Return to the Home Disasters Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
Cigarette smell and a new home

Posted by
kendahl
(kendahl.johnson@usafa.af.mil) on
Wed, Jul 25, 01 at 10:37

We are buying a home and the previous owner was a chain smoker. We are repainting the walls and replacing the carpets and drapes. What else do we need to do in order to ensure that the smell of cigarette smoke doesn't return?

Any help is appreciated...


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

Greetings,

I was told that the ceiling gets the tar and nicotine the worst as the exhaled smoke finds its way up to the ceiling. We had professionals look at my MIL's house - a self-built beautiful ranch, imported wood floors, equisite, but the ceilings were ruined by smoke!!! They wanted alot of money to work on it (I'm not sure what they were going to use) to get the inbeded tar and nicotine out. Sorry not much help, but you may have to deal with the ceiling.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

I detest cigarette smoke myself. I forbid anyone to smoke in my home and avoid it when out if at all possible. I am allergic to it and have had to remove cigarette smoke from some purchases I've made online where the seller never mentioned they smoked.
ambergem is right, you might want to re-sheetrock or repaint the ceiling, depending on the finish of the ceiling of course. If it's not a popcorn ceiling and is textured like the walls, repainting should be fine. Be sure to thoroughly clean any non-carpeted floors, such as wood or lineoleum. You may want to get the furnace ducts vacuumed out/cleaned (call a furnace place for a quote - ours was around $200).
If any insulation was exposed to the living part of the house, such as an unfinshed room or non-sheetrocked garage, than it may need replaced to get rid of the smell.
The best thing to use is your nose. You may look strange, but sniff everything in the house you're not sure about for cigarette smell. If it smells, clean or replace it. When you can't smell it anymore, then you should be completely free of the smell, permanently. Good luck!
Diana


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

I also bought a house from two chain smokers. I regret that I did. I am not bothered with the smell anymore. That eventually dissapates. But, they painted over all the nicotine walls. Also check the wall outlets. Darn hard to clean them, only recourse is replace them. I have not replaced ours yet, and it disgusts me everytime I look at them. I can't tell you how many rolls of paper it took to clean the kitchen cabinets.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

You can clean the outlet covers, soak them in hot water and bleach; provided they're not wood. If they are wood paint them. I'd use Kilz on the ceiling, covers the stains. A good airing out of the house should help too. You could try Ozium in the furnace registers and replace the filter.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

What about getting the smoke our of wood furniture, bought a piece online and it has that odor. Not bad mind you but enough. I don't allow smoking in "my" house


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

Hi Kendall...
I think you will be in pretty good shape when you are finished. Just one additional thought. If you have forced air heat, you may want to wipe out your cold air returns and heat vents, because the ciggy smoke circulates through and leaves residue.

Grammy: You can take a damp cloth with a small amount of detergent and wipe your wood furniture for the hard surfaces. For the upholstery, rent a Rug Doctor carpet cleaner and use the furniture attachment with some ammonia in hte cleaning solution. That will do it. If the smell isn't too bad, just faint, you can mix 50/50 water and clear ammonia and lightly mist the cushions, etc. Sometimes that's enough to make it liveable.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

We were both heavy smokers and gave up the nasty habit 4 years ago because of the damage smoke did to the walls, wallpaper, furniture, etc. The constant expense of re-painting and decorating finally got to us!!! Anyhow, either your painters or the store you are buying paint (if a do-it-yourself job) from will know what you have to put on the walls prior to painting. The painter's hate the smell of it, but it sure works. We've always hired it done, so don't know the name of the product, but there are more than one.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

you need to seal in the smell like a waterstain-- use
kilz/bullseye stuff as a primer after cleaning and before painting


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

If smoke odors and stains bother you, why then would you even consider buying a house from a smoker? It should be obvious when you inspect the house if a smoker lived or lives there! After all, it's a buyers market and if enough people refuse to buy into these homes, it will force the owners to do the repairs themselves in order to sell.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

In some places it's a seller's market and there isn't time to be picky! We just closed on a house we bought as an income property and it was only during repainting that we realized that you can't paint over years of smoke staining. After 24 hours it comes right through the new white ceiling paint to make it beige. No smell anymore but it is frustrating not to have white ceilings.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

I've experienced this same problem - three coats of latex-based ceiling paint, and the next day, you can see the brown bleading though. Disgusting.

