Use These Hacks to Get Smoke Smell Out of Your House

Photo of a grey house with cigarette smell

Few things are more pervasive than smoke smell, whether because of cigarette smoke or a house fire. Even smoke smell from fireplaces or wood stoves can permeate everything the smoke touches. Getting it out is a chore only achieved through diligence, tactical cleaning, and employing multiple “smoke eradication methods.”

Not even air filters help remove smoke odor in most cases. You need fresh air, air filters, active deodorizing, scrubbing hard surfaces with warm water and commercial cleaning solution, white vinegar, or baking soda. You will also want to use steam cleaning products for clothes, upholstery, and carpet. All that is just to get you started.

Here is how to get rid of the smoke smell and restore that fresh home smell without resorting to a cleaning service, except in cases where the smoke damage is extensive.

How To Get Smoke Smell Out of a House

Ridding yourself of the odor must rank as one of the top house repairs to make before selling a house. The only effective way to eliminate smoke odor from your home is to use a multi-pronged approach. Accomplishing a smoke-free home requires:

  • Using air purifiers to improve air quality
  • Using an air freshener to mask any lingering smoke residue
  • Washing everything using products that excel in odor removal
  • Removing anything that could harbor a smoke smell, such as upholstered furniture, ashtrays, linens, etc.

If you only focus on one area, you will have lingering odors. Even if you scrub everything, smoke molecules and particles will permeate everything, from drywall to carpet to ceiling tiles, and smoke will come out randomly. Humid weather, for example, can make a house smell like smoke, even after you clean it.

If you are not committed to thoroughly cleaning your home, you will not get rid of the odor, no matter what DIY strategies and tactics you employ.

Why It Matters

You might be balking at the amount of work needed to rid yourself of the smoke smell or wondering why it matters if you are selling your home. An excellent way to look at it is that you will pay to get the house ready for the next owner either by getting rid of the smoke smell now or by a reduced price later. 

Smoke damage is almost impossible to mask. You could have air filters in every room and repeatedly deodorize the rooms, but the smoke smell will come through somewhere.

Because of that, addressing the smell will help you get the price you want from a buyer. If you leave the smell, the buyer will offer a lot less money than if the house is “move-in ready.”

Cleaning Your House

Photo of a mop with a lime green bucket and other house-cleaning tools

Your house needs cleaning from top to bottom. You should even consider cleaning and deodorizing your HVAC system. 

A cup of white vinegar and water is an effective odor neutralizer for all hard surfaces. Baking soda is an effective odor eliminator, especially for a lingering smoke smell. Bleach and ammonia are effective cleaners and will sanitize your space as well.

Scrub, rinse, wipe and repeat until no smell remains is the strategy you will have to use.

Areas homeowners will need to clean because smoke particles have permeated that you might not think of, include, but are not limited to:

  • Wood floors
  • Light fixtures
  • Inside closets, even if the doors are closed
  • Inside of cabinets, including cabinets in other rooms
  • Ceilings, both painted and ceiling tiles

When done cleaning the home, you will want to hand wash inside appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines and then run them, repeating the process until you are sure there is no smoke smell. 

Smoke smell and particles can build up inside of appliances, leaving the cleaning chambers smelling like the items you washed. 

Finally, you may want to toss all household items that are permeated by smoke, including books, which can harbor a cigarette smell long after exposure.

To Remove Cigarette Smoke

Cigarette smoke can be pervasive. To help combat it, besides scrubbing everything multiple times, use essential oils to mask the smell, ozone generators, and HEPA filters to purify the air and remove pollutants and thirdhand smoke odor.

Cleaning the Carpets and Curtains

Curtains and carpets are susceptible to smoke damage and become permeated with odor. Here are the only effective ways to clean them.

Carpets

You must use a steam cleaner and will probably have to go over it a few times. In addition, you will probably have to use a wet vac with a carpet cleaning solution. You will likely have to go over this a few times as well.

If all else fails and the carpet still has an odor after repeated cleaning, the only other way to deal with the smell is to dispose of the carpet, including getting rid of the carpet pad.

Curtains

You can try to steam clean curtains, but a better approach is to wash them in a washing machine or have them dry cleaned. Even then, the odor might linger, so you might want to save time and discard them at the beginning of your home improvement efforts.

Repainting a House

If your home has had external damage from smoke from an internal fire or fire in a neighboring building or a wildfire, you should consider repainting your home. 

It is an expense, but you should consider it one of the costs of selling a house you must incur to get the price you want. You can do this yourself, but hiring a professional house painter is a wiser approach.

A professional painter will know how to address any damage and get rid of any lingering smoke scent. They will also know what colors will mask any staining and be able to examine the home and identify damage you may not have noticed. Before painting, however, you should have the home’s external shell steam cleaned, or pressure washed.

It is amazing how much either of those two approaches can help eliminate smoke odor.

Another possibility is that part or all of your siding might need replacing. The issue with siding is that excessive heat from a fire can cause it to warp and even melt or catch fire. When that happens, even if the area affected is small, you risk weather damage from rain, snow, freezing temperatures, etc.

You should consider, at least, having the external of your home inspected, including your roof, as damage from a fire can sometimes be very hard to find. Fire damage does not have to be significant to help kick off larger issues in the future. A hole from fire damage, for example, can lead to insects and rodents gaining access to our home, which can cause a whole other slate of issues.

Airing Out Your House

If your damage is internal, you will need to get used to having your windows open whenever possible until you have cleaned, fumigated, and discarded any items that might harbor smoke. As soon as you can, after the damage has occurred, it is a good idea to open your windows and let the fresh air start to circulate.

How To Handle the HVAC

Do not use your air conditioner or HVAC system to circulate air until after you have had it inspected and cleaned. If smoke particles are residing in either, you can redistribute the pollutants and the odor, including where you have already cleaned, which is the same thing as starting over in your smoke eradication efforts.

If your internal air circulation system has been cleaned, you can turn it on to help circulate the air. Still, even then, you risk taking in particles from the living area and starting the distribution process again. The smartest approach to your air conditioning or HVAC system is to:

  • Clean it thoroughly or have a professional do it 
  • Leave it off until you or a professional have cleaned everything and removed smoke-permeated items
  • Turn your system fan on when everything has been cleaned and leave it on for one cycle
  • You and a third party walk through your living quarters and perform a “smell test”
  • If you do not smell any smoke, let your system(s) run as normal

During this time, leave your windows open even when you first restart your HVAC or air conditioning system. That can help disperse any residual particles your air system might kick up.

Another reason you want to have your windows open is that you will likely have to use chemical cleaners, and exposure to them in an uncirculated home can make you sid and even be deadly.

Conclusion 

There is little doubt that getting the smoke smell out of your home is challenging. With patience, perseverance, and some tactical cleaning (as well as airing out and deodorizing,) you can rid yourself of most, if not all, smoke smell. If you are looking to sell a house fast in Philadelphia or for cash home buyers in Chester, remember that we buy houses in Pennsylvania, and give us a call.

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