Cigarette smell can permeate your apartment, leaving an unpleasant odor lingering for days, weeks, or even longer. As a property manager (or rental owner), it not only affects the air quality but also creates a negative impression on prospective tenants or potential buyers if you are trying to lease or sell your rental property.

The most surefire way to eliminate cigarette smells in your apartment is typically to either repaint the place with a stain-blocking primer like Kilz Restoration, replace the carpet, use an ozone generator, or a combination of all three. But those are pretty drastic measures, so before we get into that in more detail, let's look at some lighter treatment options first.

Understanding the Sources of Cigarette Odor

To effectively get rid of cigarette smell, it is crucial to identify its sources. 

Smoking indoors, whether it's cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, releases smoke particles into the air, which then cling to various surfaces in your apartment. Those smoke particles are known as thirdhand smoke, which poses a potential health hazard to those who are exposed to it. Continuously smoking indoors results in a buildup of thirdhand smoke, creating a persistent tobacco smoke odor that can be challenging to eliminate.

Initial Steps To Eliminate Cigarette Odor:

If there is a heavy smoke odor in your rental property, you'll need to take a multi-step approach to eliminate the problem; air fresheners usually won't get the job done. Here are a few initial steps you'll want to start before getting into the heavy lifting.

Ventilation: Letting Fresh Air In

One of the first steps to tackle cigarette smell is to introduce fresh air into your apartment. Open windows and use fans to create proper airflow. The increased airflow will help remove stagnant air and bring in fresh outdoor air, reducing the intensity of the odor.

Absorbing Odor: Baking Soda and Activated Charcoal

Baking soda and activated charcoal are excellent odor absorbers that can help neutralize cigarette smell. You can place bowls filled with baking soda or activated charcoal in strategic areas of your rental property, such as where ashtrays were used or in rooms with strong odors. These substances will absorb the odor molecules from the air and reduce the intensity of the smell.

Removing Lingering Smell: Vinegar and Coffee Grounds

Vinegar and coffee grounds are natural deodorizers that effectively tackle any lingering smoke smell. Much like baking soda and activated charcoal, you can also place bowls of white vinegar or coffee grounds in rooms affected by the odor. The vinegar helps neutralize the smell, while coffee grounds can absorb odor. Leave them overnight (or for a few days) to allow them to work their magic.

Air Purification:

Once you have taken the initial steps to reduce the odor in the apartment, next, you'll want to lean on some of the tools that are designed to finish the job. Here are a few things you'll want to consider when battling cigarette smells.

The Role of Air Purifiers

Air purifiers are valuable tools in removing smoke particles and improving the air quality in your apartment. They work by drawing in air and passing it through a filtration system that can capture smoke particles, allergens, and other pollutants. 

Choosing the Right Air Purifier for Smoke Odor

When you select an air purifier for smoke odor removal, consider models with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. HEPA filters are designed to capture small particles, including smoke, effectively. Look for purifiers with activated carbon filters as well, as these are efficient in neutralizing odors.

Proper Placement of Air Purifiers

To maximize the efficiency of your air purifier, place it in a central location within the room. Position it away from walls or furniture to ensure optimal air circulation. If you have multiple rooms affected by cigarette smell, consider using several air purifiers to cover the entire space. 

Maintaining and Changing Filters Regularly

Regular maintenance of your air purifier is crucial to ensure its effectiveness in removing cigarette smells. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for filter replacement and cleaning. 

Typically, HEPA filters should be replaced every six to 12 months, while activated carbon filters may need more frequent replacement. Neglecting filter maintenance will result in reduced air purification performance.

Eliminating Odor from Fabrics:

Eliminating cigarette smoke is similar to removing pet odors, as it permeates fabrics found throughout your entire home, becoming deeply ingrained. You'll want to ensure you've dealt with any residual odors lingering in fabrics and other porous materials throughout the rental. Here are the final steps to restore your rental property to normal, fresh air.

Washing and Dry Cleaning

Fabrics in your apartment, such as curtains, clothing, and bedding, can absorb cigarette smells. If your apartment is a pre-furnished rental, you'll want to pay attention to these items. 

To eliminate the odor, wash fabrics using odor-eliminating detergents. Adding baking soda or white vinegar to the washing machine can boost their deodorizing properties. For delicate fabrics that require dry cleaning, take them to a professional cleaner experienced in odor removal. 

