How to get rid of smoke smells in your home

Neither your guests nor your landlord will appreciate your place smelling of burnt dinners or stale smoke. This guide is here to help you remove the smell of smoke from your humble abode.

To fully remove the smell of smoke from your home, you'll need to clean all surfaces, furniture, and textiles.
To fully remove the smell of smoke from your home, you'll need to clean all surfaces, furniture, and textiles.  © DPA / Kay Nietfeld

Be it from a habit of smoking inside, consistently burnt food, or an open fireplace, the smell of smoke can be unpleasant if it lingers in your home.

Smoke settles in curtains, upholstered furniture, carpets, pillows, decorations, books, wallpaper, walls – really, everything!

It leaves a nasty smell that is certain to annoy the hell out your landlord. If you want to be a little bit more responsible, you're probably wondering "Hey, how do I get this smoke out of my house?"

Well, bucko, have we got a guide for you!

Smoking might be a harmful lifestyle choice, but it doesn't also need to lead to a stinky apartment. If you insist on smoking inside your home, or if you've perhaps burnt something on the stove one too many times, we're here to help you remove that smoke smell from your house.

Here's your TLDR version:

  • Anything that smells of smoke in your apartment needs to either be cleaned or disposed of.
  • Try not smoke in your apartment in general, especially if you're renting! If you do, vent, vent, vent.
  • The faster the smell of smoke is removed, the easier it is to get rid of.
  • You should neutralize the smell of smoke somehow, especially if you want to remove it in the long run.
  • Suitable home remedies for that nasty smoke smells include baking soda, vinegar, lemon, or coffee.
  • Distribute home remedies either by applying them to the smoke-effected area or via a steamer.
  • If you use a chemical cleaner, make sure to avoid ingredients that could cause allergies or poisoning.
  • Air-purifying houseplants can neutralize the smell of smoke and get rid of air pollutants.
  • You can also buy commercial air-purifiers to help.

Smoke smells in apartments and houses

Have you ever sat around in a friend's house and just thought, "Jeez-mageez does it smell nasty here. We should have had them over to ours instead?"

Don't worry, we've all been there. Especially when that friend is a smoker. There really isn't anything worse than the smell of lingering smoke – thick, stale, and intense. Now, have you found yourself on the other side of this equation? Well, we're here to help!

Many rental agreements forbid a tenant from smoking inside, and if you're looking to sell, you're not going to want your home smelling of stale cigarettes or burnt food.

Avoid being penalized by cleaning it all up and getting rid of the smell.

Why does my home smell of smoke?

There are many reasons why your house might smell of smoke. Most of them include an indoor tobacco habit, but it's also possible to find yourself with a nasty smoke smell after a cooking episode gone wrong.

Here are some possible reasons why your home might smell of smoke:

  • Cigarettes, cigars, pipe smoking, or other narcotic consumption.
  • People smoking outside the window of your apartment.
  • Previous tenants or owners of the house or apartment being smokers.
  • Burnt pans, food, or other cooking appliances.
  • Clothes lying around that have been worn to a campfire or somewhere smokey.
  • Open indoor fireplaces without doors.
  • Damaged heating systems that could be causing smoke.
  • Bushfires and wildfires nearby that are causing a layer of smoke to hang in the air.

There are many reasons why you might have a smokey house, but not be a smoker. Here's how to remove it.

How to remove that smoke smell from your house, apartment, or car

Anyone who wants to fully remove the smell of smoke should clean their ashtrays regularly, as well as any clothes or objects that may hold the stench.
Anyone who wants to fully remove the smell of smoke should clean their ashtrays regularly, as well as any clothes or objects that may hold the stench.  © 123RF / Catalin205

The first and most important thing to do in the case of a stinky smoke infestation is to put on your ventilation shoes. Not literal shoes, we just mean that you should open all of your windows and doors, ensure cross-ventilation, and get that air flowin'.

In the long term, though, this might not be enough. If you have burnt your food or gotten a little too excited searing a delicious steak from time to time, you should be okay. On the flip side, though, if you're an indoor smoker, or perhaps just a terrible cook, then you're going to need to do more than simply ventilate your home.

