotine remains on surfaces for days and weeks, meaning the carcinogens continue to be created, which are then inhaled, absorbed or ingested. This is also potentially hazardous to children and pets. So, to ensure the safety of your tenants and your property’s condition, make sure you take all of the necessary precautions and do a thorough cleaning of the unit.

Use Vinegar on Curtains and on Walls

As mentioned previously, cigarette smell and thirdhand smoke tend to stick to fabrics of all kinds. If you have any curtains, drapes, or blinds put up in your rental, you should wash them thoroughly with vinegar. Put all of the curtains in the washing machine and add about 2 cups of vinegar to the load. Vinegar is a great odor neutralizer and a natural cleaner.

Be sure to use a low or fluff cycle since high heat usually traps the smoke odors in the cloth. Also, beware that vinegar is a natural bleach and will fade colors, so you should never let fabrics sit for a long time in vinegar and water. Add the vinegar to the water before placing drapes into the washer to avoid this.

Once you have washed all of the curtains, do not put them back into the smelly room. Put them in a large trash bag and secure them in a location that has not been affected by the cigarette smoke smell. Keep them there until you have finished cleaning the other parts of the house. It’s also ideal that you do all of this cleaning on the same day to ensure that the odor won’t remain trapped inside.

Vinegar can be used to clean cigarette smell out of any fabric, but if you have bigger, bulkier items that need to be treated, it’s probably best to contact a local dry cleaner.

While your items are in the wash, mix 2 cups of vinegar in a gallon of warm water, soak a clean rag in it, and scrub down smelly surfaces, including walls, ceilings, floors, counters, and furniture. You can also wave the rag in the air to capture new odors. To take it a step further, lay out some bowls of vinegar around the house for extra odor-absorbing power. If you’re worried about the vinegar scent lingering, don’t worry — baking soda will get rid of it.

Use Baking Soda on Carpets and Furniture

Baking soda is excellent for absorbing unpleasant odors drawing out excess moisture from the air. If you want some added freshness, you can opt for a scented baking soda.

To continue the process of getting rid of cigarette smell, dust the baking soda all over the soft items in the unit. This means carpets, rugs, mattresses, and furniture. You want to sprinkle the baking soda generously on top of these surfaces; it’s easier to do if you pour the baking soda into a measuring cup and then sprinkle it over your furniture by pouring it into a large colander. This way, you’ll be able to evenly distribute the baking soda on the areas of interest.

By the time you’re done dispersing the baking soda, your rental unit should look like it’s covered with a thin layer of snow. Leave the baking soda sitting on the furniture for a couple of hours while you are cleaning out other areas of the property. Then, you’ll want to vacuum everything thoroughly. If the scent is still there, you can repeat the process until you notice it has vanished.

Lay Out Bowls of Charcoal

While these home remedies may seem a bit archaic, they really do work. Charcoal is an effective, non-toxic cleanser that is often used to detox the body and to filter drinking water. It is also used to filter air because of its amazing ability to absorb contaminants and strong odors, like that of cigarette smoke.

Place some of the ground up charcoal into several small bowls or containers. Then, evenly distribute bowls throughout the affected area and let them sit there for a few days. Doing this in conjunction with other odor-eliminating techniques will definitely speed up the process.

It is best to use activated charcoal, or activated carbon, because it is processed to make it more porous, increasing its surface area and maximizing its ability to absorb odors, contaminants, and toxins.

Activated charcoal comes in both capsules and powder form, and can be found at almost any grocery store, drug store, or home supply store.

Lay Out Bowls of Coffee Grounds

Coffee is a natural and powerful odor neutralizer. Get a large can of coffee grounds and pour some into multiple small bowls. Place the bowls around your rental unit and keep them there overnight. Coffee grounds, like baking soda and charcoal, can absorb odors from your room.

The strong smell of coffee also helps overpower any lingering smells. Keep in mind that your rental may smell a bit like coffee afterward, so if you’re not a fan, use some more baking soda.

Use Vanilla Extract

Vanilla has a strong, sweet aroma that can quickly fill the air and eliminate the smell of smoke and other unpleasant odors. Get a bottle of vanilla extract and soak some cotton balls in it. You can put the cotton balls in small bowls and leave them soaking around the unit for a day. In addition, you can put some vanilla extract in a pan and heat it over the stove to let the aroma permeate in the air.

Cut Apples into Halves

Although it may seem strange, apples are surprisingly effective at absorbing unpleasant odors. For smaller spaces, cut apples into halves and place them around the room. Leave them there overnight and the next day, your unit should smell like fresh apples with no sign of cigarette smoke smell. This also works with other produce, like pears and potatoes. Even some dairy products and bread can absorb odors as well.

Scrub With Ammonia and Water

Depending on the severity of your smoke smell situation, the odor may penetrate walls, ceilings, and floors and linger there for weeks. If none of these home remedies have worked for you, try a mixture of ammonia and water to annihilate the smoke smell. Mix a cup or two of ammonia with water and soak a rag in it. Use the rag to scrub all of your walls, ceilings, floors, and other hard surfaces. You can even add the ammonia to your laundry, just like with vinegar, to get rid of the smoke smell on fabrics.

Ammonia has a strong scent of its own, so your rental may have a pungent scent after you clean. To get rid of the odor of ammonia, use baking soda to scrub the areas you cleaned once the ammonia has done its job. You can also leave some baking soda out in a bowl to absorb the odors in the air.

Use an Air Purifier

If nothing seems to do the trick, you may need to enlist the help of a home air purifier. Air purifiers with activated carbon-based filters will remove all traces of smoke smell and other odors from the unit. It’s essential that you choose an air purifier that uses a carbon filter; this will ensure the most effective odor elimination.

While HEPA filters are useful, they are only designed to remove particles as small as 0.1 microns, including dust mites, mold spores, and allergens such as pollen and pet dander. This means they are not very good at eliminating unpleasant odors from the air, which are smaller than 0.1 microns.

Light Some Candles and Incense

Not only do candles and incense add some ambiance, but they’re also great at defusing unpleasant odors. Choose some candles and incense with a neutral scent like vanilla or lavender and leave them burning for most of the day; just keep an eye on them!

Open the Windows and Doors

While you’re going around cleaning your rental, make sure to keep all the windows and doors open. This way, fresh air can enter the home and help eliminate the unpleasant odors. Also make sure to remove all signs of cigarettes, like ashtrays and butts, so there isn’t any way for the smell to linger.

Replace Light Fixtures

Believe it or not, cigarette smell can even take a toll on your light bulbs. It’s a good idea to clean your light fixtures thoroughly. Ideally, you should replace them completely since heat attracts smoke residue and creates a coating around the bulb.

Spray Some Air Freshener

Once you’re done trying out these odor-eliminating methods, give your rental a good spray with an air freshener. You should also use a fabric freshening spray on the linens you washed.

Purchase Some Odor-Eliminating Products

Not everyone is into natural remedies… and sometimes, a trusted product is more reliable than random household items. There are some awesome odor-eliminating products on the market that can help you tackle that pesky smoke smell. From sprays to gels, from candles to air purifying bags, the types of products are endless. So, here are our top picks for all kinds:

Best Spray

Fresh Wave Odor Removing Spray

Best Gel or Candle

CandLove Smoke and Odor Eliminator Mason Jar Candle

Best Charcoal Bag

California Home Goods Air Purifying Bags