The first 4 steps I detail below are inexpensive and should remove the residue from a short-time smoker. The last 2 are more costly, but should do the trick for removing the scent from even long-time smoke exposure.
First things first: open up all the windows in your home and turn on as many fans as you can. This will help to start airing out the home while you do the rest of the cleaning.
Next, gather your supplies. You'll need:
- Vinegar. At least a gallon.
- Baking soda.
- Clean rags/towels. Youíll go through a bunch, so stock up, You can pick up some in the automotive section of your local supermarket or go for microfiber.
- Colander or strainer
- Ozone Machine. This is only for extreme cases.
Step #1: Use Vinegar on Fabrics
If youíve ever gone to a smoky bar, you were probably reminded of your outing the morning after - when you could still smell smoke on your clothes. The same thing applies to the fabrics in your home, which will hold onto any lingering smoke from your rule-breaking guests.
While it might not necessarily be practical, or possible, to remove all the fabric from your home (a couch can be a beast to move to the patio!), do remove all the fabric items you can from the smelly room. This includes any pillows, bedding, blankets, and curtains. If you have a large washing machine, you can throw all these through a cold wash cycle with 2 cups of vinegar added to the load..
See also: How to Use Vinegar to Clean Your Home
Then, whatever you do, do not use high heat to dry them; from my research, the heat seems to reactivate the smoke smell, and even sets it into the fabric. Instead, use a low heat or fluff cycle - or, if you have the ability to line dry them in the sun, that will be even more effective in removing the odor.
For larger, bulkier items, you may need to enlist the help of your local dry cleaner. Bag up all the smelly items and take them to the cleaners, and make sure to let them know that you need help removing the smoke smell, so they can work their professional magic on the items.
This is also helpful for delicate items like curtains and window treatments. Window treatments arenít cheap, so itís better to get professional help than risk shrinking or damaging them in your washer.
Once the fabric items have been washed and the odor has been removed, the last thing you want to do is bring them back into a smoky home. So put them in large garbage bags and store them in an alternate location until you are able to complete the next few steps to remove the odor from the rest of the home.
Quick note: The next 3 steps need to be completed in a relatively quick manner. If you do one without doing the others, the odor will get redistributed around the home. If multiple rooms have been affected by the smoke, work on one room at a time, then do your best to seal the clean room off to prevent the yucky odor from drifting in from other areas.
Step #2: Use Baking Soda on Carpets and Furniture
After youíve removed the majority of small, soft items from the room, you will likely be left with large items like furniture, mattresses, and carpet. For these items, baking soda is going to be your best friend.
Your goal is to sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda on all the soft surfaces in your home. The easiest way I've found to do this is to use a 2-cup liquid measuring cup and a large colander. Fill the measuring cup with baking soda, then carry it to the area you want to sprinkle. Pour some baking soda into the colander, then shake the colander over the carpet or fabric. This will help you disperse it evenly over the surface.
Continue to move around the room until all carpet, fabric, furniture, and mattresses are covered in a layer of baking soda. It should look like you have a thin layer of snow in the room.
Whether itís from cigarettes or a candle, smoke leaves a greasy residue on walls and the ceiling, as it floats through the air and settles on the first hard surface it comes in contact with. The majority of the residue attaches to high areas like the upper half of walls and the ceilings.
Next, let the baking soda work its magic by letting it sit for about 30-60 minutes. During this time, you can help work the baking soda in to the soft surfaces by gently rubbing your hand over the mattress or fabric, or by walking around the carpeted room with socks on your feet.
Try to keep moisture (including dog drool and oils from your feet) from touching the baking soda, as they can create a paste that isnít as easy to remove.
While the baking soda is absorbing odors from the soft surfaces, itís time to clean the hard surfaces.
Step #3: Use Vinegar on Walls
Whether itís from cigarettes or a candle, smoke leaves a greasy residue on walls and the ceiling, as it floats through the air and settles on the first hard surface it comes in contact with.
The majority of the residue attaches to high areas like the upper half of walls and the ceilings, but if there was a significant amount of smoke in the room, it is likely hanging on all the way down the walls - and on the floor, too.
The best thing for removing smoke residue from walls is a vinegar/water mixture. Fill half your bucket with about 75% vinegar and 25% water. If this is too strong for you to smell or touch, you can add a little more water until itís tolerable to work with.
I would also recommend only filling 1/3 or 1/2 your bucket with this mixture at a time. It is going to get dirty very quickly, so I've found itís better to use small amounts of cleaning solution and then change it out often, so you have a clean mixture.
Submerge one rag or towel at a time into the mixture, and squeeze it to remove most, but not all, of the liquid. Starting at the top corner of a wall, wipe down an approximately 3 foot-by-3 foot section of the wall, then rinse your rag and repeat on the next section.
When youíve completed that part of the wall, continue repeating the process around the room until all parts of the wall have been cleaned. If the ceiling of the room is flat, repeat the process across the ceiling, as well.
I've discovered that this step doesnít need to be done meticulously to be effective. The goal here is just to quickly swipe the walls and leave them with a thin layer of the vinegar mixture to absorb the odor.
I've also tried using a spray bottle of the vinegar mixture to do this part, but I would advise against this method. Spraying the vinegar mixture didn't seem to provide the amount of coverage that the damp rag did, and it was fairly irritating to my senses, buring my my eyes and throat after just a couple minutes.
Step #4: Vacuum the Baking Soda (and Repeat?)
If the smoke smell is still present, repeat the baking soda step. Itís likely that any lingering odor is being trapped in the softer materials, so this step may need to be repeated a couple of times.
After you've wiped down the walls - or when you just need a break from the vinegar smell - move on to vacuuming all the baking soda up from around the room. Use the attachments on furniture and mattresses, and use the roller brush to vacuum the carpet.
At this point, once all the baking soda is vacuumed and the walls are wiped, Iíd advise going to get yourself a nice lunch or a cup of coffee. This is not only to treat yourself for a job well done, but also to give your nose a break - so you can evaluate upon your return if the smoke odor has truly been removed from the home.
If itís still present, repeat the baking soda step. Itís likely that any lingering odor is being trapped in the softer materials, so this step may need to be repeated a couple of times. Luckily itís the easiest step to do, and is super cheap!
Hopefully, after a couple turns, the odor will be almost completely removed. Leaving your windows open and letting your exhaust fans run for another day or two should help freshen the space right up, too.