5 Ways to Get Rid of Cigarette Smoke Smell in Your Apartment

1. Give everything a deep clean

Stale tobacco smells can work their way into many nooks and crannies in your apartment. Begin by opening all the windows. If you have portable fans, place them in front of the windows to help circulate the fresh air throughout the space.

Then, it’s time to clean: Spray floors, walls, windows and ceilings with a mixture of half hot water and half vinegar. For really bad cigarette odors, you can use a solution made of a quarter-cup of vinegar, a half-cup of baking soda, a half-cup of ammonia and a gallon of hot water. Wash all hard surfaces thoroughly, including kitchen and bathroom cabinets plus countertops.

Toss all laundry-safe fabrics, such as curtains, bedding and sofa covers — if you’re renting a furnished apartment — into the washing machine and add a half-cup of vinegar. Because the sun’s UV rays may neutralize cigarette smoke odors, hang everything outside to dry if possible. For other soft furnishings like lampshades or rugs you can’t machine-wash, a thick layer of baking soda can help soak up odors overnight. You can vacuum up the baking soda the next day. Be sure to get rid of the vacuum bag afterward.

For tiled surfaces in the bathroom and kitchen, mix up nine parts of water to one part of bleach. Wash everything, then rinse with water.

7. Cleanse Carpets and Rugs

Carpeting could be one of the biggest headaches to clean. It doesn’t matter how careful your tenants are, carpets are like ‘silent vacuum’ – they eventually pick up all the tiny dirt, spills, and the invisible cigarette smoke molecules from all the years of smoking.

Start by sprinkling baking soda over the carpet or rug, wait for 10 minutes, and vacuum the carpet intensely for up to 30 minutes. Then, spray a light mist of one part of white vinegar mixed with two parts of water onto the carpet or rug. If the odor persists, unfortunately, it’s probably time to say goodbye to your carpet. If the carpet isn’t replaceable, you may need to hire a professional carpet cleaner to take care of it.


3. Repaint the Apartment

Repaint the unit. If the walls and ceilings are stained, you still have to wash them first to get the paint to stick better. Even if there are no visible stains, cigarette residue sticks to every surface.

4. Swap out the lightbulbs and hang up some charcoal

Believe it or not, the lightbulbs in your apartment have probably also absorbed cigarette odors. That means whenever you flick the switch to turn on the lights, nicotine residue will float through the room — the same way scents or essential oil diffusers do.

You might also want to hang a few bags of activated charcoal — they’re available in home improvement stores — all around your apartment. The carbon molecules in charcoal trap stale smoke and can freshen up the area.

Step Four: Repaint

After removing all the tar and cigarette build-up from the walls, you are ready to repaint. You have also cleaned the walls and deglossed any eggshell or satin enamel. This will ensure that any regular paint will bond firmly. There is no need for odor-blocking paint.

Cosmetic considerations may lead you to prime the walls first, for instance, if you are switching from a dark color to a light color. Some new paints claim to mix color and primer in one. After deglossing, there may be nothing special left to be done with the walls or ceiling. Just read the label and paint however you normally would, or hire a pro painter. Note that you should not skip the final rinse when washing the walls, above. If you leave TSP residue on the walls, your new paint may dissolve before it bonds.

4. Details Matter: Light Bulbs and Air Filters

Change your light bulbs. Working similarly to scent-diffusers, light bulbs may disperse nicotine residue throughout your rental space the same way once they’re turned on.

Heating and air filters tend to spread smoke odors and residuals around the living area; your best bet is to replace them altogether.

Step Two: Duct-work and Heating

If you have central air, hire a duct cleaning company to get in there. Change your filters.

If you have forced hot water, it is not necessary to clean the fins inside. Just wash the baseboard surface. Yes, the fins will have residue on them, but no, you won’t notice after all else is done.

If you have a ductless mini-split, let us know what works. These are new, and we aren’t sure whether or how to clean these after a smoker. Since the interior components have plastic, it’s conceivable that they will be yellowed or otherwise permanently odored. They may have to be replaced.

Don’t want to use chemicals? Here’s how to get smoke smell out of your house naturally

If you’re concerned about toxic or harsh chemicals that may be in some cleaning products, there are several naturally-derived things you can do. Place activated charcoal, apple cider vinegar, or white vinegar in a bowl in each room. If you are a coffee lover, you could also use coffee grounds. All these substances can help to absorb odors in a non-invasive way.

You can also mask the smoke smell with vanilla extract. Use a cloth to wipe it over different surfaces in the home, or put some on cotton balls. You can also do the same with essential oils or use scented candles to get rid of the smell. House plants are also excellent at absorbing chemicals and purifying the air. Buy some and place them throughout the house.

Use odor-absorbing substances

There are many natural materials you can use to remove the odor from your new home. The InterNACHI suggested using things like orange peels, coffee grounds and bowls of vinegar to neutralize the offensive smell of remaining cigarette smoke. If there were any couches or chairs left over from the previous tenant and you'd like to keep them, try sprinkling some baking soda over it and vacuuming it up. Just be sure to test the substance on the opposite side of a cushion to make sure that it doesn't bleach the fabric.