To remove the smell of smoke properly from an apartment or house, you'll need to clean or replace the following things:

  • Curtains, pillows, and other textiles: Fabrics of any kind should be cleaned in the washing machine, or by hand in strong-smelling cleaning liquid or detergent.
  • Furniture and carpet: You need to thoroughly wipe down all the surfaces and furnishings in your home, airing furniture outside or at least in a well-ventilated room or on a balcony. For delicate carpets or upholstered furniture, steam cleaning may be required.
  • Wallpaper and walls: Wipe your walls and wallpaper with vinegar, mixed 1:3 vinegar to water, or repaint the walls with a primer and a special paint that is designed to combat odors. If necessary, you may need to remove the wallpaper, treat the wall, and repaint or install new wallpaper.
  • Books: If books and magazines really smell unbearably of smoke, you need to decide whether they are worth keeping. It may seem awful to ditch books but, let's be real, if the smell is awful then that's what you may have to do.
  • Other items: Here are a few more things you should make sure to do:
    • Empty and wash ashtrays regularly
    • Clean other items contaminated with smoke thoroughly
    • Get rid of food wrappers that have absorbed the smell of smoke
    • Anything that cannot be cleaned needs to be disposed of, frozen, or placed in kitty litter.

If you are serious about dealing with that nasty smoke smell in your house or apartment, then you're going to need to make sacrifices and get rid of things that you may not have otherwise thrown away.

Removing smoke smells | Home remedies

If the smoke contaminant in your apartment is still relatively fresh, then simple home remedies may still be enough to remove and prevent the smell of smoke. As time passes and that smoke sinks into your furniture and carpets, it gets harder to remove without using powerful chemicals. The same goes if the smoke smell is extremely intense.

Here are a few effective home remedies for smoke odor to try out:

  • Baking soda / baking powder: Sprinkle your upholstered furniture and carpet generously with baking soda / powder and let it soak in for at least an hour before vacuuming it up. This can be especially effective when cleaning particular kinds of leather couches. Alternatively, you can mix baking soda / powder with water and use it as a paste to cover specific sources of smoke odor.
  • Vinegar: Mix water with vinegar in a 1:1 ratio and bring it to the boil in a small pot. Place the steaming pot in a room spelling of smoke for about 20 minutes to dispel the smell of smoke with the smell of vinegar.
  • Lemon: Cut up a number of lemons into slices and distribute them across the apartment or house in small bowls. Alternatively, use the same boiling method as with the vinegar, but with lemon slices.
  • Coffee: Spread a number of open containers with freshly ground coffee throughout your home. When you have burnt something in the kitchen, brew a nice cup of Joe to overpower the scent.
  • Rose water: Spray your upholstery and curtains with rose water. If the smell of smoke is lingering in the room itself, bring a pot of water to boil with a few drops of rose water in it and leave it for 20 minutes.

Keep in Mind: Try combining home remedies for a better result. They are harmless, so you don't need to go worrying about it! For example, pop some lemon slices together with some rose water into that pot of water, and let them work their magic on a smelly room together.

Removing smoke smells | Using cleaners and scented candles

There are a variety of home remedies for smoke smells in your apartment, including sliced lemons.
There are a variety of home remedies for smoke smells in your apartment, including sliced lemons.  © Unsplash / Eggbank

There are a vast range of cleaners, room sprays, and scented candles on the market that are designed specifically to remove the smell of smoke from your home. When buying these products, though, you should pay attention to a couple of different things.

Make sure that the cleaners neutralize the smell and do not simply mask it. Masking the smell only works for a short period of time because it doesn't disable the contaminant. Think about it this way - we react strongly to the smell of smoke because it could potentially cause us harm. That's why people sometimes burn matches after going to the toilet, as smoke is a strong and lingering smell. As a result, you'll need to combat it with something equally strong and lingering.

When using a scented candle or essential oils, keep in mind that some of these products can actually irritate the respiratory system and trigger allergies in people. Additionally, certain fragrances and chemicals are toxic to pets. The same goes for chemical cleaners as well, which can even pose risks to humans if ingested or breathed in too much. Focus on using odor neutralizers and microorganisms, and not using intense chemicals like bleach.

Keep in mind that removing the smell of smoke from your home can be effectively done with ozone treatments, but it's very expensive to do so and can be seriously hazardous to your health.

Removing smoke smells | Air-purifying plants and devices

You can use air-purifying plants to remove the smell of smoke.
You can use air-purifying plants to remove the smell of smoke.  © Unsplash / Katka Pavlickova

Houseplants aren't just great for your mental health, but also for the quality of your indoor air. They help to regulate the indoor climate and keep your air mostly free of pollutants.

Here are some great air-purifying plants to check out:

  • Birch fig
  • Bow hemp
  • Calathea
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Dragon tree
  • Ivy
  • Monocot (peace lily)
  • Window leaf
  • Flamingo flower
  • Common Ivy
  • Green lily
  • Kentia palm
  • Indoor fern
Heavy smokers can celebrate the fact that there are now electronic air filters on the market. These bad-boys are specifically designed to cancel out the smell of cigarettes and purify the air.

