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How to Get Rid of Cigarette Smell In a Rental Property

February 13, 2023
Are you trying to figure out how to remove cigarette odors from your rental property? Continue for the best smoke smell removal techniques and what to do next.

Can’t figure out how to get rid of the cigarette smell in your rental property?

Nicotine odors are challenging to deal with and can seep into every corner of your rental, but there are several options to get rid of them before new tenants move in. Although there's no cigarette smoke eliminator to resolve the problem magically, you can remove or reduce the odor with these tips.

Ventilate the Property

Open your windows and doors to start ventilating your property to air cigarette odor out of your apartment. Turning on fans can also help get the air flowing!

Clean the Carpet

Carpets tend to hold onto old cigarette odors and quickly trap the smell. Invest in high-quality cleaners to work on the scent and vacuum the corners. Consider hiring a carpet cleaning company if the DIY approach fails to eliminate the smell.

Clean the Walls

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It's easy to overlook cleaning the walls of your rental property, though the lingering cigarette smell could be because they’re so dirty. Here are two mixtures to try:

  • Mix up 1 cup of ammonia per gallon of water


  • Mix an equal volume of vinegar and water

Once you've mixed up your cleansing solution, spray it directly onto your walls and ceiling and wipe it down gently with a dry, clean rag.

Spray Vamoose

Vamoose is a specialized odor remover that helps remove smoke from your rental homes, apartments, cars, or wherever odors are lingering. The first step is cleaning your apartment, vacuuming your carpet, and removing the trash to reduce the smell.

Next, follow the directions on the bottle to spray over the surfaces of your home and walls, ceilings, and furniture.

After you apply Vamoose, turn on the air conditioner for about an hour to dry the solution. On a warm day, try opening the windows to let in some fresh air. If your previous tenants were heavy smokers, you can repeat the process several times until you notice an improvement.

Repaint the Apartment

If you have a light cigarette smell in your rental, cleaning and painting your walls can help camouflage the scent and any stains. However, if your tenants were heavy smokers, the smell may still permeate through the paint.

Before painting, clean your walls thoroughly and apply a primer, as it can help seal in the odor and cover the smell, leaving no trace of cigarette odor behind.

Clean the Ceiling

You can also clean the ceiling of your rental with ammonia and water or vinegar and water. Spray on your solution and wipe down with a damp rag. To make this process easier, you can attach a rag or towel to a Swiffer or similar product to reach inaccessible portions of your ceiling.

Deodorize Walls and Window Coverings

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After cleaning your walls, you should deodorize them along with any window coverings using ammonia and water or vinegar and water. You can spray your solution onto your window coverings. However, if they're fabric, try washing them first. Remember to read the care instructions on your window coverings first and air them out in the sun when you’re done.

Deep Clean Carpet Rugs

If you have area rugs or loose carpets around your rental property, ensure they get a deep clean or take them to a professional if they require more care than you can provide. Vacuum up any debris and use a generous amount of carpet or fabric cleaner. You may be able to throw your carpet or rug in your washing machine and air dry them, depending on the care instructions.

Wash Hardwood Floors

If you can't figure out where your cigarette smell is coming from, it could be your hardwood floors. Tacky, sticky, or discolored floors are often an indicator of smoke residue. Try washing all your floors with pH-neutral soap and warm water in a bucket, mop the surface, and then let it dry.

Refresh Cabinets and Other Permanent Furniture

Cigarette odors find their way to cabinets and furniture, so make sure to give them a refresh. Sprinkle baking soda over your upholstery and any fabric, and let it sit overnight before vacuuming it away.

Wipe down your cabinets and furniture with a one-to-one vinegar and water solution. Wipe down all surfaces inside and out, and remember to clean the top of your cabinets.

Swap Out Light Bulbs

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Believe it or not, light bulbs can hide stubborn nicotine and smoke residue. The bulbs can disperse the cigarette smell like a diffuser when the apartment lights are on. Swap out your lightbulbs and lightly wipe down any fixtures to eliminate any traces of smoke.

Schedule HVAC Services

When your tenants move out, scheduling HVAC services is usually wise but is also essential in getting rid of old cigarette smells. Condenser coils can absorb cigarette smoke odors and release them over time. Try changing the filter. An HVAC specialist can help clean and remove the smell if that doesn't work.

Check Entryways and Hallways

Cigarette odors in your rental don't just turn off new tenants from the apartment; they also notice it permeating the entryways and hallways. Address smells in your common areas and wash down the floors, walls, and ceilings. Remember to swap out any hallway light bulbs and wipe down any fixtures.

Avoid “Quick Fixes”

You can do plenty of things to remove cigarette smoke, but don’t waste your time with quick fixes. For example, spraying a bottle of air freshener will temporarily make your place smell better, but new tenants will quickly figure out the odor is a permanent problem and start complaining.

Hire a Carpet Cleaning Company

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If all else fails in your quest to remove the smoke smell from your house or apartment, you need a carpet cleaning company. Their commercial-grade cleaning solutions and equipment can address the problem better than a DIY approach. They can also assess your furniture and other fabric surfaces and whether or not they can clean them.

How to Prohibit Smoking In Your Rental

As a landlord, you can outright prohibit or restrict smoking in your rental properties. For example, you can make no-smoking a universal policy in your leases or designate areas like courtyards as a smoking zone.

However, there is a catch. You can't just tell an existing tenant not to smoke or decide to change the rules in the middle of their lease. The specific rules about smoking should be clearly defined in the lease before new tenants sign.

But let's say a tenant who smokes a lot moves out after their lease is up. You can ask the rest of your tenants to agree to a no-smoking policy, but you'll need to get it in writing and amend the lease. They may be thrilled by the change if they don't smoke.

Final Thoughts

It can feel overwhelming trying to eliminate cigarette smell in an apartment, but it can be done. Approach the problem like a pro and give it everything you have, from washing down the ceiling to changing out the light bulbs. With a combination of a DIY approach and help from the pros, you'll have your rental ready for new tenants and your next rental inspection in no time.

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Susan Finch
Susan is an accomplished freelance writer whose passion for rental real estate, travel, and digital marketing has been the driving force behind her nearly 15-year career. Throughout her professional journey, Susan has become a seasoned veteran in creating compelling and informative content focused on the tenant/landlord relationship. Read More
Tristian Brown
Tristian Brown is a Senior Content Marketing Associate at Apartment List, where he manages high-quality content that helps modern renters find the perfect home. He brings an immense wealth of knowledge to the team, having earned a Bachelor of Arts in Marketing and European Management from the University of San Diego and EM Strasbourg Business School. Read More
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