In a household, the smell of cigarette smoke is one of the most invasive odours. Even if you’re a smoker, there’s nothing pleasant about getting home to a reek of cigarettes.
For those who don’t smoke, the smell of old cigarette smoke can be particularly unpleasant. Have a smoking guest to stay for a while or move into a new house or apartment that was previously inhabited by smokers, and you may struggle to deal with the smell. This applies doubly if you suffer from allergies or asthma.
So how do you rid your home of the smell of cigarettes?
Along with dust and air-borne particles like pollen, curtains naturally soak up the smell of smoke. So step one for getting rid of the stale smell is to wash all curtains. Most modern curtain fabrics are perfect for either machine washing or steam cleaning, although some delicate fabrics require professional dry cleaning.
Once the curtains are down, open all windows wide to let in fresh air. Also consider placing shallow bowls of ammonia or vinegar in each room, to absorb odours. However, note that ammonia is toxic – so if you do use it, don’t inhale the fumes and keep it well away from children and pets.
If you have blinds rather than curtains, mix one quarter part vinegar to three parts of warm water and use a cloth to wipe down each slat.
Like curtains, carpets absorb the smell of smoke. Smoke particles may lie deep within the pile or even penetrate into the underfelt, so just vacuuming is unlikely to make much difference. Instead you need to wash the carpets – or in desperate cases, even replace them.
You can shampoo your carpets yourself, although it’s possible that even this this won’t completely remove the smell. A more effective alternative is to have the carpets deep-cleaned by a professional carpet cleaning service such as Chelsea Cleaning.
Whatever process is used, it’s vital that the carpets are left as dry as possible once they’ve been cleaned. Left-over moisture can encourage the growth of mold and even bacteria, along with a musty smell.
Walls and ceilings
When it comes to eliminating the smell of cigarettes, many people focus on curtains and carpets but neglect walls and ceilings.
If a house has been subject to a daily fug of cigarette smoke over a protracted period, it’s likely that the walls – and even more so the ceilings – will be coated in a thin residue of tar. Don’t be surprised if once you start cleaning, you realize that the paintwork isn’t beige or a pale caramel after all, but white.
One of the best ways to tackle the job is using a solution of vinegar, a few drops of ammonia, a squirt of dishwashing soap, and warm water. For a more aggressive approach, wash the walls and ceilings using trisodium phosphate (TSP), which will dissolve residue and eliminate odours.
Once you’ve cleaned all surfaces, wait for a few days and then check whether you can still detect the smell of smoke. If you can, it’s time to apply a primer, which will seal in any tar and nicotine residue, and then give the walls and ceilings a coat of new paint.
If you have to remove the smell of smoke from a room quickly and completely, find out about renting an ozone machine. Many hotels use ozone machines to remove the smell of smoke from guest rooms. The machines are also used after fires to absorb smoke and neutralise soot.
The catch with an ozone generator is that air-borne ozone is potentially toxic, so it’s important to vacate the premises when you run it and air properly afterwards.