How to get smoke smell out of furniture

Using baking soda / powder is possibly the best for furniture smells, if you are going for a home remedy. We would suggest avoiding something like vinegar, as it has a very strong and unpleasant scent, and you don't want the constant smell of vinegar when you are watching TV or chilling on your bed.

The baking soda / Powder method: Sprinkle baking powder over the couch, leave it for two hours, and then vacuum it up. Alternatively, create a paste and use that on specific sections that are particularly stinky.

An alternative method for getting rid of smoke from furniture is to rub ground coffee over it and do the same thing as with baking soda, but you should be careful that the coarse coffee doesn't damage or stain what you're cleaning. If none of these methods work, and nor do any of our other home remedies, then it's time to head down to your local store and pickup some high quality cleaning spray.

How to get rid of fire or fireplace smoke smell in your house

The first thing to note about the nasty smell that can come from a fireplace is that you should try to avoid it in the first place by using preventative measures.

What's the best way to do that? Well, having a glass door on the front of your fireplace for exhaust, and a chimney, to get all of that smoke to go outside, can help immensely.

Now, if the smell of the fireplace is becoming a real problem, but you want to keep using it, you're going to need to invest in an air purifier to get rid of the smell. Follow this up by steaming your carpets and furniture on a regular basis.

Tips and tricks to prevent smoke smells in houses and apartments

There are a vast number of tips and tricks for preventing the smell of smoke from infiltrating your apartment or house. The reality is that if you ignore this problem, removing the odor can be quite costly and may involve renovating your home. As a result, you should do your best to avoid the problem in the first place.

Here are some tips for preventing smoke smells in houses and apartments in the first place:

  • Don't smoke cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or other substances in your home.
  • Keep all doors and windows closed when smoking or barbecuing outside your home or when on the balcony or terrace.
  • Ask neighbors who smoke outside your window to stand further away.
  • Ventilate your home regularly, several times a day, for about ten minutes.
  • Do not leave ashtrays inside the apartment, it is better to clean them immediately or store them outside.
  • If you have a fireplace, you should only burn very dry wood that is suitable for a fireplace. Your fireplace should also be enclosed and have a flue.
  • Wash clothing that smells of smoke immediately if possible.
  • If smokers are visiting, use a pad for the sofa or other textile furniture.
  • Use higher quality candles to avoid the smell of smoke. If you use them regularly, light them with a cigarette lighter rather than matches.
  • Make sure that you have an exhaust fan above your stove.

Are you a smoker? Here's how to prevent cigarette smells from smoking indoors

Cigarettes not only affect you when you are actively smoking, but afterwards, too. The smoke gets into your skin, into your house's furniture, and your clothes. Even if you smoke outside, you will still drag that smell back into your house or apartment.

So, what can you do about it? Well, there are a few tricks to limiting the amount you and your home stinks of cigarettes:

  • Keep simple hygiene practices: Wash your hands and face after every cigarette, shower regularly, and use shampoo while doing so. Brush your teeth multiple times a day and use a lozenge when you can't. Wear deodorant.
  • Wash your clothes regularly: Make sure that you wash your clothes regularly, either in a machine or by handwashing. Use strong smelling detergent and, if the smell is especially bad, a cup of baking soda.
  • Keep your home ventilated and cleaned: Regularly clean your home and ventilate it multiple times a day. Keeping open containers of charcoal in rooms in which you spend a lot of time or smoke can also absorb the smell.
  • Get an air purifier: There are many air purifiers on the market, and a lot of them are specifically designed to combat the smell of smoke.

Ultimately, though, the best way to avoid the heavy smell of smoke in your home or on your clothes is to quit smoking. This also helps you avoid the many associated health risks.

Keep clean, especially if you want to get rid of the smell of smoke

If you're a frequent smoker, that smokey smell can settle across every thing in your home. As a result, those who want to remove that smell are going to need to clean all surfaces, furniture, and textiles in their home.

If the smell is still fresh, home remedies may work. But if you don't deal with that smoke for years and want to sell your house or end your rental, you might just find yourself needing to pay for a heap of renovations.

Be a good cleaner! Not just because it's generally a good idea, but because it is the only way you can prevent your home from smelling of smoke if you're a fan of cigarettes, or have had an accident in the kitchen.

Cover photo: DPA / Kay Nietfeld

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