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How To Get Smoke Smell Out Of A House And Banish Cigarette Fumes For Good
Cigarette smoke smell, after all, isn't just an aesthetic issue. According to a study published in 2010, third-hand smoke (the carcinogenic toxins that cigarette smoke deposits on walls, floors, and dust) lingers for months after smokers move out, exposing nonsmoking new owners (especially children and pets) to unhealthy chemicals.
"Cigarette smoke can pollute the indoor air quality in your home and cause asthma, headaches, nausea, fatigue, and an increased risk for lung cancer," explains
And one survey found that a house sold by a smoker can lower the value of a home by 30%.
If you're selling, you're not legally obligated to disclose that a home has been smoked in. Nonetheless, a strong smell will quickly clue in potential buyers, and could make your home harder to sell.
The good news? It is possible, with some hard work, to get smoke smell out of a house. Here's what to do.
Air it out
Your first step is to clear as much bad air out of the house as possible (and, obviously, stop smoking inside).
"Opening up your windows and letting in the fresh air is an easy step to rid your home of built-up pollutants," explains Ciresi.
An air filter, especially a HEPA model with a charcoal odor filter, will help eliminate dust and particulate matter. Ciresi also suggests using a dehumidifier in rooms with heavy smoke smell. Moist air holds odors, and will make the smell more intense. Drying out the air will help the smell to dissipate.
Deal with the drywall
"Drywall tends to soak up any smells it's subjected to on a regular basis," says Ciresi. Unfortunately, replacing the drywall in your home isn't really an option. Instead, thoroughly wash your walls and ceiling, removing any dust from door frames, window frames, baseboards, fan blades, and light fixtures. You can clean with vinegar or, even better, a mixture of trisodium phosphate (TSP) and water.
If the smell persists, you might have to repaint the room, using a sealing, odor-killing primer like Kilz. Without a sealing primer, the smell will eventually start to seep back in through the paint. Make sure to repaint the ceiling, too, since it will have had the most exposure to smoke.
Clean the carpets
Carpeting is a notorious absorber of odors. If you have wall-to-wall carpet, you can try sprinkling baking soda or an odor-reducing product on the carpet, then vacuuming. But you may have to get the carpets professionally steam-cleaned. If the smell is really serious, carpets may have to be removed or replaced entirely.
For wood or tile floors, a regular mopping should be sufficient, but if you're noticing smell from the floor, try mopping with vinegar or the TSP mixture.
Examine your HVAC evaporator coil
"If you or someone in your home smokes, the fumes can be pulled into the evaporator coil of your HVAC unit. The odor permeates the coil and blasts the smell of old cigarettes into your home every time you run the air conditioner," explains Ciresi.
To clean the coils, turn off your AC or heater. Locate the coils by removing the access panel from your HVAC unit. (If you're not sure where they are, check your owner's manual.) You can then use compressed air, a brush, or a mixture of mild detergent and water to clean them. If the coils still seem dirty, contact an HVAC pro to give them a serious scrub.
Clean your air ducts
HVAC aside, "It's also possible the ductwork in your home has never been cleaned," says Ciresi. And ducts can be coated in tar, nicotine, and other stinky smoke byproducts from years of exposure.
Air duct cleaning is something you'll have to hire a pro to do, but if you get a stale smell when the air conditioner or heater turns on, it's a must.
Wash or replace window treatments and windows
Curtains, blinds, and other window treatments will absorb smoke smell and dust. For fabric window treatments, either wash them in the washing machine or steam clean them, depending on the fabric.
Blinds can be washed with a vinegar or TSP solution; but if they really reek, they might need to be replaced. You might also need to wash the windowsthemselves, since smoke can leave a film that smells particularly bad when warmed by sunlight.
Change lightbulbs and clean light fixtures
The heat generated by lightbulbs can fuse yucky dust onto the glass of bulb. If you notice an increase in odor when you turn the lights on, replace the bulbs and thoroughly clean the light fixtures.
Obviously your furniture is coming with you when you move, but if the fabric on a beloved couch has absorbed a lot of smoke smell over the years, it will still create a problem when you're trying to show your home. Consider using other furniture or just removing especially offensive pieces.
Go easy on the air freshener
If you're worried about smoke smells turning off potential home buyers, it makes sense that you would want to load up on scented candles or air freshener. Unfortunately, this absolutely screams "something in the house smells bad."
Even if you've managed to eradicate the olfactory evidence of any inhabitants' smoking habits, being hit by a wall of artificial flower smell is a red flag that will make many people scrutinize your home's smells even harder. With any strong households odors, from cigarettes to pets, it's always best to clear it out rather than cover it up.
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