While it is getting more and more rare, we do still see homes that homeowners or tenants have smoked indoors for a period of time. As much as some home buyers may love the home, they are concerned about whether or not to take on such a lofty project. I can guarantee you that if they choose to do so, they will not pay full price for the home for the risk involved.
Whether you’re a home owner getting your home ready to sell or a home buyer contemplating the risk of purchasing a “smoky” home, here are some great tips for getting rid of the odor. I have used some of these on a listing that I had once and I will tell you that my favorite are the charcoal, citrus peels and ammonia based cleaners. Luckily in my case, there was minimal carpet in the house so that wasn’t as big of an issue. If you have a lot of carpet in a “smoky” house then your best bet is to replace both the padding and the carpet. Please note that you cannot just paint over nicotine stained walls. Your paint will yellow and the contaminants still leech through. You must clean the wall with an ammonia based cleaner and get an odor locking primer to put on prior to painting.
Of course, one of the best ways to remove odors – especially if there are associated nicotine stains – from carpets, furniture and walls is by using hydrogen peroxide. Just put some 3% hydrogen peroxide into a spray bottle. Spray it on and wipe it off as you would with other household cleaners. Hydrogen peroxide is generally anti-bacterial and anti-viral, so it makes sense to use it as a household cleaner. However, it does take time to work, so the short amount of contact time in cleaning counters and windows probably won’t kill all the tiny pathogens in your house. On the other hand, it’s a step in that direction, and if you want to really sanitize something, you can leave the hydrogen peroxide for a longer time.
In any case, cigarette smoke removal isn’t impossible…but it does take some effort to get rid of the smell.
- Launder whatever you can. If an entire room smells like last year’s bachelor party, removing cigarette smoke smell from home will require washing or dry-cleaning everything possible in order to maximize cigarette odor removal.
- Vacuum. Before you use any chemicals or resort to desperate measures, vacuum up as much of that cigarette odor as possible. Use vacuum attachments to suck the smoke out of furniture and upholstery in your house or car. Beat out and vacuum car foot mats.
- Vinegar. A bowl of white vinegar, left out overnight, can do a surprisingly good job removing foul cigarette odor.
- Citrus. Some swear by citrus peels when they need to get rid of foul odors. Leave a liberal amount of citrus peels in your car or home for several days (until the peels are completely desiccated). When you remove them, you will also remove cigarette smell – or at least some of it.
- Baking soda – one of the tried-and-true methods of odor removal. Whether cleaning your carpet, smelly used couch or dingy car seats, baking soda is your friend. Sprinkle it over the smoke-infused area and let it sit for a few hours. Then whip out your trusty vacuum cleaner to suck up the soda, finishing the job.
One word of advice: before sprinkling at will, test the baking soda out on a concealed part of the surface to make sure the surface or fabric doesn’t interact unfavorably with the baking soda
6. Coffee. When my old high school friend and I used to fantasize about a coffee-grounds-enhanced laundry detergent, who would’ve guessed that there might have actually been odor-fighting merit to that seemingly absurd concept? Utilize the odor-absorbent quality of coffee grounds to get rid of your cigarette odors. Don’t sprinkle them all over the place like baking soda, though, since coffee can stain. Instead, pour coffee grounds into several individual coffee filters and tie them closed. Place the coffee bags on whatever is harboring the cigarette odar.
7. Air out the room or car. Requiring less effort than peeling an orange or going to the store for white vinegar, you should definitely open all your windows and doors for several hours to encourage cigarette odors to lift from their cushions, carpets and other surfaces. If a particular piece of furniture reeks of stale cigarette smoke, bring it outdoors for a few hours on a dry day.
8. Charcoal. There’s nothing fancy or particularly aesthetically pleasing about charcoal in a bowl, but when you scatter some bowls of charcoal around your room or car (as long as you’re not planning to drive), you’ll find that it has absorbed the cigarette odor after about a week. It’s one of the unexpectedly effective forms of cigarette odor removal.
9. Smoke residue on surfaces. Don’t neglect linoleum floors, glass and wood surfaces either; in a room or car that has witnessed heavy smoking, you can often see the residue! Use glass-cleaners, diluted ammonia and wood-cleaning solutions to scrub the stinky residue off of these surfaces.
10. Light bulbs. Light bulbs are a double-whammy when it comes to cigarette odor. First of all, they attract smoke. Secondly, each time you turn them on afterward, the heat releases odors from the smoke’s residue. Replace those light bulbs.
As a side note, at least one company (Technical Consumer Products, Inc.) has decided to capitalize on a light bulb’s heat to actually combat odor. “Fresh2 Odor Eliminating Light Bulbs” claim to neutralize odors, thanks to a coating of Titanium Dioxide activated as the light bulb heats up.
I hope this helps put your situation in perspective for you. As a seller, you should expect to receive at least $10,000 less for your home due to a “smoky” interior than market value for your home. The hard work really comes into play on whether or not that $10,000 is worth updating the carpet and having the home cleaned. There are some local companies that we work with that will replace flooring on your home and get paid at closing if cash out of pocket is an issue. Remember, a knowledgeable and experienced agent may make you uncomfortable by being honest with you on what may cause your home to sell for less than top dollar but remember, that’s why you’re hiring them. You’re hiring an agent who knows how to get you top dollar if that’s your number one priority.