As headache-inducing as they are off-putting, smoky smells are more acrid than many lingering odors that may appear in the house. Smoke leaves a thick stain in the air, making rooms uncomfortable in the best-case scenarios and completely uninhabitable in the worst. And when it comes time to evict them, they hardly ever go without a fight.

A thorough cleaning is often the only way to find long-term relief from a smoke odor. Are you ready to make that nasty smoke smell nothing more than a memory? I’ll break down how to quickly eliminate smoke odors in the house and discuss further steps you can take to ensure they never return.

How To Eliminate Smoke Odor Fast

While it can take some effort to remove smoke smell sources, there are plenty of ways to find immediate relief. Fast-acting room deodorizers are often only temporary. But they’ll make the space tolerable as you seek out and eliminate the cause of the odor. Here are a few tips for quick and easy smoke smell removal:

  • Open windows to circulate fresh air and let in sunlight
  • Place box fans in windows to blow air out of the house
  • Try burning scented candles to mask the smell
  • Spray a room freshener like Febreze Air Mist
  • Use an essential oil diffuser, such as the remote-controllable ASAKUKI diffuser, for extended odor control

Several absorbent materials can suck up smoky odors around the house. Set out bowls of activated charcoal, baking soda, or vinegar to reduce the intensity of the smoke smell.

how to eliminate smoke odor in house

Air circulation and a deodorizer can cover smoke smells in a jiff. But if you want them gone forever, you’ll have to physically scrub them away. 

Deep cleaning dust and smoke residue from soft and hard surfaces is the general approach. To remove a stubborn cigarette smell or other smoky odor, following a few essential guidelines and processes will make the effort as quick and easy as possible. Try the following tips to get rid of the smell for good.

Set up an Air Purifier

Although an air purifier isn’t a magic bullet, it helps immensely by automating part of the deodorizing process. Products like the Filtrete Air Purifier use fans to pull in and circulate air in the room. With built-in HEPA and activated carbon filters, they extract dust and other contaminants that carry the smoke odor molecules, pushing fresh-smelling air into the room.

Choose your air purifier based on your room size. As you try to remove the set-in smoke odor, setting one up will help to remove airborne contaminants you may agitate while dusting and cleaning the space. Even after the smoke smells are long gone, keeping an air purifier running can significantly influence overall indoor air quality.

Deodorize Smoke-Damaged Items

Smoke adsorbs to fibrous paper and cloth products, such as books and tabletop accessories. If you have items with a smoky smell following a fire, try these methods to deodorize them:

  • Set them in an airtight container alongside a bowl of activated charcoal, baking soda, cedar chips, dryer sheets, or kitty litter for several hours
  • Lay them in the sun, keeping a close eye on them to avoid bleaching
  • Separate book pages, and place the books in a breezy spot to air out

Placing small items in an airtight container is the most efficient approach when you’re deodorizing the entire room. Do this before anything else so your surfaces will be clear and easy to clean. Letting your items deodorize while you clean the rest of the room will be the most efficient way to use your time.

Sprinkle Baking Soda on Carpet and Upholstery

Baking soda absorbs and neutralizes various aromas, including smoke smells. Sprinkling it on your carpet or furniture will lift odor molecules across the entire surface for a comprehensive cleaning. Follow these steps to get a smoke odor out of fabric items around the room:

  1. Sprinkle a baking soda layer over your carpet and upholstered furniture
  2. Let it sit for a few hours or overnight
  3. Vacuum the baking soda thoroughly

Tip: Baking soda is as efficient at ruining a vacuum cleaner as it is at eliminating smoke odor. Use a wet-dry vac with a HEPA filter to keep the fine powder from clogging your everyday household vacuum.

Wipe Down Surfaces With a White Vinegar Spray

The odor-killing power of white vinegar can be a sound first step in handling a mild smoke smell. While baking soda is tackling the soft materials, here’s how to use vinegar to remove smoke odors from hard surfaces around the home:

  1. Mix a 50/50 solution of water and distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle
  2. Spray a clean cloth or the hard surface with the vinegar cleaner, and wipe it down

Warning! Stay aware of which surfaces can tolerate vinegar. While you can get some vinegar on hardwood or stone, you must rinse it quickly to keep it from degrading the material.

Deep Cleaning To Remove Odors

Stinky odors don’t get much more difficult than a cigarette smell. While baking soda and vinegar are convenient and quick, they won’t do much if cigarette smoke was a regular feature in the room. Here are a few tips for a more intensive cleaning to eliminate an aggressive cigarette smell.

Replace HVAC Air Filters

Your central A/C is the biggest fan and dehumidifier in the house, so keeping it clean can help to reduce cigarette odors. Regular maintenance ensures it circulates and filters the highest volume of air. Part of that entails professional annual checks, but changing your air filters will keep the system running at full power, letting it extract the most odor molecules. Change your filters at least once every three months for optimal performance. 

