Apartment List Blog
Rental Management
Share this Article

12 Ways to Get Rid of Cigarette Smell in Your Apartment Unit

June 1, 2022

We've all been there. You're inspecting your rental property for future tenants, and all of a sudden, you get an overwhelming whiff of cigarette odor. Regardless of whether you knew about your previous tenant's smoking habits, you've got to do something and fast. _The smell of cigarette smoke can linger long after the cigarettes have been snuffed. In fact, carpets, furniture, cabinets, and even walls can harbor the stench for _months.

Don't panic; we're here to help and get rid of the cigarette smell in the apartment once and for all:

1. Air the Unit Out

Start refreshing your unit by opening up the curtains and windows in every room. Turn on any ceiling fans and set up an air purifier to help. It's also worth investing in some fans and placing them in areas with poor airflow at the front door to keep everything circulating.

Airing out the apartment might work for a very light cigarette smell, but you need a bigger strategy. The upside is keeping the unit aired out will help along the process and reduce any overwhelming odors from cleaners you use.

2. Clean the Ceiling

Smoke rises and could create a yellow discoloration on your ceilings. It's essential to wash your ceilings as thoroughly as possible to deodorize and disinfect everything. Even if you plan to repaint the ceiling, it still helps clean its surface thoroughly.

Try a cup of warm water, a few drops of dish detergent, and two tablespoons of white vinegar in a spray bottle. If your ceiling was just painted, skip the vinegar as the acidity could damage the appearance. A high-reach cleaning kit with a long extension also helps reduce the need for a ladder.

3. Deodorize Walls and Window Coverings

Your walls and window coverings give clues to how to get rid of cigarette smell in an apartment. They quickly absorb odors from top to bottom. Use the same process as your ceiling to wash down your walls. Skip the vinegar or ammonia that could damage your paint.

Window coverings should also be deep cleaned or sent to a professional dry cleaner. Depending on the price of your window coverings, replacing them altogether may be more cost-effective and reduce the cigarette smell.

4. Clean the Carpets and Rugs

Carpets and rugs are difficult to clean thoroughly and eliminate pesky nicotine smells. Try opening some baking soda and leaving bowls of charcoal in each room to help reduce the smell. Granulated dry carpet cleaners usually work to remove cigarette smells. Sprinkle it on the carpet, let it sit for at least 20-minutes, and then vacuum.

If that process fails, you'll need a steam cleaner or professional to come in and get the carpets as clean as possible. You may also need to replace the carpets and rugs altogether. Make sure to do a deep clean of the flooring underneath before putting down anything new.

5. Wash Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors quickly soak up odors and trap smoke smells. Dust and sweep your floors thoroughly and mix up 4 cups of warm water and a few drops of castile soap or dish soap. Grab a microfiber flat-head or old-fashioned string mop to start cleaning your surfaces.

Adding an area rug could help in problematic areas. Or you could consider carpeting the apartment for the next renters.

6. Repaint the Walls

If you can't sufficiently deodorize your walls, priming and repainting them makes a significant impact on removing cigarette smell. Consider choosing paint that can be washed down quickly and without damage. If another tenant smokes or has smelly pets, your walls will be easier to wash.

Remember to include your trim and floorboards on your painting to-do list. Make sure to dust and wash them down first.

7. Refresh Cabinets and Other Permanent Furniture

Your cabinets and any permanent furniture will likely absorb nicotine and other odors. Replace what you can or touch up the surfaces with fresh paint. If you have padded bar stools, it's also essential to recover the fabric or try steam cleaning them.

Placing shelf liners will also help reduce the smell and make the property easier to clean the next time someone moves out.

8. Swap Out the Light Bulbs

Believe it or not, light bulbs and fixtures also trap nicotine odors. Just like scented and diffusing bulbs can diffuse smell, they can also absorb it.

Replace all of your light bulbs and wipe out the outlets with a dry cloth to remove any dust. You can also take a damp cloth and wipe down any light fixtures.

9. Schedule HVAC Service

Your heating and cooling systems and filters are probably circulating cigarette smell through your apartment property—schedule service to get everything in working order and reduce the smell of nicotine at the same time.

Wiping down the vents with a damp cloth can also help remove any dust with smoke smells attached.

10. Check the Entryways and Hallways

It's possible your tenants were also smoking near the front door or in the hallways. Make sure the areas around any entryways are also thoroughly deodorized and cleaned. You may need to repaint the doors or the entire apartment building hallway to remove the cigarette odor entirely.

11. Hire the Experts

These tactics should make a huge difference in getting rid of the cigarette smell in your apartment. But there is a caveat. If you had renters who lived in the unit for years and habitually smoked, you probably need professional-grade help.

Look for reputable companies that specialize in deep cleaning and removing stubborn odors. They have the skills, experience, and professional-grade equipment to tackle your overwhelming cigarette smell.

12. Don't Bother with "Quick Fixes"

Quick fixes like opening windows, spraying your rental with Febreze and calling it a day are ineffective on their own. Use them in combination with the other strategies to remove smoke smell from an apartment on this list.

Whatever you do, don't rely on a quick, simple fix moments before prospective tenants come by to view the apartment. You will likely end up with unhappy renters who feel misled when they realize how much tobacco smell is lingering in the apartment.

Final Thoughts

Consider your lease terms as you move forward with new tenants. You may want to include a no smoking policy in your lease. Prohibiting tenants from smoking on your property will ultimately save you a lot of time and money and make your property much more desirable to future tenants.

Share this Article

Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
Your browser is no longer supported. Not all features may work as intended.