Home & Garden

How to get rid of cigarette smoke odor, residue

Q: What type of service provider should I hire to remove cigarette smoke smell and residue from a house? A relative smoked in the basement apartment of my house; I want to get rid of as much of the smell as possible.

A: Anyone who’s been a regular smoker knows that kicking the habit can be extremely difficult. Ridding a home of cigarette smoke odor and nicotine stains isn’t easy either.

Cigarette smoke permeates porous surfaces, including carpet, drapes, furniture, walls and ceilings. Your cleaning approach will depend on the extent of your relative’s smoking habit.

If he or she lit up only occasionally or lived in the apartment only a few months, you might get by with a relatively light, do-it-yourself job. That would include renting a carpet cleaner, cleaning draperies and hard surfaces, and painting walls and ceilings after they’ve been thoroughly washed and/or primed with a stain-blocking product like Kilz. There’s a variety of products on the market that promise to help clean up smoke residue.

If the tenant was a heavy smoker or even a light smoker for a long time, you face a greater cleaning challenge and will probably want to hire professional help from experts who have access to specialized cleaning supplies or know which ones work on certain problems.

House cleaners, carpet and upholstery cleaners and painters can do parts of the job, but you may want to consider water- and smoke-damage restoration companies that specialize in cleaning homes after fires, floods and other major incidents. You may also decide that it’s more cost effective to discard carpet, drapes and upholstered furniture and start fresh.

Though ozone generators are not recommended by the EPA for air cleaning, several highly rated service providers say they can be effective in removing cigarette smoke odor. However, a home should always be vacated while an ozone machine operates, and for about an hour after, because ozone is associated with lung problems.

Good luck with breathing some fresh air into your basement apartment.