How to Get Cigarette Smoke Out of Carpet

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Limit smoking to outdoor areas to help keep the home smelling fresh.
Limit smoking to outdoor areas to help keep the home smelling fresh. (Image: Matthew Cole/iStock/Getty Images)

Cigarette smoke has a way of lingering for quite a while in places you may not expect it to, such as in the carpeting. Whether you've had friends over for a party or you've taken over an apartment formerly inhabited by a smoker, stale smoke odor trapped in the carpet may make you want to leave the room. Baking soda serves as a natural odor remover that takes out mild cigarette odors, but if the carpeting reeks of smoke, it may need to be deep-cleaned or even replaced.

Things You'll Need

  • Baking soda
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • 2 portable fans such as box fans
  • White vinegar
  • Several bowls
  • Carpet steam cleaner or shampooer with cleaning solutions

Move furniture out of the carpeted room, if possible. Sprinkle baking soda liberally over the entire carpet, leaving it in place for 30 to 60 minutes. Baking soda absorbs some of the smoke odor, freshening the carpet.

Vacuum the carpet to remove the baking soda. The odor may be gone already if the odor was minimal to begin with, such as after guests smoked in the room. Otherwise, sprinkle baking soda and allow it to sit overnight or for several days.

Open the windows while the baking soda absorbs carpet odors. Leave the windows open as long as possible to air out the room, replacing stale air with fresh air, which also benefits the carpet. Place a box fan or other portable fan in one window drawing air out off the room and another fan at the opposite end of the room, pulling fresh air in. Leave the windows open all day while you are home, or for at least several hours. Skip this step if it is too cold to open the windows, or if otherwise unable to open them.

Vacuum the carpet to remove the baking soda.

Place bowls of vinegar around the room overnight. Vinegar helps neutralize lingering odors. Skip this step if pets or young children have access to the area, or place the bowls well out of their reach.

Smell the carpet again after using both the baking soda carpet treatment and vinegar air treatment. If the carpet still smells of smoke, apply more baking soda and vacuum it once again after several hours.

Rent a carpet steam cleaner or carpet shampooer if the carpet still smells of smoke after several baking soda applications. Purchase the cleaning solution or shampoo designed to go with the specific steam cleaner or shampooer model you've rented.

Steam-clean or shampoo the carpet following the instructions on the rented cleaning unit exactly -- do not use more water or more cleaning solution that recommended, or it may damage your carpet. Allow the carpeting to air-dry for a day or longer, as recommended on the cleaning unit's instructions. Do not walk across the carpet while waiting for it to dry.

Tips & Warnings

  • Air out the room immediately after you or others smoke indoors to help prevent smoke odors and buildup in your home. Otherwise, limit smoking to outdoor areas.
  • If the room was exposed to smoke over a long period of time, cleaning the carpet alone won't get rid of all the odor. All other surfaces indoors require cleaning as well: furniture, curtains, the walls and even the ceiling.
  • Do not use a carpet shampooer or steam cleaner without following the directions. Saturating the carpet may soak the pad beneath it, which could damage the hard floor surface as well, ruining the floor and potentially causing mold and mildew. If in doubt, hire a professional instead.
  • If the carpet has been exposed to years of cigarette smoke, cleaning most likely won't get rid of the odor. The carpet and its pad may need to be replaced.

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