What kills cigarette smell in a house?

Quick Answers

Cigarette smoke can leave behind an unpleasant lingering odor in a home that’s difficult to remove. Here are some quick answers for how to eliminate cigarette smells:

  • Open windows and use fans to increase air circulation.
  • Clean all surfaces with vinegar, baking soda, or commercial cleaners.
  • Steam clean carpets, rugs, upholstery, and drapes.
  • Use air purifiers and dehumidifiers.
  • Repaint walls with kilz primer.
  • Replace HVAC air filters.
  • Use baking soda or charcoal to absorb odors.
  • Clean out ventilation ducts.
  • Use ozone generators.

Why Cigarette Smoke Lingers

Cigarette smoke leaves behind a stubborn, unpleasant odor that can be difficult to remove from a home. There are a few reasons why the smell of cigarette smoke persists long after smoking has stopped:

  • Tar and nicotine – Cigarette smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, many of which are sticky, odor-causing tar and nicotine residues that coat surfaces.
  • Particles enter fabrics – The small particles in cigarette smoke can penetrate and cling to fibers in carpets, upholstery, drapes, clothing, and other fabrics.
  • Absorption into walls – Over time, cigarette smoke remnants seep into porous walls, ceiling tiles, insulation, and paint.
  • Residue builds up – Smoke residues accumulate in dust, film, and grime that builds up on walls, windows, floors, and furniture.
  • Returns after cleaning – Smoky odors can reemerge even after cleaning because particles get trapped deep in fibers.

The sticky, penetrating nature of cigarette smoke makes it stubborn to remove. Getting rid of smoke odors requires diligently cleaning all possible surfaces repeatedly.

Total Room Air Exchange

One of the most effective ways to initially reduce cigarette odors in a house is to perform a total air exchange by:

  • Opening all windows and doors.
  • Using fans to pull air out.
  • Running fans to circulate fresh air in.
  • Changing out all air filters.

This total room air exchange helps push out smoky air from the space quickly. The increased ventilation dilutes odors and brings in fresh, clean air. For best results, perform a total air exchange on a dry, breezy day.

Aim to air out the house for several hours. The longer the air exchange, the more cigarette smell that will be removed. If possible, open windows and run fans for 24-48 hours.

During the air exchange, make sure fans are pulling air out of the house. Place a fan in a window blowing air out, and open windows and doors on the opposite side of the house. This cross breeze will flush the space out faster.

Run ceiling fans on high and place portable fans around the room to maximize air circulation. Change out dirty HVAC air filters and vacuum out air vents. The improved airflow and new filters will help trap and remove lingering odors.

Deep Clean All Surfaces

After thoroughly airing out the space, the next step is to deep clean all possible surfaces where smoke residues may be clinging. Go room by room and thoroughly clean:

  • Walls – Wash walls with warm water and cleaning products. Vinegar, ammonia, or commercial smoke odor eliminators work well. Use a scrub brush to loosen residues.
  • Floors – Mop tile, wood, and linoleum floors with an all-purpose cleaner. For carpet, use a carpet cleaner or rent a steam cleaner.
  • Furniture – Clean all hard furniture. Use upholstery cleaner for fabric furniture.
  • Curtains and drapes – Take down and wash curtains and drapes if possible. Dry clean if needed.
  • Bedding – Wash all bed linens, blankets, pillowcases in hot water.
  • Carpets – Shampoo and steam clean carpets and rugs.
  • Cars – Clean the interior of cars to remove smoke smells.
  • Air vents – Vacuum out all air vents, registers, and returns.

Scrub all surfaces thoroughly to lift and eliminate as much cigarette smoke residue as possible. Wear gloves and use eye protection when cleaning with harsh products. Strong chemicals can help cut through stubborn smoke smells.

Power washing siding, decks, and outdoor furniture can also help revive spaces where people smoked outside. The more thorough the cleaning, the better the smoke smell removal.

Use Air Purifiers

Air purifiers are effective home appliances for removing lingering cigarette odors from the air. Air purifiers work by pulling air in and filtering out contaminants and particles.

Models with HEPA filters are best at trapping the tiny cigarette smoke particles. Activated carbon filters in purifiers absorb smoke odors.

Strategically place air purifiers around the home, especially in heavily smoked-in rooms. Keep the units running continuously to actively filter all the air. This will gradually reduce cigarette odors over time.

Combine the use of air purifiers with increased ventilation and cleaning for fast removal of smoke smells. Air purifiers are also beneficial for removing general musty smells that can occur when airing out a smoky space.

Portable Air Purifiers

Portable air purifiers are compact units perfect for moving from room to room as needed. They offer the flexibility to target cigarette odors in specific areas around the home.

Brand Model Type Room Size
Levoit Core 300 HEPA 219 sq ft
Winix 5200-2 HEPA + Carbon 360 sq ft
Honeywell HPA300 HEPA + UV-C 465 sq ft

Whole-House Air Purifiers

For the best smoke removal, install a whole-house air purifier right on the home’s HVAC system. This filters all the air flowing through the ducts to clean the full interior space.

Whole-house air purifiers are more expensive but extremely effective for eliminating odors. They also don’t take up space in rooms like portable models. Consider installing one if there is a heavy cigarette smell throughout the entire home.

