When we moved into our new (to us) home we were immediately hit with the smell of smoke. Right now you are probably thinking something along the lines of, well didn’t you look at it before buying? The answer to that is yes, we definitely did. It had an “off” smell to it. I think all of our homes have a different smell though and I attributed it to that. It was summer and all of the windows were on with a bunch of fans going. The house didn’t have air conditioning so we really didn’t think too much of it. By the time we moved in it was October and the house was closed up. Talk about immediate regret! I started researching the best methods to help us tackle the smell. Here are all of the things we did to get the smoke smell out.
This one is pretty obvious but you need to clean the house. Wash the ceilings, the walls, the flooring, and basically any surface you can. We still wanted to keep toxins out of our home so I used Young Living Thieves cleaner for this process. Honestly, it did a great job. It’s been a month and when I go into the one room that they didn’t smoke in it smells wonderful still. I don’t believe that any cleaner would 100% take the smell away so you can choose whichever cleaner you want.
This one is also pretty obvious. The one thing I will highly recommend is that you paint the ceiling. Smoke rises so the ceilings are going to hold a lot of that smell. There was one room that was heavily smoked in, and I was shocked at how yellow the ceiling was once I started applying the paint. Our house wasn’t brown or yellow upon first appearance. It was only when we started to apply paint and clean things that we realized things looked dirty.
There is a specialized paint called Kilz that is designed to cover and hide smells. If your house is bad I would highly recommend using it. They make ceiling paint that we’ve found available at True Value hardwares near us (in Michigan). They also make the Magnolia Home paint that can be found at Ace hardwares in our area. I was highly impressed by the coverage of the paint and how well it applied to our walls. They have a great selection of colors that would apply to any theme you put in your house. It is more expensive than any paint you’ll get at any other home improvement store. We paid approximately $50 per gallon but it was worth it.
Remove Anything Plastic
Plastic absorbs a ton of smells. They are sure to absorb any sort of smoke that was in your home and continue to make your house smell. Our house was full of blinds when we moved in because they are attached and required to be left. They’re expensive to replace but not worth keeping. We removed them all. This also applies to anything else they left in the house. Chairs, baskets, hangers, etc.
Just a note on curtains. If, for some reason, they left curtains you have to get those out right away too. The cloth in them will also absorb a ton of smoke. You can try to wash them but I don’t believe that you’ll ever get them fully clean.
If you’ve done all of the above and you can still smell smoke you may need to use some scent absorbers. Even after cleaning and painting my office it still had a weird smell. I used a small metal pie plate full of kitty litter to absorb the smell. The other option here is to use coffee. Use a pan full of coffee or even just open a can of coffee and set it in that room to take in all of the smell. If you’re okay with candles in your home lighting some of those will probably help too. We opted to try to use more non-toxic options for this.
In the worst case scenario, you may have to remove some flooring. We had to remove one room of carpet in our house. No matter how many times I tried to clean it the smoke smell simply would not come out. We took care of everything else in the room but every time I sat on the couch all I could smell was the smoke in the carpet. While removing it we could definitely tell that it was a main source of the smell in our house. It’s most likely going to depend on how long they smoked in the house and how old the carpet is. Our carpet was pretty old and we could see different stains that showed it’s age.
Other flooring like laminate or vinyl may even absorb the smell. We have tile and some laminate flooring that didn’t seem to be affected. That being said I can’t really speak to how to get the smell out of those. I will say, if you are having a lot of trouble with flooring you can use Kilz on your subfloor too. When we removed the carpet from the living room we painted a layer of Kilz on the floor to make sure we kept the smoke smell at bay. This stuff is extremely smelly and probably filled with a lot of toxins but it was an area we made a compromise to make sure we were okay long term.
There really is no secret to getting smoke out of a house, it’s just a lot of elbow grease to clean really deeply. If you think you found your dream home but it smells like smoke don’t be afraid to try. As long as you are getting it for a decent price so that you can afford to paint, clean, and possibly replace some flooring. Be aware that your costs to move in may be a bit higher to get your house ready for moving in.
Let us know if there are specific things in your house that smell like smoke and you can’t clean, we’d love to help!