How to get rid of the cigarette smell in your apartment

If the smoke issue is minor upon move-in, or if you’re cleaning up an apartment you already live in, there are several ways of removing the smoke smell. However, it isn’t enough to simply mask the smoke odor. You have to deep clean every single surface, absorb and neutralize the smell and purify your home atmosphere to really eliminate cigarette odor.

Here’s how to get rid of the smoke smell in your apartment.

1. Throw away the source of the smell

To get rid of the cigarette odor in your apartment

To get rid of the cigarette odor in your apartment, first, toss out all the smoking materials. Then, clean out everything they’ve touched and anything you don’t want to keep.

  1. Put the contents of ashtrays into a garbage bag. Make sure you wet the remnants down first to eliminate fire risk.
  2. Tie up the garbage bag and remove it from the apartment.
  3. Throw away unsmoked cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco. If you just kicked the habit, you don’t need any additional temptation. Plus, keeping extras on hand will just encourage guests to smoke, so you’ll have to clean all over again.
  4. Toss out anything that’s too damaged by secondhand smoke to salvage, or that you don’t want to commit time to clean. Such items include cloth furniture from a smoking area, ashtrays or porous items like magazines, newspapers and cardboard boxes that really absorb and retain the smell.
  5. Set aside garbage cans for cleaning.

Once the materials are trashed, the rental unit is one step closer to being delightfully smoke-free.

2. Increase airflow

Air circulation is so critical to eliminate smoke

Air circulation is so critical to eliminate smoke smells. So, get the air in your rental property moving to eliminate that nasty stale air once and for all!

  1. First, open all the windows to help the airflow all around the rental unit. This encourages cross ventilation. Leave doors open, as well!
  2. Next, place portable box fans in the windows of the smokiest rooms. Make sure the blades are blowing out, pulling the smell outdoors.
  3. Run the portable fans for a full day, if possible. If it’s too cold, try for an hour or two at a time. Repeat as needed for a few days.

This simple step is key to getting the rental property to smell fresh again. You know, like somewhere you’d actually want to lay your head at night.

3. Sprinkle and steam

If an item is not hand or machine washable, try sp

If an item is not hand or machine washable, try sprinkling baking soda, coupled with a deep steam cleaning. It’s a simple, but effective way to bid adieu to that nasty smell. Follow these easy steps:

  1. Sprinkle baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in a thin layer on rugs, carpets, mattresses and sofas and anything else that can’t easily be laundered. The molecules in this great natural cleaner bind to odors, neutralizing them.
  2. Let it sit for several hours (or even a full day) when there’s no foot traffic. If possible, let it sit overnight!
  3. Vacuum up any residue.
  4. Repeat the process if the odor persists.
  5. Then, steam clean carpets and upholstered furniture if the label says it’s safe to do so. You can rent a cleaner or purchase your own at a big box store.

This should go a long way to eliminate the smoky smell. It’s even a good idea every once in a while for any type of odor!

4. Wash what you can

A cycle through the washing machine is a quick and

A cycle through the washing machine is a quick and easy way to eliminate odors. Be sure to check labels to make sure everything is machine washable. You don’t want to mess up that wool blanket or cashmere throw!

  1. Launder all clothing that’s been exposed to smoke. Use a deodorizing laundry detergent for best results. An extra rinse goes a long way to remove odors permanently. Dry as directed. Whenever possible, take that extra step and hang it out to air dry!
  2. Then, move on to bedding. Wash everything, from covers and sheets to mattress pads, bed skirts and pillows.
  3. In the rest of the unit, don’t forget to launder decorative items like tablecloths, pillow covers and washable couch cushion covers.
  4. Dry items outdoors, if possible. The sun’s UV rays break down odor-causing compounds, so a little sunshine will help.

Of course, some items might be too large to machine wash at home, so they might need to be sent out to a dry cleaner or another expert. Area rugs, in particular, may need the expertise of a rug doctor to get the job done.

5. Scrub all the hard surfaces

After you've cleaned or discarded clothing, textil

After you’ve cleaned or discarded clothing, textiles and other soft items, move on to surfaces like walls, counters, hard floors and wood floors. Don’t forget about ceilings, windows, window sills and light switch covers! The smoke residue will be sticky, so you’ll have to scrub with a clean cloth to get the job done.

You can make your own natural cleaners or purchase cleaners at the local home improvement or hardware store. Leave heavy-duty options like sodium phosphate to your landlord or the pros they hire, since it can damage paint, metal and wood finishes. Here are a few of the most popular natural options you can make at home.


Vinegar is a very effective smoke residue remover. Fill a bucket or spray bottle with a solution made of two-thirds distilled white vinegar and one-third water. This will effectively clean most surfaces, and is especially effective to achieve clean windows.

