Find out the best and most sure ways to get rid of the cigarette smell in your rental units, including which items you’ll need to clean or replace.
8 Steps to Remove Cigarette Smell
Here are 8 steps to follow to get your house rid of the old cigarette smell:
- Air Everything Out
- Scrub All Hard Surfaces
- Replace Lights, Filters, and Blinds
- Clean or Replace Curtains, Rugs, and Other Soft Items
- Seal and Paint
- Hire an HVAC Professional
- Don’t Mask the Scent
- Hire a Cleaning Professional
1. Air Everything Out
Let some fresh air in. Open all the windows and turn on all the fans for as long as possible. If you have any portable fans, place those next to the windows facing outward to remove as much of the smell as possible.
If you have an air purifier, it’s also a good idea to get that going. If the smell is heavy, you may want to invest in one. A HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter with a CADR (high clean air delivery rate) can remove almost 90% of particulate pollution.
To remove the smoky odor most effectively, it is recommended to use a HEPA filter with an activated charcoal/carbon filter weighing 5 lbs or more.
You should also add a few products around the house to help this process including:
- Activated charcoal – In powder form, activated charcoal can also help neutralize the smoke smell. Place it in small containers throughout the unit.
- Coffee beans/grounds – Coffee has a very strong scent, pleasant to most, and helps to soak up any scent. You can put the beans or grounds in a coffee filter in main areas like the kitchen and change it out every few days.
2. Scrub All Hard Surfaces
Use a clean rag and a mixture of 2 cups warm water, 1 cup white vinegar, the juice from 1 lemon, and ½ cup baking soda to scrub all the hard surfaces in the home. This should include:
Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarette smoke tend to stick to these surfaces. Don’t be surprised if the water turns yellow. It is important to scrub until each of these areas is truly clean or the smoky scent will remain.
3. Replace Lights, Filters, and Blinds
Nicotine can get trapped inside light bulbs and air filters. Each time you turn on a light, the heater, or air conditioner the scent can disperse back into the air. Changing all filters and light bulbs helps to keep the scent from returning.
Blinds or other window fixtures may be yellowed or hold a scent as well. Switching out the blinds can help ensure the smell doesn’t linger on these fixtures.
4. Clean or Replace Curtains, Rugs, and Other Soft Items
Sprinkle baking soda on all carpets and other fabric surfaces to help soak up the scent. Leave it on overnight, if possible. Then you can use a vacuum to clean it up
You can also use a steam cleaner to try and cleanse these items. If you don’t have one, they are available for rent at Home Depot and Lowe’s.
There is a good chance that no carpet, curtain, rug, or upholstered furniture will be able to return to its smoke-free scent. Most of these items can be replaced for a few hundred dollars except if you have to recarpet an entire house. However, replacing a smelly carpet is much better than losing tenants because of the stench.
5. Seal and Paint
There are cases when the smell can linger or return even after thorough cleaning. It may be necessary to seal and paint the walls, cabinets, and ceilings.
Brands like Recon and Killz offer special primers to help block stains and smells. A fresh coat of paint can also help to keep things fresh as nicotine is known to stain surfaces yellow.
6. Hire an HVAC Professional
Depending on the frequency of the smoking, the odor could have reached the HVAC coils which can push the smell of the smoke each time you run your unit.
Hiring an HVAC professional will help you determine how serious the situation is, if the system needs to be cleaned, and if you have additional ductwork that needs to be handled.
7. Don’t Mask the Scent
Nothing screams “a smoker lived here” more than trying to cover up the cigarette smell with an overpowering candle and some air freshener. A potential tenant will smell right through it and raise a red flag.
It is essential to find the source of the scent and if needed, hire a professional to handle the situation. It is always best to be honest with potential tenants as it sets the landlord-tenant relationship off on the right foot. In addition, thirdhand smoke can be detrimental to small children and pets.
8. Hire a Cleaning Professional
For more extreme situations, there are professionals who specialize in cigarette smoke removal. They typically use specialized treatments including:
- Ozone generator – these machines create ozone to electrically charge the smoky particles in the air to change their structure and remove the scent
- Thermal fogging – this process creates a fog by heating a special deodorizer to penetrate surfaces and remove the smoke smell
Most professionals have extensive experience in handling cigarette smoke. They can help determine where else the smell may be coming from. Professionals also have access to industrial-strength cleaning solutions that can get your space odor-free.
How Much Does It Cost To Remove Cigarette Smoke From a House?
The cost of repairing smoke damage depends on what needs to be done. Typically, it costs between $200 – $1,000 to repair smoke damage and another $400 to $1,400 to remove the scent. However, if smoking inside was extensive, completely removing flooring and new paint can increase costs significantly.
The true cost of smoking in a property is much more significant than a few hundred dollars. One study showed that non-smoking tenants who moved into a previously smoked-in home (with 2 months of vacancy and cleaning) still encountered thirdhand smoke in dust, on surfaces, and had cotinine in their urine.
How To Avoid Smoking in Your Rental
The best way to care for your rental property is to avoid smoking in the first place. Landlords can follow a few steps to keep tenants from smoking or pay fines if they do.
- No smoking policy – It is essential to add a “No Smoking” addendum to your lease. You can specify that the rule includes all types of smoking activities (cigarettes, e-cigarettes, marijuana, tobacco)
- Communicate the policy and require a signature – When signing the lease, address the no smoking policy specifically and require tenants to initial. If you have clearly communicated the policy from the start, smokers will likely steer away from the property
- Enforce the rules – Landlords must be prepared to enforce any rule within the lease. This can include charging fees, keeping a portion of the security deposit, or evicting a tenant for breaking the terms of the lease
- Attract top-quality tenants – Look for a great tenant who meets high standards. This includes being respectful to you and your property, having great references, a good credit history, and keeping things tidy.
Thirdhand smoke can reduce the selling price of a home by as much as 30%. It can also cause sore throat, earaches, and headaches. If you aren’t serious about your smoking policy, it can hurt your profits in the future.