To paint over smoke stained surfaces, use a fast drying oil based primer/sealer, or better yet, a lacquer based primer/sealer, to seal the surface. "Kilz" is one good brand that comes to mind. However, use plenty of ventilation while applying as the odor is very strong (open all windows, and put fans in them to exhaust the air), don't stop painting once you start (or the paint will immediately dry on the brush or roller), and be prepared to throw away the rollers and brushes at the end of each day of painting - my painting experience indicates that lacquer based products are next to impossible to completely clean off of brushes - but the lacquer based products will stop any stain from bleeding through. Once dry, top coat with two coats of high quality latex paint - I use Benjamin-Moore.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

I had this problem when I purchased an SUV from a heavy smoker....I used febreeze heavy duty/deep cleaning to spray the entire cloth interior including the roof...I also used ammonia to clean the steering wheel and dash.

This seemed to work, the car no longer smells, but I'm not sure how ammonia would work on wood or sheetrock....


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

Just a thought.

After hearing what damage cigarette smoke does to a house, don't you wonder how anyone can suck that stuff into their lungs every day?


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

Ken:

This is my first time in this forum, and perhaps it's good that I read this post.

I own a small apartment block, and I can tell you cigarette smoke is not hard to clean off of walls. The problem is that because it gets everywhere, you have to clean everywhere.

Mr. Clean and water will remove it from the walls.

Use a sponge mop the clean the ceiling with Mr. Clean and a squeegee on a pole to collect that dirty water so it drips onto the floor. Then use clean water to rinse with the sponge mop. I use a tool made especially for cleaning walls and ceilings called a Taski "Vertica" tool, which is basically a rubber squeegee that you can attach a vaccuum hose to to collect the liquids the squeegee wipes off.

Once the walls and ceilings are clean, most of the remaining cigarette odor will be coming from the carpet, and you can remove that by shampooing. Cigarette smoke dissolves readily in water, which is why it'll stain latex paints. Launder the drapes.

Also wipe off both sides of doors.

You can tell cigarette smoke staining on walls because it will result in small brown drops forming on the walls about a foot from the ceiling. Removing cigarette smoke is hard only because it gets on everything so you have to clean everything, not because it's difficult to remove from a surface.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

One of the most difficult rooms to remove cigarette smell from is a bathroom, and the more area that's tiled, the worse it is to remove. Not because of the tile but because of the grout, especially if the grout was never sealed. My late husband was a heavy smoker and in particular used the main bathroom (which he completely tiled in brown and beige so that it "wouldn't show anything"!) as a major smoking room. Even after serious scrubbing, the bathroom still permanently smelled after almost a year of no one smoking in it! And if anyone was foolish enough to run a hot bath or a shower, the stench was unbearable because the steam just seemed to release it even more from the odor-saturated grout. I can't even describe how disgusting it was.

For a tiled smokers' bathroom area, then, I would recommend nothing less than a rip-out of the walls.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

I had a similar problem and after trying just about every cleaning product known to mankind, I tried Formula 409 and it did an AMAZING job, especially on the woodwork. I highly recommend it for anyone facing a similar problem.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

All I can say is good luck. Long ago we bought a house from chain smokers. Ripped out every carpet. Scubbed every hard surface with TSP (still available then). Sealed with Kilz. Painted or wallpapered. Tiled some floors. Five years later you could still smell a hint of smoke if the house was sealed up for a few days.

We got the house at a good price, and sold it at a profit, but I suspect it STILL smells of smoke for whoever has it now. I think the smoke penetrated into the framing.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

The best way to hide/mask the smell of cigarette smoke is to sit down in your BIG easy chair and light up a BIG FAT Cigar.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

I'm amazed at all this. I smoked for 15 years in my current house and there was always smokers there. After quitting the smell dissipated fairly quickly and we've never had any problems.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

Johnbron - best anwser I've ever seen on this board! I long for the days of smoking the occasional cigar in my house (5 year old girl and 2 year old boy have put a stop to this).

Mike K


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

I'm amazed at all this. I smoked for 15 years in my current house and there was always smokers there. After quitting the smell dissipated fairly quickly and we've never had any problems..

You also may have lost your sense of smell, worm.
Different people smell things in varied levels, sometimes, I think it is a blessing not to be able to smell that well.!


