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Eliminating Smoke Odors from Cigarettes, Cigars and Vaping

Posted January 21, 2023 by Mike Lewis under Tips

Eliminating Smoke Odors from Cigarettes, Cigars and Vaping

Understanding Smoke Odors

Smoke odors can be difficult to remove from indoor spaces. The lingering smells come from tiny particles released into the air when tobacco or cannabis products are burned. These particles contain hundreds of chemicals that get absorbed into furniture, walls, carpets, clothing and other porous surfaces. The main components creating the unpleasant smells are nicotine, tar and volatile organic compounds.

To thoroughly eliminate smoke odors, you need to address both the airborne particles and the residue left on surfaces. The specific steps will depend on the severity of the contamination. Light, recent smoking can often be remedied with some airing out, while heavy, long-term smoking will require more extensive cleaning and treatment.

Removing Smoke Smells from the Air

The first step in eliminating smoke odors is to get rid of the particles suspended in the air. Here are some effective methods:

Ventilate with Fresh Air

Opening doors and windows is the simplest way to start airing out the space. This will allow fresh air to enter and push out the contaminated air.

  • Place fans in doorways and windows to improve airflow. Position them so that air blows out of the house.

  • For the best results, create cross-ventilation by opening windows or doors on opposite sides of the room.

  • Ventilate for at least a few hours at a time. The longer the better.

Use Air Purifiers

Air purifiers equipped with carbon filters can help remove smoke particles from the air. Activated carbon absorbs odors very effectively.

  • Look for units designed for smoke removal. They have larger carbon filters and higher air exchange rates.

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for filter replacement. Old filters will stop removing smoke odors efficiently.

  • Place air purifiers near major sources of odor, like couches or heavy drapes.

Run HVAC Fan Continuously

Forced air systems can help expedite air exchange throughout the building.

  • Set the thermostat fan to the ‘On’ position instead of ‘Auto.’ This will keep the fan circulating air even when the heating/cooling isn’t on.

  • Change out air filters frequently to prevent smoke particles from continuing to circulate.

  • Consider having a professional HVAC cleaning done to remove contamination from ductwork.

Removing Smoke Residue from Surfaces

In addition to the air, all surfaces in a smoked-in space will absorb residues. Completely eliminating odors requires removing the tar and particles from furniture, walls, carpets, drapes and other items. Here are some tips:

Wash Fabrics

Launder any fabrics like cushion covers, blankets, drapes and clothing. Use hot water and odor eliminating detergent. For heavy smoke smells:

  • Soak fabrics in water mixed with baking soda and detergent prior to washing.

  • Add white vinegar or oxygen bleach to the wash cycle.

  • Air dry thoroughly in the sun, if possible. The UV rays help remove odors.

Clean Hard Surfaces

Wipe down hard, nonporous surfaces with all-purpose cleaner. For more stubborn smoke film:

  • Use concentrated cleaners like TSP or degreasers made for removing cigarette residue.

  • Mix baking soda and water into a paste and scrub into surfaces. The baking soda will absorb and neutralize odors.

  • Rinse thoroughly after using cleaners to avoid residue.

Shampoo Carpets

Carpeting and rugs will absorb a lot of smoke over time. To remove odors:

  • Vacuum thoroughly with a machine that has a HEPA filter. This will help lift particles out of fibers.

  • Rent a shampoo machine and clean with high-foaming carpet cleaner. Opt for an odor eliminating formula.

  • Sprinkle carpets with baking soda and let sit for a few hours prior to vacuuming. The baking soda will absorb some odor molecules.

Repaint Walls

If walls are yellowed or streaked from smoke, plan to repaint. Choose an oil-based primer to block stains and odors. Apply two coats of paint for the most effective coverage.

Advanced Smoke and Odor Elimination

For spaces contaminated by prolonged, heavy smoking, more intensive treatments may be necessary:

  • Ozone generators can be used by professionals to oxidize odors and residues. The ozone leaves no chemical residue. However, ozone can be hazardous to health, so follow precautions carefully.

  • Fogging with deodorizing products is another intensive professional treatment. Dry foggingPerfumes the air and adheres to surfaces to neutralize odors. Again, use caution with strong chemicals.

  • As a last resort, replacement of carpeting, drapes and other furnishings may be required if they are too heavily contaminated. New gypsum drywall may also be needed if the smoke permeated porous wall materials.

Preventing Smoke Odors in the Future

Once you’ve succeeded in eliminating those unpleasant smoking smells, keep them from returning with these steps:

  • Institute a smoke-free policy for indoor spaces. Only allow smoking outdoors well away from doors, windows and intake vents.

  • Place doormats at entrances so visitors can wipe their feet and avoid tracking in odors.

  • Keep fresh air circulating indoors by running HVAC fans, using exhaust fans and opening windows periodically.

  • Vacuum twice weekly and shampoo carpets and upholstery regularly. Frequently laundering fabrics will also minimize odors.

With some work, even the most stubborn cigarette, cigar or cannabis odors can be removed from indoor air and surfaces. Thorough cleaning and ventilation along with advanced treatments for severe cases will help restore freshness. Consistent maintenance will then prevent the unpleasant smoking smells from returning.

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