Buying New house...How to Get Out Smoke Smell?

Updated on June 14, 2012
J.S. asks from Gilbert, AZ
17 answers

We are in the process of buying a new house. The house is great except the previous owners were smokers. I believe they smoked out on their front porch because you can smell it mostly in the front of the house. When you get to the rest of the house you can't smell it as much. We have two little kids that I do not want to expose to that smell. Does anyone know what we should do before moving day to get the smell out? Thank you in advance for your advice!

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answers from New York on

All great answers so far. I would also add a fresh coat of paint does wonders to freshen up the look and smell of a home too.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

My Mom rented a van on time and it smelled like smoke bad. We put out open bowls of bleach in it over night and the smell was gone! Don't know if it will work for a house, but worth a try. I have also heard charcoal, but haven't tried that.

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answers from Denver on

to all those who said paint, you'll have to prime first with a primer designed for fire restoration - the smoke smell will seep through any other paint. and I would go ahead and paint all walls, moldings, ceilings - the toxic chemicals in cigarettes are sitting on those walls and will not come off with a simple wash - so seal them in. I once bought a house from an ex-smoker. the house didn't smell when I bought it but the walls seeped nicotine (through a fresh coat of paint) in the bathroom and near the bathroom after every shower for over a year until I caved and painted w/the fire restoration primer. that yellow/brown seeping through the paint was soooo gross!

before ripping out carpets and window coverings - try a professional ozone treatment and cleaning them - I think that is what hotels use when someone smokes in a non-smoking room. it won't be cheap but should be cheaper than all new carpet and curtains.

I agree that if you haven't actually signed contracts you should try to get money for damage restoration. you're easily looking at a couple thousand to clean carpets, repaint all the interior, cleaning ducts, and doing ozone treatment.

baking soda and vinegar will neutralize the odor but it won't remove all those toxins. so if you have the money, do all the other things!

good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Scrub all, fresh paint, replace carpeting.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

1st start by giving the entire place a good scrubbing from ceiling to floors including fixtures and windows. Since they didn't actually smoke in the home the smell may be easier to remove than actual nicotine buildup on the walls. If the scrubbing doesn't remove the odor than you will have to paint those rooms to get rid of the smell. I'd also have all the windows open to air it out while you're there cleaning. You don't mention the type of flooring but if carpeted you will need to have the carpets cleaned.

Also change all the air filters in the home as well.

Peace and Blessings,
T. B

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I bought a 54 yo house from a 91 yo woman who was a chain smoker...I know of which I speak!!!! :)

DO NOT paint anything until you clean ALL the walls, ceilings, etc. b/c the nicotine will seep through the new paint. I cleaned all but 1 bathroom and SURE enough - you can see the nicotine coming through after 1.5 years. It's GROSS.

I can't remember the name of the product but I bought it at an ACE hardware and all you need to do is tell them it's for nicotine and they will know what it is. It is a powder that you mix w/ hot water and then just SCRUB the walls, ceiling, door/window frames, even the electrical outlet plates and light switch plates (remove and scrub). I had a friend go so far as to remove all the electrical and switch outlets b/c they were so gross.... he said you could see the nicotine on the wires. How GROSS!!

My aunt takes this same solution and adds bleach to it for the one room her husband smokes in. I didn't do that.

You will need soft scrub brushes, brushes on long poles for the ceiling, and a TON of old sheets/t-shirts/towels to dry up the dirty nicotine water. You'll also need a hat and safety glasses to clean the ceilings b/c it rains down dark nicotine water!!! GROSS. I ended up throwing out all the sheets, etc. we used b/c they were that gross (try going to a yard sale to pick some up cheap). I also had to wash some old furniture that was left (seasonal rental home) that we were keeping.

I would wash a section, then dry it rather than do a whole big section and then go back and dry it... I found that if I waited too long to dry the area, the nicotine would drip down and stain the wall in a dark (obviously more concentrated) water streak pattern. So best to wash a section, rub it dry or you'll be washing a second time trying to remove the streaks. I washed panel, ceilings and painted walls.

I also volunteered once to clean a 1/2 way house for the elderly and we washed the ceilings b/c of nicotine... it rained brown. So it isn't just the house I bought.