Some top whole-house air purifier models include:

  • Airpura T600 DLX
  • IQAir HealthPro Plus
  • Austin Air HealthMate Plus
  • Blueair Pro L

Look for units with activated carbon and medical-grade HEPA filters. Work with an HVAC professional to properly install the device on the home’s air ducts.

Absorb Odors

There are a few natural odor absorbers that can soak up lingering cigarette smells:

Baking Soda

Baking soda is renowned for its odor-absorbing abilities. To use it to remove cigarette smells:

  • Place shallow dishes of baking soda around the house.
  • Sprinkle baking soda on carpets, let sit for 15 minutes, then vacuum up.
  • Leave an open box of baking soda in the car.
  • Fill mesh bags with baking soda and hang in closets and bathrooms.

As the baking soda interacts with cigarette odors, it will absorb the smells. Refresh the baking soda as needed until the smell dissipates.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is a porous material made to bind to odors. To use:

  • Place charcoal briquettes in bowls around the house.
  • Buy charcoal deodorizers and place in heavy smell areas.
  • Make charcoal pouches to hang in closets and cars.

The charcoal will absorb surrounding odors like a magnet. It’s helpful for removing smoke smells from the air.

White Vinegar

White vinegar is a natural deodorizer. Put bowls of white vinegar around the house to soak up odors. The vinegar smell fades quickly but helps neutralize smoke in the process.

Ionizers and Ozone Generators

Ionizers and ozone generators work to actively neutralize odors like cigarette smoke. They help clean the air by:

  • Ionizers – Release positively and negatively charged ions that attract to and neutralize airborne particles.
  • Ozone generators – Produce ozone gas that reacts with odors and destroys them.

These devices can help eliminate residual cigarette smell from the air when used properly. However, they do produce ozone, a lung irritant, so limit use.

Run ionizers and ozone generators while airing out the house thoroughly. Then do a deep clean before turning them on again for short bursts if needed. This combined approach maximizes air cleansing.

Do not sleep, stay, or leave pets in the house while an ionizer or ozone generator is running. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Kilz Primer

For cigarette smoke that has soaked into walls, a coat of high-blocking primer is the best solution for sealing in stains and smells before repainting.

Kilz Complete is a water-based primer formulated to block severe odors and stains from smoke, pets, fire damage, and more. It seals in lingering smells with its odor-blocking shell.

To use Kilz primer:

  1. Clean walls thoroughly first.
  2. Apply one coat of Kilz Complete with a paint roller.
  3. Allow to dry completely.
  4. Paint over with desired paint.

The specialized primer prevents cigarette stains and smells from bleeding through the new paint. Kilz helps eliminate odors embedded deep in wallboard for a fresh start.

Replace Carpets and HVAC Filters

Sometimes cigarette smoke damage is so severe that carpets, curtains, and other fabrics must be replaced entirely. The smoke residues can be impossible to fully remove from the fibers.

It may also be necessary to replace HVAC air filters if the smell returns through the ventilation system. The ducts may require professional cleaning as well.

Replacing items that are beyond cleaning is the only way to permanently eliminate severe cigarette odors. It removes the source to prevent lingering smells from creeping back.

Professional Smoke and Odor Removal

For longtime heavy smoking or the persistent smell of cigarettes, professional smoke damage repair services may be needed. Companies offer:

  • Ozone shock treatments
  • Sealing and encapsulating surfaces
  • Deep carpet and upholstery cleaning
  • Duct cleaning
  • Pressure washing
  • Painting with odor-sealing primers

The intensive professional cleaning techniques and commercial-grade products provide the best chance for full cigarette odor removal from a home.

Smoke Remediation Process

A typical smoke removal service involves:

  1. Evaluation – Assess extent of damage and odors.
  2. Ventilation – Exhaust smoke and increase air circulation.
  3. Cleaning – Scrub and pressure wash all surfaces.
  4. Deodorizing – Apply odor sealants and neutralizers.
  5. Follow-up – Return visits and re-cleaning if needed.

This process can take several days for a full home restoration. The initial cleanup removes the bulk of odors, while follow-ups ensure the space stays fresh and smoke-free.

Using smoke removal professionals when there is significant cigarette contamination ensures the job gets done thoroughly. Their knowledge, tools, and products are effective for eliminating stubborn smoking odors.

Preventing Cigarette Odors

Once a house has been cleaned of smoke smells, prevent them from returning by:

  • Smoking outside only.
  • Opening windows when smoking indoors.
  • Running an air purifier during and after smoke sessions.
  • Using smoker’s candles, sprays, and air fresheners.
  • Frequently cleaning to remove smoke film.
  • Sealing surfaces with primers and paint.
  • Limiting indoor smoking to restricted rooms only.

The best solution is to only allow smoking in outdoor designated areas. Avoid smoking indoors whenever possible. Follow indoor smoking with thorough airing out, cleaning, and deodorizing.

Catching residue early before it builds up will go a long way in preventing smoker’s smells from clinging to a home long-term.


Eliminating the lingering odor and stains caused by cigarette smoking can be challenging. Smoky residues seep into surfaces and materials, leaving behind an unpleasant smell. However, using thorough cleaning methods, air purifiers, deodorizers, sealing primers, and professionals can successfully remove cigarette odors and restore freshness. The key is being diligent, patient, and persistent in cleaning and deodorizing to get rid of stubborn smoke smells. banishing cigarette odors for good improves home health and happiness.

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