What is required to get rid of cigarette smoke odor, staining, etc?

27 Replies

I am looking at a condo and the owners have smoked heavily in it for years. When you walk in you get hit with a strong cigarette smell and you can see some residue on the walls from it. Also, the unit is carpeted so I would imagine the carpets are saturated with it.

If I buy the place and rip out all the carpeting, clean the walls and ceiling and completely re-paint, will this eliminate all traces of the smoke? Is there anything else that can/should be done? Any particular product/cleaner recommendations?


We did a SFH with plaster walls.
We tore everything out then shellaced the walls &
Floors b4 we put down carpet. It worked.
The killer would be forced air venting but we had steam heat.

I don't have a good answer. I purchased a house that had horrible odors. They lived in total filth. Not only did they have cigaratte odors, but also animal odors. We ripped out the carpet and painted the walls. We also opened the rear sliders and left them open about a week. We were lucky, and there is no smell left. When I do rentals, I DO NOT rent to smokers. I got some lady really mad at me asking me why I would allow a small dog but not smokers LOL! Evidently, she smoked! My lease states no smoking IN OR ON THE PREMISES. So far, good luck. You might consider not renting to smokers. That might weed out a few people, but in the long run you won't be dealing with that.

Best of luck.
John Thedford
Naples, Florida

A gallon of Odor Out in an average livingroom, sprayed everywhere and wiped down worked pretty good.

We've had to deal with cigarette odors and stains on several occasions.

Wash down what you can, and get a good primer that is supposed to help with odors as well as the stains. I have been also known to keep baking soda and coffee in tins sitting in various rooms to help remove odor... these get changed frequently. Carpet, if it is as bad as you say, will likely have to be removed... and priming the floor might be an option if the sub-floor too is odor filled. Open the windows if you can and let the fresh air blow in too.

Others have mentioned ozone machines before. I have no experience with these so can't comment on their value.

ozone machine. get one on ebay for $100. point a fan towards it & put it on a 15 minute incremental timer. run it overnight. make sure the house is vacant & seal the walls.

I do not rent to smokers. Even if they say they "only smoke outside", the smoke will come in with them. Also, who's to say on those days that's it's near-zero degrees outside that they just won't light up inside because they don't want to freeze their butts off (pun) smoking outside?

If they've been smoking in it for years this might not work but I mixed a solution of vinegar and warm water and wiped down about every square inch of walls and windows in a rental where it smelled very bad of smoke. My understanding is the vinegar will absord the nicotine and then gradually disipate over time. Whereas the nicotine will just stay in the walls etc and not disipate over time. I didn't have to paint everything after but my unit had been smoked in for a little over 1 year, maybe not as bad as the place you are referencing.

There's a product called "Awesome" that they sell at the dollar store. Good for getting rid of nicotine stains. As far as odor, paint and carpet will help. You will also want to vacuum every heat vent, tops of doors, and every other nook and cranny.

Have never tried an ozone generator, but agree with @Steve M (@James Vermillion 's repost). B-I-N Shellac-Based Primer (Zinnser Brand) is absolutely the best...Like many here on BP, I've fixed up some disasters (pet odor, smoke odor, and some odors that I still can't identify). The B-I-N Shellac is great and has never failed me.

You need to ensure good ventilation when you are applying it because it's pretty strong (it's shellac after all), but the fumes dissipate in about 30 minutes. Works on floors, walls and ceilings.

By the time you wash the walls, clean the carpets and wait to see if it still stinks, you may lose a month's rent, so often it is better just to re-paint and re-carpet. Or, just market to a smoker! They won't even notice the smell!

I agree that the Awesome product you can find at Family Dollar is great on nicotine stains. Make sure you look at the directions as there are some things you can't use it on.

Originally posted by John McCombs:
By the time you wash the walls, clean the carpets and wait to see if it still stinks, you may lose a month's rent, so often it is better just to re-paint and re-carpet. Or, just market to a smoker! They won't even notice the smell!

tha's exactly what we did
the SFH came from friends who moved to NC but didn't want to go thro an agent. So they did it FSBO but we did the showings etc for a % because they just left.
It was listed it @ $154,000 & reeked of years of smoking but they refused to spend any $ on cleanup. I could barely spend the 1 hour open house time we did for them.
The buyer @ $144,500 was a divorced, retired 65 yr old GM worker with a 2 pack a day habit. The amazing thing is he is still alive????

I should clarify, this is a place I want to buy, fix up, and live in - it's not a rental or flip. I just put the thread in the rehab section because it's rehab/repair related work..

We actually just went through this ourselves last week. Our renter passed away from lung cancer believe it or not and our condo smelled like a European night club. We started to wash down the walls as that was much of the advice on BP, but that was labor intensive and didn't do much so we decided to literally repainted the entire place. We did not use primer on the walls, but it was an absolute must for the ceilings. we ripped out the carpet and put new carpet in and after the paint we were in good shape. Odor is completely gone and we just rented it to a single non-smoking mother who couldn't even tell a smoker had lived there.

Good luck

If you light the place on fire no one can smell the urine odor...just sayin....

Nilium is a wonderful product that you add to your paint. It will get rid of all kinds of odors and it's cheap.

Here's a link to the post I did for BP that has some other suggestions.



Remove all carpet (assuming you will want to replace) and demo/pull any other items you plan to replace. Then get an ozone machine. You can purchase or even rent one from a local equipment rental store. Run the unit in rooms overnight. Do not be around while running, as Ozone is NOT the best stuff to ingest. After running the ozone machine open rooms up for ventilation. Build out, install new flooring/carpet and new paint should finish the job for you.

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Ozone will remove the smell, it may take several treatments though. We always recommend the vinegar/water cleaning solution for walls and ceilings (when possible). A degreased is sometimes helpful to cut through thick tar/nicotine buildup. 

If you are planning on using ozone, do it before painting so it can reach the odors easier. One painted, it's more difficult for the ozone to do its job.

Would you guys not buy a house as a rental if the previous owners smoked in? I was just factoring in extra dollars to pay for eliminating the smell

Why not? Just factor the price in. Deal is deal, income is income.

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