Maybe you never thought to ask your tenants if they were smokers. Maybe you could tell that they smoked cigarettes but assumed they would be courteous enough to do it outdoors. Whatever happened, your rental now reeks of cigarette smoke, even months after the tenants have moved out. The smell is pervasive and it’s hard to tell what area(s) you should target first.
The odor infecting your rental is known as thirdhand smoke—the residual contamination left behind from use of tobacco products like cigarettes and cigars. The smell/presence of thirdhand smoke isn’t merely unpleasant, it’s harmful to the health of all future residents.
Thirdhand smoke indicates the presence of tobacco toxins, which stick to ceilings and walls and gets absorbed by carpets, drapes, and other surfaces. Thirdhand smoke is especially harmful to those with asthma or allergies, contributing to asthma attacks and allergic reactions.
So how do you get rid of that cigarette smell?
Form a plan of attack and take it one step at a time.
Air out your rental.
To begin with, you need to air out your rental unit. Open all of the windows and blinds (or curtains). Then use fans on opposite sides of the rental property, one facing out and one facing in, to push out stale air and draw in fresh air. Turn on any ceiling fans you may have available to help out.
You might also consider purchasing a cigarette smoke air purifier to help expedite the odor removal process. If any of your property’s rooms feel particularly damp, a dehumidifier will aid in extracting any odors trapped in the moisture. Having your air ducts professionally cleaned will also be a major help in getting your rental property a smoke-free scent.
Start at the top.
Wash the ceilings with the cleaner of your choice. Smooth ceilings can be wiped down with a washcloth while popcorn ceilings can be misted with a spray bottle of cleaning solution. Be sure to sanitize the tops of the ceiling fans as well.
From the windows to the walls.
Thoroughly clean all of the windows, window coverings (blinds, curtains, etc.), and walls next. If the smell lingers for a while after cleaning your windows and walls, consider replacing your window coverings and repainting your walls and ceiling.
An effective way to get the smoke smell out of your carpets and rugs is to sprinkle baking soda over the affected areas. Let the baking soda sit for 30 minutes to one hour before vacuuming. If the cigarette odor persists, consider renting a carpet cleaning machine, hiring professional carpet cleaners, or replacing your carpeting altogether.
Mop the floors.
Once you get your carpeting squared away, tackle the hardwoods and tile. Sweep the flooring before you mop the area with your choice of disinfectant. Regularly swapping out the water in the bucket for freshness while you’re mopping will ensure that you aren’t simply spreading the thirdhand smoke around.
Clean the counters and cabinets.
Cigarette smell even gets trapped on counters as well as the interior and exterior of cabinets! Wipe down all cabinets and counters with cleaning solution. Then, leave the cabinets and drawers open to air out and dry.
If the smoke odor lingers after you’ve cleaned everything, try keeping bowls of dry coffee grounds or white vinegar in the offending cabinets or drawers for a few days to get rid of the cigarette smell.
As offensive as strong cigarette odors can be, everything is not lost if your rental property currently has a lingering smoke smell. To prevent this predicament from happening again, consider advertising your rental property as a smoke-free unit or building in the future. Think about installing a cigarette smoke detector as well. According to a 2013 survey, smoking in the home can reduce property resale value by nearly 30 percent.