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

Actually, I think that the smell of cigarette smoke is often MORE offensive to ex-smokers than non-smokers. I have no trouble smelling cigarette smoke. Anyway, if people say the smell is still there, I guess it is. I was just commenting that it's hard for me to believe that after more than a couple of months, it's still there. Especially after painting, etc. I guess I'm of no help here.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

All of these suggestions are good ones, here is one more-wash everything you can down with Simple Green, don't dilute it too much. Then do paint with a stain blocking primer first, like Kilz or Bin.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

I used a regular old everyday mop and light bleach solution to clean the ceilings of smoke. Worked great, didn't take long and no ladder to fall off! An old farmers trick is to put a drop of black paint in the white paint to keep it from yellowing, don't know if it will work in this situation. Also, try a drop of vanilla (real) in the paint, smells better than paint.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

My kids bought a very run down (what was once an extremely gorgeous home) from a law professor and lawyer, both of whom were chain smokers. Had lived there almost 25 years and never mowed the lawn or cleaned the house. The curtains were rotted from nicotine and had been there since the 1960s, never cleaned, and rotted vegetables in the pantry. They cleaned with 409 and then used Kilz after removing 42 volunteer seedling trees from the yard, grinding stumps, taking down all the draperies, cleaning the pantry and then installed new appliances (the old ones no longer even worked). Their house after all this time and no smoking smells like a new clean Sonoma Williams store. No traces of nicotine, tobacco and no traces of unhappiness from the neighbors now.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

I am a smoker, and yes, why would we smoke when we know how bad it is for us? It's an addiction and one of the most difficult addictions to quit permanently.

We sold our house and it had no smell because we used a product called ATMOSCLEAR. You can buy it at some Ace Hardware stores. I sprayed it on furniture, ceilings, floors, carpets, tile, drapes and just about everywhere but walls, which we primed with kilz and painted. Nobody could tell I smoked and the current owners don't know I was a smoker. The house smells fine. I asked them.

I heard about this stuff from a car dealer, who said they used it to rid cars of smoke before selling them. It works!

Good luck,really do try this stuff. I was so worried our new house would smell when we moved the furniture. The furniture does not smell.
Now I smoke outside only, which is helping to cut down on the cigs and hope to try quitting for the umpteenth time before winter. I have smoked for 50 years.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

If the smell is so bad and the walls/ceilings/floors are ruined by the smoke, then your offer to buy should reflect the damage. It's amazing, though, how much we'll worry about smelling the old cigarette smoke, but not about all the chemicals we are inhaling in the new paint and carpet. Talk about carcinogens. But they smell good, so no complaints. There's something wrong in that, but that's for another post, I guess.

Besides, even worse than old smoke odor is the smell of animal urine. We rented a house to people who had cats (they weren't suppossed to) and had to replace the carpet, paint, clean the ducts and bleach down the cement basement floors after they moved out. It was horrible. Never again.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

For painted walls and ceilings, and for hard (not wood or carpet) floors, clean them using TSP (tri-sodium phosphate, available at big home centers and most hardware stores.) Scrub well, watch the nicotine-stained water run down the walls, let dry thoroughly (days), and THEN prime.

The smell can leach through primer if you don't wash the nicotine off the walls first.

One thing to know: the house will stink like a seedy bar while the walls are wet. It's nasty. Open as many windows and doors as you can.

(We did this for our first house, previously owned by chain-smokers, and it worked very well. We used Kilz brand primer after scrubbing with the TSP.)


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

Don't neglect the closets. You could clean the whole house but if you forget the closet you'll be greeted with that stale smell every time you open the doors...for years!


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

Why oh why would anyone think that ammonia and heavy duty chemical cleaners would be better for their lungs than stale old nicotine?


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

My brotherinlaw is a chain cigar smoker. I think this is just or more disgusting as cigarette smoke, whichmy sister-in-law claims to be allergic to, but she claims cigar smoke is not bad for you. I don't allow him to smoke those stinky things in my house but my wife (a non smoker and never has) says I'm being unreasonable.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

I quit smoking 7 years ago... Now bear in mind this home is only 10 years old, so that means I smoked in it for 3 years. Well, we finally pulled out the carpet after steam cleaning it about a kazillion times... It would smell okay for a week or so, than here comes the ciggie stench again... When we pulled the carpet out we washed the wall, and ceiling down with a bit of vineger in warm water...with a couple of drops of Dawn mixed in. It worked better than anything else we tried. Then we painted over it with WalMart paint. The place smells soooo nice and clean and looks awesome too. I can no longer tolerate even the tiniest whiff of smoke... Horrid stench it is..


