Selling a home that reeks of tobacco smoke is quite the accomplishment and that you purchased it makes you one brave buckaroo.
The accolades don’t help, though, when you come home from work, open the door every day and the stench hits your nose.
The good news is that fewer Australians smoke cigarettes now than they did in 1991 and at this point, smokers represent only 16.3 percent of the population, according to the Australian Governments’ Department of Health.
The bad news is that you fell head over heels for a home in which one of these people lived, and smoked.
Cigarette smoke sticks to everything, from the carpets and walls to the entire HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air-Conditioning) system.
If it were cheap and easy to remove, it’s likely, the seller would’ve done it. Instead, you inherited the stink and the toxins that cigarette smoking left behind.
How to get rid of tobacco smells?
Let’s take a look at ways to get rid of the gunk.
Start with the walls
You’ve no doubt done your online research on the subject and you’re armed with a bottle of vinegar and water. Guess what? It doesn’t work very well.
You could try sugar soap, but, what just might work on the walls and the ceiling is a mixture of one part of chlorine bleach diluted with five parts of water.
NOTE: Never mix bleach with anything but water. Combining chlorine bleach with ammonia or certain other products is especially dangerous because it creates a toxic gas.
Perform the cleaning on a day when the kids are in school because bleach is especially nasty on developing lungs.
Open all the windows before you start and don a mask and a pair of chemical-proof gloves. If at any time during the process you feel woozy or you start coughing, go outside and get some fresh air.
Scary, right? If you wear a breathing mask and protective gloves you should be ok. Use a sponge dipped in the solution to scrub the walls and ceiling.
Rinse the sponge repeatedly to ensure you aren’t reapplying the residue back to the surfaces.
If you prefer not to mess with bleach, try TSP — although it, too, comes with warnings. Before you decide, read these Pros and Cons.
If you have a large home, you may want to hire someone to help you or, better yet, to do the whole job.
Once the walls are clean you’ll need to seal them with primer, so ask your hardware or paint specialist which is the best… do NOT skimp here as you want to block the cigarette smoke residue for good.
It will seal in the stink and set the walls up for that gorgeous paint you’ve been dying to slap on them.
Get rid of odour holders
There are a few other areas of the home that need your attention. Anything made of fabric may need to be ripped out and tossed.
This includes carpet and draperies included in the sale.
You can try these tips from Wiki-How first.
But it may well be no matter how many times you shampoo that carpet the smell will cling. It’s most likely penetrated the padding under the carpet as well.
Remove the HVAC filters and toss them in the dishwasher. If they still aren’t clean, soak them in extra-hot water and your favorite cleaning product (I like ammonia for sticky residues but remember not to mix it with bleach).
You may need to use an old toothbrush to get into the slats. While they’re soaking, peer into the ducts to see if there is dust, as that is an odour magnet. If so, clear it out.
Did you know that grease also absorbs odours?
That’s not just stale food you smell in the kitchen and the range hood is probably the culprit. Look under it – especially at the small mesh filter. If it’s caked with grease, it’s probably another source of the tobacco smell in the home.
You have two options here: try to clean it (easier said than done), or buy a new filter.
Hopefully, you’ll be painting the kitchen as well, so the primer and lovely new paint will get rid of what’s left of the stench.
The air you breathe – and smell
Getting rid of the HVAC filter and installing a new one is a great idea, but what about the rest of the HVAC system? If someone was puffing toxic fumes in the home for a number of years, and the fumes were sucked into the system, it’s only logical that the various components might need to be cleaned as well.
This, of course, calls for a professional, but here’s what we were able to learn.
If you turn on the unit and smell tobacco the residue may be clinging to the evaporator coil, the blower fan, around the heat exchanger, plenums, and grille boots. A professional can take a look at these components and clean them, if necessary.
Finally, you’ll need to clean woodwork and glass. This means all of the cabinetry (don’t neglect the insides of drawers and cabinets), mirrors, windows, light fixtures and ceiling fans. If all else fails, you may need to sand and stain the cabinetry in the bathrooms and kitchen and any wooden built-ins.
Cigarette smoke is insidious and will creep into every crack and cranny in the home. Getting rid of it isn’t impossible, but it will take time.
PS If You’re a smoker and want to give it up, try Quit.
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