Steam Clean Soft and Hard Surfaces

Steam cleaners can tackle tons of hard and soft surfaces around the house. They’re a convenient option when you’re frustrated with a cigarette smoke odor that won’t seem to stop. A multipurpose steamer with a microfiber head, like the Dupray Neat steam cleaner, can handle carpets, walls, floors, furniture, and mattresses. The high heat loosens residues to make them wipe away easily, removing the cigarette smoke smell with them.

Wash Upholstered Materials

To get the smoke smell out of drapes, rugs, throws, and other washable fabrics around the home, toss them in the washing machine. Use a high-quality laundry detergent to power out smoky residues, and check for leftover stains before drying. Rather than use the dryer, hang the items in a breezy spot to whisk away any remaining odors.

Clean Walls with a Degreaser

Cigarette smoke odors and soot stains have a similar source, so it makes sense that they might also have similar solutions. If vinegar isn’t pulling the nicotine smell from the wall, reach for a degreaser. Here are a few options to consider for cleaning hard surfaces with a smoky smell:

  • Ammonia: mix ammonia with warm water in a 1:16 ratio, and clean your walls and other surfaces with a soft sponge or cloth
  • Commercial cleaning solution: use an eco-safe yet powerful degreaser like Simple Green or Citra Solv
  • Trisodium phosphate: dissolve powdered TSP in warm water according to the package direction

If you like the idea of TSP but not the environmental or health drawbacks, try a TSP substitute. Products like Krud Kutter Prepaint Cleaner have many of the same benefits in a non-toxic, biodegradable package.

Warning! Ammonia, TSP, and many other degreasing agents are hazardous to your health. Keep the room well-ventilated when using a more aggressive product. Wear gloves and eyewear to limit exposure, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe use.

What To Do When Smoke Smells Still Won’t Quit

You’ve deep-cleaned every square inch of every surface, and that nasty smoke smell keeps returning. At this point, you need to go nuclear. And as much as I hate to admit it, that entails scrapping what you can and starting fresh. 

Extensively damaged carpet, curtains, and furniture may have to go in the dumpster to eliminate every trace of smoke. Walls and ceilings saturated with nicotine stains will need fresh paint if no amount of cleaner will kill the smell. Start with an odor and stain-blocking primer like KILZ Restoration primer, and you should be able to stop the discoloration and smoke smell from returning.

Why Are Smoke Smells Such a Problem?

Odors from smoke linger because minute smoke particles adsorb to materials around the house and mix with dust. Airing out a room may sweep the immediate stink away. But embedded smoke in carpets, walls, and other surfaces will replenish the smell before long.

Aside from being disagreeable, odors like this are almost always hazardous to your health. Whether from wildfires or the fireplace, wood smoke contains toxic pollutants and particulate matter that prompt heart and respiratory issues. Once in the home, these smoke particles can recirculate, having an adverse impact long after the most recent fire.

The Risks of Cigarette Smoke Smells

Cigarettes are another likely culprit if you’re facing a steadfast smoke smell. Most of us know how persistent cigarette odor can be and the dangerous effects of secondhand smoke. But we’ve only recently discovered the further impact it can have on our health.

Thirdhand smoke includes nicotine residue and other cigarette smoke molecules lingering in the home. Hazardous by themselves, these substances do more damage by mixing with indoor pollutants to make new carcinogens.

Cigarette smoke damage in the form of THS can continue having a negative health impact for months. Even moving into a home where smokers used to live can put new residents at risk. No matter the source, removing smoke odors doesn’t just make the house comfortable – it keeps you and your family safe!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can Smoke Odor Permanently Damage My House or Furniture?

In the worst cases, smoke can permanently affix to furniture and household materials. It typically takes events like a house fire or years of smoking to make a home unsalvageable in this regard. Even then, it’s worth calling an expert to explore your options before making significant changes. 

Remediation specialists can help following a fire. But even local cleaning pros can make a difference with stubborn smells. If you’ve tried everything and still can’t shake the smoky smell in the house, book a cleaning expert to take your efforts up a notch.

How Long Does It Take To Completely Eliminate Smoke Odor?

Intensive cleaning, repainting, and furniture replacement will quickly fix most smells, including smoke. But more so than many other odors, smoke loves to stick around as long as possible. 

If you don’t take exhaustive measures to refresh the space, smoke odor can linger for several months before you start to notice a change. Thirdhand smoke is particularly challenging. THS reservoirs in household materials allow toxin levels to increase in a space several weeks after cleaning. Without frequent deep cleaning, anyone in the room can face a continual threat of toxic exposure.


Noah Hoit