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

"Active oxygen" sounds like a marketing synonym for ozone. My first DH was a chemical engineer. One of the labs he worked in at grad school had ozone in it as part of a research project. He was required to wear a badge that monitored his exposure to ozone because after a certain amount of exposure, he would not be allowed back in that room. Ozone damages the lungs. It is the part of smog that makes people with breathing problems drop like flies. See the EPA link below about ozone generators used for air cleaners.

Some hotels have taken to saying that all of their rooms are "nonsmoking rooms." They allow smoking in the rooms, but can use the ozone generator in the room for a few hours and claim that it cleaned out all of the cigarette smell. It is then renamed a "nonsmoking" room. We stayed in a room like this and the smell was not gone. I coughed all night. Just think about the staff at these hotels. They are in there with the ozone at high levels to remove the machines, to clean, prepare the rooms... and no one is protecting them or giving them information about their risk.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ozone air cleaners.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

Hi, i just found this forum, and it's been very useful! I need to fix up a rental house i own, which was smoked in for 3 years, then lived in by a family who also smoked dope, weren't too clean, and had 2 big sweaty hairy dogs. Problem: i wonder if i can just start with a good primer (like Bin) and skip the wall washing? Becuase these walls were spraytextured and extremely difficult (not even sure how to do so) to wash first.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

1) thank you all for reminding me why I smoke out on the enclosed porch, and never in my own home (mind you, I'm a strict pack-a-week gal, so it's not such a hardship)

2)AlisonJ - Dogs don't sweat, they don't have sweat glands, and most of the tar from the dope stays in dope smoker's lungs - but there are two ways to clean a textured wall - one is by hosing it down heavily enough to aid in scraping the nasty stuff off the walls once and for all, and then raise the rent on the place to attract a better class of renter (there are clean hippies out there - messy, maybe, but not dirty)

the other alternitive is an old fashioned, long-bristled scrub brush - you can find one cheap in the auto section of K mart or Big Lots, they have fairly soft bristles, and won't damage anything.

mixing a dash of Z'out in with the Mr Clean (or other cleaner of your choice) will help break up things like smoke film, sweat, dog drool, and the like (we're talking a tablespoon in a 3 gallon bucket)

sounds like a bother?
sure. willing to take the time is part of what separates owners from rentors - and landlords from slumlords.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

I can 't find ATMOSCLEAR as anything other than a reference here or as an enviromental organization. It sounds encouraging though. DH is a smoker, he goes in his little smoking room and has a fan that directs the smoke outdoors built into the wall but sometimes the rest of our home smells like smoke as well.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

I moved into a fixer-upper house with smokers and pets (an extreme case) and tested many products from vinegar to toxic TSP. I ended up using QUICK N BRITE an all purpose environmentally safe cleaner and it out cleaned everything the cigarette smoke and tar off the walls so easily! It was so nice because there were no chemicals or fumes (Like TSP or Vinegar)
We mixed a light solution of the concentrated Quick n Brite and sprayed it on the walls using a 3 gallon bug/weed sprayer then brushed it with a large push broom. We removed the carpet next so didn't have to worry about making a mess which was nice, but you could easily clean on a smaller scale with a spray bottle and scrub brushes if you had to worry about a mess!

Here is a link that might be useful: Quick n Brite


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

i live in a townhouse in michigan where the weather changes every 20 mins but the ppl who moved next door smoke inside the house and everytime they smoke i am stuck with smell that i cant bear my mom gets sick. i dont know what to do.. its cold 9 months out of the year i cant open windows every day to keep the smell out and the smell in the basement is the worse i pick 1 day a week to wash laundry so that i dont get sick. its hell if anyone knows how to keep the smell out please let me know. the worse part is i work from home so i am home all day.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

"toxic TSP"

TSP is one of the ultimate examples of the dose making the poison.

TSP is used in vitamins as a source of phosphorous.