  1. Spray walls, floors and counters with the water and white vinegar solution.
  2. Wipe clean with a sponge or soft, clean rag, rinsing frequently.
  3. To wash windows, use a 50-50 water and vinegar mix and wipe with a newspaper or lint-free cloth until it shines.


For tougher stains and residue, try an ammonia solution. Just take care to make sure the mixture isn’t too concentrated. Never combine it with bleach or cleaners that contain bleach. Doing so can result in toxic fumes that cause headaches and seizures.

  1. For counters and floors add a tablespoon of ammonia for every cup of water.
  2. Wear protective gloves and open the windows for additional ventilation.
  3. Test in an inconspicuous place before applying to surfaces.
  4. To protect painted walls, reduce the concentration to 1/4 cup of anomia per gallon of warm water.
  5. Let it sit on surfaces or walls for a few minutes, then wipe it off with a clean sponge or rag.
  6. Follow with a final rinse of warm water.

These common household cleaners are rock stars at getting rid of heavy smoker handiwork.

6. Improve ventilation

To get rid of the cigarette smell in your apartmen

To get rid of the cigarette smell in your apartment, you need to clean every space, no matter how small. That especially includes the spaces that circulate air through your home. Pro tip: Turn off the power before you start disassembling.

  1. Put in a maintenance request for a clean furnace filter.
  2. Vacuum out the ducts so polluted dust doesn’t move through the ducts into the rest of the apartment.
  3. Scrub the central air vent covers and registers to remove dirt and grime.
  4. Wipe down the vents in AC units.
  5. Clean all fan blades, fixtures and light bulbs on ceiling fans.
  6. Gently remove vent covers on the microwave and range top in the kitchen.
  7. Vacuum or dust inside.
  8. Wash the fan covers with soap and water.
  9. Put in a maintenance request to clean out exhaust fans in the bathroom, as well. This is a little more complicated, so your landlord may prefer you let the pros handle it.

It sounds like a lot of work, but it really is doable in just a few hours start to finish, and will make such a big difference in the long run.

7. Clean overlooked items

Once you've tackled the big items like furniture,

Once you’ve tackled the big items like furniture, carpets, walls and counters, it’s time to think about smoke particles on small surfaces. Make sure you’ve scrubbed all surfaces, even the overlooked ones.

  1. Look high and low. The tops of kitchen counters and baseboards are dust magnets. Don’t forget door frames!
  2. Wipe down little things like lamp bases, towel racks and window blinds to eliminate nasty surface odor.
  3. Place un-washable items outdoors in the sun (or by the window) to let the UV rays neutralize the smell.
  4. Put a cup of baking soda in a garbage bag with any items you can’t wash, like books or important papers. Let them sit in a sealed bag for a day, or better yet, dry overnight. Then, shake off the powder.

8. Neutralize smoke odor

As we've already learned, baking soda and vinegar

As we’ve already learned, baking soda and vinegar can effectively get rid of cigarette smoke smell. But activated charcoal works, too! Use all three to help neutralize stale cigarette smells in your apartment.

  1. Place bowls of baking soda around the room to absorb the odors in particularly pungent areas. They’ll eventually reach a saturation point, so you may have to rotate fresh bowls in. Kitty litter is another effective tool!
  2. Boil a pot of vinegar on the stove for a few hours to neutralize stale cigarette smoke. Don’t worry, the vinegar smell will fade in time.
  3. Purchase small bags of activated charcoal at home improvement and hardware stores and set them around the apartment.

Now, kick back and let these natural deodorizers do their thing! Add in an essential oil diffuser or simmer some lemon peels or orange peels on the stove to go the extra mile at removing odors.

9. Use an air purifier

Once you've removed or neutralized the odors and c

Once you’ve removed or neutralized the odors and cleaned the surfaces as well as you can, turn your attention to the air itself. A purifier that meets HEPA standards will filter out 99.97 percent of larger particulates like many of those found in cigarette smoke.

  1. Set up at least one air purifier with approved HEPA air filters. Check the model to see how many square feet it can handle.
  2. The most effective options also have an activated charcoal filter to filter out smaller particles, as well.
  3. Change the filters as recommended.

Air purifiers also help to clean disgusting bacteria, viruses, allergens and other harmful stuff.

8. Run an Essential Oil Diffuser

Set up essential oil diffusers in every room or boil potpourri on the stove to refresh the apartment.

Things You Will Need

  • Fans

  • Air purifier

  • Baking soda

  • Vacuum

  • Carpet steam cleaner

  • Essential oils

  • White vinegar

  • Warm water

  • Sponge

  • Bucket

  • Paint

  • Potpourri


Always tell guests or tenants in the apartment to smoke outside.

Mass Landlords also suggests hiring a duct cleaner if you have central air. Have the filters changed.

Warning You may need to call a cleaning professional if the smoky smell does not come out of your carpet or furniture.


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