How to Get Rid of Cigarette Smell

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LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got William from Texas on the line with a question about cigarette smell.

William, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we help you with today?

WILLIAM: Well, my daughter bought a house. And the person that she bought the house from smokes cigarettes. And the house – when you walk – as soon as you walk in the door, the cigarette smell hits you. And it was basically throughout the house. And we’re in the process of trying to figure out how we’re going to get all that smell out, short of ripping the walls out.

TOM: Does the house have carpet?


TOM: Then it’s probably got to go.


TOM: I mean you can try steam-cleaning it to get rid of the cigarette smell but it gets into the padding and everything else. The least you have to do is steam-clean it.  You can steam clean any upholstery left from the previous owners – not just the carpets. But what you want to do on the walls is you want to paint the walls with a really good primer. And so an oil-based primer or an alkyd-based primer will seal in that odor.

Clean the walls well, use a TSP – trisodium phosphate – to wash them down and then prime the walls. If you don’t prime the walls, the cigarette smell will basically permeate right through the new paint. But if you clean them and you prime them well, that will do a – go a long way towards getting rid of a lot of that odor. That plus removing the carpet or at least steam-cleaning the carpet are the two most important things to do.

LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what? If you do end up removing the carpet, make sure they remove the padding, as well. And if it’s a wood subfloor, you want to paint it again with that same odor-blocking primer because that will do a lot to help with that, as well. And I don’t know if you’ve held on to any of the draperies or any other soft goods from the previous owners. Just get rid of them or really have them cleaned well.

WILLIAM: OK. That will work. I appreciate your answer.

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