How to Get Rid of a Stale Smoke Smell in a Closed Up House

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Things You'll Need

  • Paint

  • Paint brushes

  • Clean up cloths

  • Paint rolling pan

  • Paint tape

  • Drop cloths

  • Wood cleaner

  • Old t-shirts


Do not try to mask odors with solid air fresheners or plug in units. Nothings says "ick" like stale smoke smells mixed with heavily perfumed room fresheners.

Don't forget that glass and mirrors also retain smoke residue. Clean those thoroughly as well.

Get rid of stale smoke smell.

People leaving a house that smells of stale smoke usually say, "It's nice, but it smells like smoke." Perhaps you have been trying to sell or have purchased a house with this problem. Whether the home is inherited, or a summer home frequently vacant, houses that have been smoked in carry unmistakable odors from cigarette, pipe, or cigar smoke. It is a challenge to remove smoke odors, and although it won't be easy, and may require numerous attempts, there are a few things you can do to get rid of stale smoke smell in a closed-up house.

Step 1

Paint away old smells.

Paint the interior of the house, including ceilings and baseboards with a paint specifically designed to mask odors, such as Kilz brand primer and paint. Painting the house probably needs to be done anyway, and although it may not solve all problems, it's a start.

Step 2

Clean the wood.

Apply wood cleaner, not wood polish, to all cabinetry and wall paneling using an old t-shirt.

Step 3

Carpet holds onto odors.

Replace carpeting. It is guaranteed that detectable odors are permanently attached to carpet fibers. This is an expensive option, but just cleaning carpet won't do the trick. Even professional carpet cleaning is, unfortunately, unreliable in this regard.

Step 4

Replace air filters.

Clean air ducts and change furnace/air conditioner filters. A professional service will have to clean the ducts, but a filter change can be done by the homeowner. Consider purchasing a scented furnace/air conditioner filter. There are several brands available in scents from fresh linen to cinnamon.

Step 5

Get the breeze going.

Open windows and doors, preferably all at once. Open them frequently and open them wide to get a cross breeze going. The windier the day, the better. In conjunction with above methods, this is one of the best ways to ride a house of smoke smells. There is something about fresh air that nothing else can duplicate.

references & resources

Karen Nehama

Karen Nehama is a former chef and restaurant manager, currently serving as editor of a food review and recipe website. With expertise as a youth adviser, she is also a consultant for a teen advice column.