Its ability to cause chemical burns when dissolved in hot water is a lot worse than its toxicity.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

I agree about the ozone generator, I had a friend who managed a hotel and they used them in rooms all the time and said they work really well. I had a rental once where the tenants smoked, I primed and painted everything and cleaned and sealed grout and any porous surfaces, cleaned drapes and blinds and I did not detect any smoke odor even a year later


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

my old home was from previous smokers, the smell wasn't too too bad, but it was rough at first. i just kept the windows open for a while and plenty of air fresheners


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

I am a smoker, but I don't smoke in my apartment. Former smokers and never been smokers tell me my apt. doesn't smell of smoke. This is what I did

1: Washed down the walls. I couldn't wash the ceilings, because they're that cardboard cheap stuff. The ceiling in my kitchen has been painted over, but none of the others have.

2: Washed in hot water and bleach, or simply got rid of any and all curtains. Disposed of all blinds too. (They were cheap, so it didn't matter, if you have expensive blinds that are made of plastic you could probably wash them down with hot water.

3: Sniffed around my place a lot and ran around with a bottle of Dawn power dissolve. Honestly, that stuff worked fantastic for the little corners and things I found where the smell would linger. I also used several bottles cleaning all around my windows, in the little cracks, etc. I always made sure to do this on warm days so I could keep the windows open

4: Speaking of windows, when I was home, I lived without the AC, bought a bunch of cheap box fans, and ran them in reverse in every room I could. When I wasn't home, I ran the dehumidifier. The problem with cig. smoke is that it's sticky. (Smoke from various illegal substances is even worse, I know this because the people who lived here before us smoked a lot of that) The moment any moisture gets in, it mixes with any dried sticky smoke and hydrates it, making it much smellier. The humidifier dried it up.

5: Again, washed down the walls, after several months of "Fan when home, humidifier when not"

6: Scrubbed bathroom tile with Dawn power dissolve and then used a Clorox bleach pen on the grout.

7: Bought a shark floor steamer and washed the kitchen floor quite often. That eliminated the need for any harsh floor detergent. Distilled water works the best in one of those, and you can get a gallon of the stuff for about a buck. It worked wonderful, especially getting into the little cracks.

8: For the carpeted floors? (which is everything but the kitchen and bathroom) I knew that would be a problem, so I just went crazy on it. Made carpet freshener from baking soda. For every box, I mixed a half a teaspoon of cinnamon. Try this before you do it yourself, because some people find that even that little can make them sneeze. I took each room, one at a time, pulled the furniture out, sprinkled the carpet freshener liberally around the room and left it. Preferably, I did this when we were going out for a few hours. When I came home I vacuumed. Did this with each room about three times, then I would...

9: Rent a carpet steamer (Or, call a professional, but renting was cheaper) steam cleaned the carpets.

10: Continued to vacuum and use my home made freshener whenever possible. Didn't move all the heavy furniture out of the way anymore though, unless it was spring/fall cleaning. Just vacuumed as I normally do, but used the freshener.

11: Put boxes of baking soda into all closets and in cabinets. (after cleaning them, of course) Since doors and cabinets are kept shut, it's hard for them to be aired out. The baking soda helped a lot. Also, if I could I kept the doors open.

The biggest problem? People who came over started griping that they could smell the cat's litter boxes, when they never had before. So, we learned to changed them the moment someone came over. (Not that we don't changed them a lot anyway, but we'd go to the extra effort) and also switched to a sawdust type litter that works better than any litter I've ever tried at covering up the smell with a natural scent (pine or cedar) No, I didn't use baking soda in the litter box, never found it helped all that much. I do put a layer of newspaper on the bottom though, to help absorb the urine. Since I use the newspaper for compost, (only for non edible gardening) I never felt guilty about using it for the cats. And, my cat box is 12 years old and the bottom looks brand new.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

you are described in your post that you are used repainting walls and replacing carpets, drapes. smell of cigarette badly effect to human health,so it can't avoid.Use baking soda on the fabric of furniture and carpets frequently.Use services of home disaster company for permanent solution.


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

When we were young and energetic we bought a four plex. We never worked so hard in our lives, and the windows looked so bad with that yellow runny scum from the smoke.

We used many of the things you all have suggested. For cook tops, grease kills grease! So lemon oil works great!

Every morning in a previous home, I would wake up to the smell of smoke! It would waft into the shower window from my neighbor's house! Very hard to escape that stuff!


 o
RE: Cigarette smell and a new home

Place a cup of vinegar in the problem room with a slice of WHITE bread on top. The nasty smell will disappear like magic! Wahlah! Now you can start over and incorporate your own smell...maybe fresh baked apple pie!


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Home Disasters Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here