Smoking in house - Any way to remove the smell?

7 Replies

I have looked at several homes lately that are at a pretty good discount, but for good reason...they are laden with cigarette smoke. Several of these have been on the market a very long time, and I believe could be bought significantly below market value. However, I dont want them either if there is no way to remove the smell. Has anyone had good luck removing dense, old smoke smells from homes?

I think most use Kilz oil based primer to seal the smell.

I just bought a property that had a smoker living in it for nearly 30 years. I had a local carpet cleaning company steam-clean the walls. Then I painted everything with an oil-based Kilz primer that seals the walls. Then I applied paint.

For lighter smells, you can also try an ozone generator. I use this one and it works great. It removes pet odor, smoke, bad foods, or whatever. Be sure to only use it in a vacant home and to air it out before spending any time inside. The air particles are physically changed and will irritate your lungs, sinuses, or eyes.

Clean first with TSP or TSP substitute. Seal walls, ceilings, doors and trim with Kilz or similar primer. I have even used the water based primer. Don't buy the cheap stuff. It does work as good as oil based in my opinion and it's easier to clean up. You are not trying to "paint" the walls with this stuff. Don't expect a bright white finish. You only need one good coat. Just seal and give a good base for your top coats to stick to.

If there is carpet, I remove it, and do the sub floor too before new flooring goes back in. 

Great advice above. I would add that if the property has forced air or central air conditioning you could have an issue. One of the units I used to help manage had forced air and a heavy smoker lived there. Even when we got rid of the carpet smell, the wall smell and everything else, it would still smell terrible when the air kicked on. I left the company shortly after that so I'm not sure how or if the issue with the smell in the ducts was resolved. I would think only through replacement though. 

@Nathan G. , thank you very much for all of the tips! I looked up the ozone generator that you recommended and will be purchasing if I decide to buy one of these properties. I can imagine that it comes in handy quite often even on the non-smoking properties. I certainly could have used it in the rental we just purchased that we dubbed the "cathouse." Do you find that you have been able to get rid of ALL of the smell with the treatments that you recommend, as in not being able to tell a smoker ever lived there? Or are there always some lingering smells, albeit light? @Justin McGuire (thank you for your word of caution) mentioned smells from central ac ductwork. Did you find that you also had to treat the ductwork? I know the carpet steaming company that I use can also clean ductwork (but it isn't cheap). I am wondering if that would be sufficient.

Thank you also to @Michael Knaus - painting the subfloor before adding new carpet sounds like a great idea. I have never heard of TSP, so I will look into that as well!

Thank you all again for your time. I know you are very busy people!

You have to clean out all of the Air vents (professionally) and maybe even your coil if it's dirty.

Scrape any popcorn off the ceilings, and Kilz all the walls and ceilings.

All the flooring has to go!  Just rip it out and start fresh.

It woudn't even be a bad idea to refinish the cabinets throughout.  A fresh coat of paint does WONDERS!

If you have an attic with blown insulation, you may consider replacing this.

I have had this problem, smokers and pet owners.  I remove carpet, have the duct work cleaned professionally, I mop the entire house with white vinegar, I mean the walls, ceiling and as well as floors.  It is back breaking work, if you are doing it yourself.  I put a good sealer on, I like 'kilz',  then fresh paint, floor coverings, put in the new lights, switch and plug covers.  

Odors gone and no problem.  the only thing I have not had this work for was a fire, I think my mistake was, i did not paint the burned wood in the attic.  so when it rains you get the smell of smoke, the renter is a good renter and says that it does not bother them, because it only smells when the humidity is really high after rains.  

Next time, i will spray the attic too, what is 10-15 gallons of kilz when you are doing a complete remodel, and the spray rig is already being used.  My mistake, it was hot and I was on the sprayer with the mask on... LOL

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