You MUST clean the whole place (maybe they smoked inside prior to but not is quite some time so the smell would be gone but the nicotine will still be there.) b/c if you don't you will be wasting every penny you spend on paint. Good luck!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tulsa on

If you want to be sure to get it all out, you can call a disaster restoration company and have them ozone treat it. They do that after fires and I'm sure it would work on cigarette smoke.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Fort Wayne on

get your vents cleaned, if they are dirty they will trap all of the smoke smell and you will continue to recirculate it through the house, paint the rooms, smoke will penetrate walls so a good primer then paint will do the trick, clean carpets and have them sanitize them also. Smoke is not easy to get out of fabric when its been embedded for years.



answers from Dallas on

If it is the carpet, I would replace it and the padding. Or have it professionally cleaned. If neither is in the budget, sprinkle the carpets with baking soda and leave bowls of baking soda around the rooms. Vacuum before you move in but keep the bowls lying around out of the reach of kids and pets to avoid a mess. You will probably have to put baking soda on the carpet several times. Just be sure to let it sit on it for a day or more before vacuuming.
If there are window treatments, they need to be washed. I would wash the walls, too and possibly put on a fresh coat of paint.

Good luck and congrats on your new house!! :)



answers from Chicago on

Just last week, someone was telling me that a few drops of vanilla extract will get the smell out. Might need more than a few for a whole room.


answers from Houston on

If there is carpet anywhere in the house, it has to go. Any drapes left in the house? Has to go as well.
All the previous answers are good, painting will make a HUGE difference.
One more thing, leave the windows open as much as possible before you move in, running the a/c if you want, but leave the windows open. Good luck and congrats!



answers from Amarillo on

How badly do you want this house? Do you have the time, energy and money to fix it as others have suggested? If you answered NO then move on.

The cigarette smell gets into things and it sometimes never comes out. I have purchased two sewing machines in cabinets from smokers and one I was able to get all the smoke smell out. The rags were brown. The other one I was not and it sits idly by when it could be used but the smell is too strong.

If you can find another house that has all the qualifications you want without the extra work. Drywall is and expensive and so is paint. You may save yourselves a lot of heartache, irritability and pain by stepping away from this house. I know it was your dream to own this home but there are others that don't have all this iimmediate work to do as soon as you move in. If you have small children where will they go or be while you are tearing the house apart?

Good luck to you. If your gut says something else go with it and don't buy it no matter what the realtor says.

The other S.



answers from Los Angeles on

BUY an air purifier. A good one. And I say buy over rent because it is worth it and it could take more then one use over a course of a year to get your home healthy again.



answers from Washington DC on

Personally, I would replace all of the drywall and or room/studs. Short of gutting the place, I would call a fire restoration place.

- also vent cleaning,
- carpets cleaned
- new paint



answers from Dallas on

you need to wash ALL the walls, then prime and repaint(including ceilings). have ALL the air ducts professionally cleaned, change the air filters in the a/c, have an a/c company clean the units/coils. pull out all carpet and padding and replace. if they are leaving any curtains behind, discard them and put up new ones. after all that is done, i'd buy a few air purifiers, open the windows up, and let them run for a few days before moving ANYTHING in. good luck! hope you added some of these expenses into the contract before you closed - i wouldn't buy a smoker's home unless they agreed to pay for the damage remediation.


answers from St. Louis on

About the only way is replacing the drywall, wood trim, pretty much everything that is exposed to the smoke.

If you want to make it easy on yourself and you are pretty sure they smoked on the porch, start by replacing the front door. That may be enough to remove the smell. Other parts of the house may have the odor but only the parts exposed to the smoke have to be replaced. Part of the smoke is this oily substance that stains with odor. That is what must be removed.



answers from New York on

This will be VERY tough. My husband and I were thisclose to buying a similar house many years ago and a close business associate warned us against it and told me her story... she and her husband bought a house owned by an older widow who seemed to be smoking every time they saw her or the house. They smelled the smoky-stale smell and assumed they'd be able to rid the house of the smell when they bought it.

As SN says in her response they bought the special stuff needed to scrub the walls, they used BIN primer, they used the best paint, etc. They spent a lot of time and effort getting the walls to where the paint worked and covered up all the stains. The nicotine didn't seep through the paint and the house walls looked good. BUT - they still could not remove the smell. that cigarette smell was still there. The smell had saturated the attic, the air vents, the kitchen cabinets, etc. She said it took years to finally walk into the house and not smell that smell. They got the vents professionally cleaned, they ended up re-doing the kitchen (they had wanted to anyway but ended up doing in many years sooner than expected due to the smell).
she said the attic still smelled like cigarette smoke 10 years later...

Another option is to simply strip out the sheetrock and replace it if you're both handy.

So - if the house is priced really well and you and your husband have the energy for all the work that will be needed then go ahead and dive in. But if it's not a great deal I'd re-think it... At my point in life with teens, elderly mom and MIL and work I would never undertake such a project. But if you're young and energetic - you go girl!

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