How to Get Rid of Cigarette Smell in an Apartment

Evelyn Long

Apr 13, 2023

how to get rid of cigarette smell in apartment

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The strong smell of cigarettes is pungent enough even in a full-sized house, but it can be truly overpowering in an apartment. Is it possible to banish that lingering odor if you’ve stopped smoking and want a fresh start or need to clean up after someone else? Here’s how to get rid of cigarette smell in an apartment.

Eliminating Cigarette Stench

Secondhand smoke exposure increases a person’s risk of coronary heart disease and stroke by up to 30%, causing around 34,000 premature deaths yearly in the U.S. alone. To banish cigarette smoke from an apartment, you’ll have to take a multifaceted approach. 

1. Increase Airflow

The first step? Open all the windows and doors. Turn on a fan or air conditioner to create a cross breeze and help flush out the smoke. You can even rent a large industrial fan to help blow the smell out of the apartment. 

2. Use an Air Purifier

Run an air purifier to filter out any lingering cigarette odors and smoke particles. A high-efficiency particulate absorbing (HEPA) filter can be up to 99.9% efficient at removing floating particles from the air. You may even want to rent a fume extractor fan, which is a portable, industrial air filter that helps remove odors after a fire. Change out the internal filters frequently to prevent the smoke smell from spreading. 

3. Throw Away All Cigarettes

This goes without saying, but removing all cigarettes from the apartment is crucial for banishing the smell. There’s no way to smoke indoors without the whole place smelling like cigarettes. Empty out ashtrays, look for cigarette butts on the floor and take out the trash. Thoroughly wash all garbage cans and ashtrays that used to contain cigarettes. 

4. Clean the Walls and Ceiling

As cigarette smoke rises, it infiltrates the house itself. Start by vacuuming the walls and ceiling or dusting them with a long-handled feather duster or cloth on a stick. 

Then, use a 1:1 ratio of hot water and white vinegar to scrub them thoroughly. Start at the top and work your way down. To tackle the ceilings, it may be easiest to use a Swiffer mop or long-handled sponge, washing or replacing it as it gets dirty. 

5. Clean the Floors

Use the 1:1 white vinegar and water solution to clean all hard floors. After they dry, go back over them with a mop, hot water and cleaner of your choice. 

Use a HEPA-filter-equipped vacuum to clean the carpets. Then, deep-clean them with a steam cleaner filled with hot water and vinegar. Getting rid of cigarette smells in the carpet is notoriously tough. If the odor is strong enough, you may even need to replace some or all of the carpeting. 

6. Clean the Cabinets and Counters

The tiny particles in cigarette smoke cling to everything in the apartment, and cabinets and countertops are no exception. Remove all the dishes from the kitchen cabinets and wipe down every hard surface, inside and out. Thoroughly wash the dishes before putting them back in the cabinets. 

Remove all medicine bottles, toiletries and personal grooming products from the bathroom cabinets. Vacuum out the cabinets and wipe them down thoroughly. Deep clean any hairbrushes and combs or replace them entirely. Throw away or recycle anything you can’t clean, such as toilet paper, which will hold onto lingering cigarette smells. 

7. Wash All Linens

Curtains, bedding and clothes soak up the odors in your apartment. Wash every linen in the hottest water it can withstand, including:

  • Hand towels and body towels
  • Washcloths
  • Curtains
  • Tablecloths
  • Sheets
  • Comforters
  • Pillowcases
  • Clothing
  • Mattress covers
  • Cloth tapestries
  • Couch covers

8. Clean Overlooked Items

Books are an oft-overlooked item that holds onto cigarette odor. This step may be tedious with an extensive library, but you can place dryer sheets between the pages and seal the books in a plastic bag for several days. 

Another technique is to place the books inside a large plastic tub with unscented kitty litter, cedar shavings or baking soda. This method can help get rid of the cigarette smell in an apartment.  Otherwise, the easiest step may be to simply recycle your book collection and start fresh. 

You’ll also need to clean the framed photos on the walls, pens and pencils, knickknacks on the shelves, televisions, microwaves and furniture. Empty the soil from any potted plants, wash the containers and repot the plants. Replace the light bulbs. Clean or replace light switch plate covers and outlet covers. 

Replace plastic shower curtain liners and launder any cloth shower curtains. Clean the mirrors and windows. Wipe down the inside of the washer, dryer, fridge and oven. Remove and replace the vacuum filter if you vacuumed the carpets. Wipe down the inside of the vacuum so it doesn’t continue to spread cigarette odor. Thoroughly clean or replace window blinds. 

9. Repaint the Apartment

Because cigarette smoke can embed itself in the walls, you may need to repaint even after washing all the surfaces. Start by coating the walls with an oil-based, stain-blocking primer to seal in the odors. Then, use an odor-reducing paint to help absorb additional smells. 

10. Replace HVAC Filters

The particles from cigarette smoke get trapped inside heating and cooling ducts, so it’s essential to change the air filter in the apartment. You may not be able to do this yourself if you’re renting the space. If you need help changing the HVAC filter, call your landlord and put in a maintenance request.

11. Cover It Up

Despite your efforts to remove all traces of smoke, the apartment might still have a faint remnant of cigarette odor. To help mask the smell, you can burn candles, spray air freshener or use essential oil diffusers. 

Wash your clothes with scented laundry detergent and use dryer sheets. After cleaning the house with vinegar and water, go over it again with nice-smelling cleaning supplies to freshen things further. 

Getting Rid of Cigarette Smell in an Apartment

It’s a long process, but in many cases, you can eliminate cigarette odor from a living space. The most important steps are to stop smoking indoors, remove cigarettes from the premises, improve airflow and quality and wash every surface in the apartment. Over time, the stale smell should eventually go away. 

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