What Will Neutralize the Smell of Cigarette Smoke?

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Neutralizing the cigarette smell in your home takes a lot of work.
Neutralizing the cigarette smell in your home takes a lot of work. (Image: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images)

If you want to free your home from the reek of stale cigarette smoke, the first step is to ban smoking in the house. It’s not enough to restrict smoking to a designated area, because climate control systems would circulate smoke-laden air throughout your home. And conventional air fresheners aren’t much help because they just mask tobacco odor with another scent. Fortunately, you can neutralize the smoky stink using household products.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a natural deodorizer that absorbs bad smells. Pour dry baking soda in small shallow bowls, and place a bowl wherever the smoke odor is strong. Sprinkle baking soda liberally on upholstered furniture and carpets. Let it sit for a few hours, and then vacuum it up. Spray washable hard surfaces with a solution of 1 tablespoon baking soda in 2 cups warm water. Wipe up runoff. Put washable fabric items, such as throw pillows, that smell of smoke in a sealable plastic bag. Sprinkle several tablespoons of baking soda over them, and then seal the bag and shake it. Let the bag sit overnight. The next day, run the items through a regular washing machine cycle with detergent.

White Vinegar

White household vinegar can neutralize cigarette smoke odors. Dampen a cloth or sponge with vinegar straight from the bottle, and wipe down washable hard surfaces in your home such as woodwork, countertops and kitchen cabinets. Wash hard flooring with a solution of 4 cups household vinegar in a gallon of warm water. Dip a mop in the solution; wring out excess liquid and wash the floor. Work a small area of the floor at a time, and dry the area immediately with a towel before moving to the next.

Ammonia

A solution of plain household ammonia will cut through the smelly tar and nicotine traces stuck to washable walls, woodwork, doors and cupboards. Mix 1 cup ammonia in 1 gallon of warm water in a bucket. Wet a sponge with the ammonia solution and wipe down the surfaces. Have on hand a second bucket with clean water and a clean sponge to rinse the ammonia off the surfaces. Work one area at a time, and dry each section with rags or a towel as you go. Open all windows for air circulation to control ammonia’s harsh smell. Wear eye protection; ammonia solution will sting fiercely if it get in your eyes.

Other Measures

Take upholstered furniture outside and set it in the sun to air out for several days, if possible. Bring it in if bad weather threatens. Fresh air and sunlight can do a lot to eliminate a cigarette smoke smell from upholstery. If your home has forced-air heating and cooling, replace the air filters. They could be harboring and spreading the smoke smell. Clean off or replace light bulbs. The odorous compounds in cigarette smoke stick to the surfaces of the bulbs. When you turn on a light, the compounds heat up and release smoke odor. Throw away magazines, newspapers and other unneeded paper items. Paper harbors smoke smell.

Commercial Products

There are commercially available liquids and sprays that claim to get rid of tobacco odors in the air and on environmental surfaces. Examples include OdoBan, Room Shocker, Febreze, Ozium and Vamoose. These products react chemically with the organic molecules of tar and nicotine in tobacco smoke to convert them into harmless, nonodorous substances. Such products may also neutralize other odors such as from pets and cooking.

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