Repainting ceilings and walls is one method that can be used to alleviate the smell of cigarette smoke in a home.
Photo by Alex Szwarc
METRO DETROIT — From a combination of water and vinegar, to placing activated charcoal around a home, to painting and more, several methods are available to remove the smell of cigarette smoke from a home.
Dave Boni, owner of Squeaky’s Home Cleaning in Berkley, said that while his company doesn’t deal too much with combating smoke odors, he knows it’s not pleasant work.
“It’s really tough to get smoke smell out and requires throwing things away more than it does repairing or cleaning things,” he said. “It takes a lot of washing of every nonporous surface, so painted walls, floors or any kind of tile in the home. Anything porous, like unfinished woods and furniture and drapes, you typically have to throw out.”
Boni has heard of homeowners having success with ozone generators, which he’s used a few times.
“You have to be careful with ozone because it can irritate the lungs, so you can’t be in the home when using an ozone generator,” he said.
Boni notes that carpet cleaning machines come in handy to clean upholstery and porous surfaces.
In regard to what methods or products folks should steer away from, he noted odor bombs, which are typically used for cars. Odor bombs work as a fogger, filling a space with fragrance.
From a real estate agent’s perspective, a study from realtor.com states that smoking in a home can reduce that property’s resale value by up to 29%.
Realtor Joy Rochlitz, of Realty Executives Home Towne in Shelby Township, said some buyers are sensitive to smell and some have an idea ahead of time of how much work they are willing to put into a house to make it livable to their standards.
“I think you can always get rid of the smoke smell — it’s just a matter of, are you willing to put in the effort,” she said. “In this seller’s market. I wouldn’t want to deter someone from a very fixable problem. There’s always a way to fix it, and it doesn’t have to be an expensive way.”
Rochlitz notes that home sellers aren’t required to disclose that someone smoked inside a home.
“If they have smoked, it’s very hard to hide unless you’ve done extensive work to get rid of the smell,” she said.
As an agent for homebuyers, Rochlitz said negotiating the selling price based on how bad the home smells of smoke can depend on how hot the home selling market is.
“Right now, it’s very hot because of our lack of inventory,” she commented. “In a hot seller’s market, you won’t have the advantage as a buyer.”
Rochlitz recommends cleaning methods and products like vinegar and baking soda as good odor absorbers. She said people can add water to vinegar and use it in a spray bottle, or simply open boxes of baking soda and place the boxes around the house.
“A lot of people don’t know about activated charcoal, which you can buy at pet stores,” she said. “You can buy it in powder form.”
Activated charcoal is commonly used to filter contaminants from water and air. Rochlitz also recommends placing the activated charcoal around the residence in bowls in areas that smell.
“Sometimes, a good cleaning is all you need,” Rochlitz said. “Some people say they’ve had success with different essential oils. You can use that or mix it with water and spray it.”
She notes that it’s important to be thorough when cleaning.
“The worse the smell is, the more thorough you need to be,” she said. “If it’s a severe smell, you can clean the blinds themselves, but the smoke gets into everything; like, the strings that operate the blinds can be permeated with the smoke smell. If it’s not a big expense, you can always replace window treatments.”
Rochlitz has been in the real estate business for 18 years and said she hasn’t run into interior smoke smell as being a big problem.
“You find it now and then, and when you do, it’s one of those things you’ll add to your list of what you need to do to get the house in the shape you want it to be in,” she said.
Rochlitz added that home items, like chairs and furniture, can be placed outside for a little bit because sunshine and fresh air will help alleviate the smell.