Tips for Removing the Smell of Smoke from a House

Smoke billowing up to smoke detector

The smell of day old clothing after sitting beside a campfire all night with friends or rising odors from burnt food in the oven doesn’t even come close to the pungent odor of smoke embedded deep within the structure of a home. Smoke has more to it than just a foul odor; it contains chemicals that move through the air even after the smoke cloud is long gone. These chemicals permeate materials including fabrics, painted walls, carpets, wood, and more.

Smoke certainly compromises indoor air quality, so whether you’ve located your dream home but discovered that the previous resident was a smoker or you're cleaning up the lingering odor after a small kitchen or electrical fire, know that the problem is fixable with a little hard work!

If you need to remove the smell of smoke from your house, you'll need to:

  • Air out the space 
  • Hand wash walls and ceilings with ammonia or glycol products
  • Clean and deodorize carpets and furniture using baking soda 
  • Wash windows, drapes and blinds with vinegar

Let's look at each of these steps in greater detail below.

Step #1: Refresh the Air

When given the chance, let the fresh air move through the home. Open all the windows/doors and turn on any fans to help blow out the stale air. While this won’t extinguish the smell, it will help the air quality itself. You can also place bowls of white vinegar in every room of the home (keeping it out of reach of children and pets, of course). Vinegar works great against many foul odors, smoke included. Vinegar is an acetic acid that neutralizes alkaline odors and helps create a fresher environment. An air purifier will also help clean the air, but it can be a tedious process as you’ll likely have to do one room at a time.

Step #2: Disinfect Walls & Ceilings

As we all know, smoke rises, so the particles can easily attach themselves to the walls and ceilings. This means that they will require a deep and thorough cleaning in order to eliminate any lasting odors. Take your time and do one room at a time. Use cleaning products that contain ammonia or glycol. Scrubbing down the walls and ceilings will go a long way in removing the smell but if it’s not as successful as you had hoped, your best next option is to apply a fresh coat of paint. If repainting becomes necessary, use a primer that is designed to seal in odors.

Step #3: Clean Flooring & Furniture

Carpets are very absorbent and smoke particles can easily become embedded in the carpet’s fibers. The same goes for furniture. The best way to clean and remove smoke from these absorbent surfaces is through the use of baking soda. Baking soda is capable of standing against the detrimental effects of smoke on carpets and furniture.

Here's how to use baking soda to eliminate smoke odors:

  • Sprinkle baking soda on all furniture fabrics and carpets and allow it to sit for a good length of time, the whole day if possible.
  • After giving the baking soda plenty of time to work its magic, simply vacuum it up! 
  • If the smell continues to linger even after a few rounds of baking soda treatment, it may be time to call the professionals to thoroughly refresh your home.
  • If you are dealing with years of cigarette smoke damage or the effects of a larger house fire, it may even be most beneficial to replace the carpets completely.

As far as the harder surfaces like wood floors or furniture, you can scrub them down with either bleach water or vinegar water. You’ll want to do this a few times to be sure that you’ve removed any lasting film causing the odors to linger.

Step #4: Wash Windows, Drapes & Blinds

Windows are easy enough to clean, but be sure to pay extra attention to the window frames and sills. You can use white vinegar and water to wash any plastic blinds. We recommend actually soaking the blinds in vinegar water before scrubbing them down giving you a little extra bang for all that elbow grease! The window screens will also need a thorough washing which is best done by removing them and placing them in a tub, with water and dish soap which will be gentle on the mesh. Be sure to let the window screens air dry before putting them back on. As far as any drapes, you can simply wash them in hot water adding a little vinegar to the washer before running it.

Cleaning up smoke odors in a home can be a strenuous and exhausting process, but it can be done, leaving you with a fresh smelling, smoke-free home. If the task of removing the smoke yourself is too overwhelming, call AWR Restoration & Cleaning. We’ll send out our professionals who have all the knowledge, skill, and equipment to permanently clear your home of smoke and its lingering effects.

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