Using Fabric Refreshers and Deodorizers

Fabric refreshers and deodorizers can freshen up fabrics you cannot easily wash. Spray these products onto upholstery, curtains, and carpets to neutralize the bad odor. Look for options designed explicitly for cigarette or smoke smell removal. Ensure proper ventilation after application to allow the product to dry and remove any residual smell.

Steam Cleaning Carpets and Upholstery

For carpets and upholstery that have absorbed cigarette smell, steam cleaning can be highly effective. You can rent (or purchase) a steam cleaning machine. Follow the instructions to deep clean your carpets and upholstery. The heat from the steam will help break down the odor particles and remove them effectively.

Cleaning carpets and upholstery is another scenario where baking soda may be handy. Lightly dust the carpeted areas or upholstery that has a lingering odor. After it has been there for a while and the odors are locked in, vacuum it up before proceeding with the steam cleaning process.

Unfortunately, if the odor has penetrated deep enough into the carpet, or even the carpet padding, you may have to replace it entirely. If that's the case, hopefully, your lease allows you to charge the tenant for the pro-rated cost of the damaged carpet.

Removing Odor from Curtains and Drapes

Curtains and drapes can trap cigarette odor due to their fabric and proximity to windows. Depending on the material, you can usually machine wash or dry clean them. If not, consider giving them a good vacuum using an upholstery attachment to remove loose particles. Alternatively, take down the curtains and drape them outside on a sunny day to air them out.

Additional Tips:

Suppose you have taken every step possible to eliminate cigarette smoke odors in your apartment, and you're still unsatisfied with the results. In that case, you should consider taking more drastic steps, including repainting the entire apartment, using an ozone machine, or consulting a professional odor removal company. Let's look at these last few tips.

Dealing with Lingering Odor in Electronics

Electronics can also retain cigarette smell, especially if someone smoked near or on them. Wipe down the surfaces of electronic devices using a damp cloth with a light cleaning solution. Use compressed air to disperse any smoke particles accumulated in crevices or ventilation openings. 

Remnants of Thirdhand Smoke

Thirdhand smoke, the residual particles that settle on surfaces after smoking, can contribute to persistent odor. You can wipe down surfaces, such as walls, countertops, and furniture, with warm water and mild soap. If that doesn't work, consider incorporating baking soda or vinegar into the cleaning process. Pay attention to areas where smoke tends to concentrate, such as near ashtrays or smoking areas.

If the odor is deep in the surface of the walls, then you may need to repaint the interior of the rental property using an odor-blocking primer like Kilz Restoration.

Use an Ozone Generator

An ozone machine (also known as an ozone generator) is designed to produce ozone gas. Oxygen gas is composed of three oxygen atoms (O3). Ozone is a highly reactive form of oxygen that serves various purposes in different industries and applications.

You can use an ozone machine for air purification, water treatment, odor removal, and mold remediation. Ozone machines are beneficial in situations where the removal of airborne pollutants, elimination of unpleasant odors, or disinfection of surfaces is required. Ozone can oxidize and destroy organic matter, bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants, making it a valuable tool in various industries.

However, an ozone machine can be harmful (deadly, even) to humans and animals if exposed to even small concentrations for a short period of time. So, yes, an ozone machine is a fantastic tool to help eliminate stubborn cigarette odors. Still, it's imperative that you fully understand how to use it and take all necessary precautions to avoid the harmful effects that it can cause.

Otherwise, hire a professional.

Consulting Professionals for Smoke Damage Restoration

In severe cases of smoke damage, it may be necessary to consult professionals specializing in smoke damage restoration. They will have the expertise and equipment to thoroughly clean and deodorize your apartment, eliminating even the most stubborn cigarette smell. Additionally, they can assess and address any potential smoke-related structural damage for a complete restoration.

If you identify smoking damage after a tenant moves out, you may need to bill them for excessive cleaning costs as per the lease agreement.

In Conclusion: The Importance of Eliminating Cigarette Smell

Apart from the apparent annoyance of cigarette smell, there may also be health risks associated with prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke and thirdhand smoke.

Secondhand smoke refers to inhaling smoke exhaled by a smoker or emitted from a burning cigarette, while thirdhand smoke refers to the residual particles that settle on surfaces. Both types of smoke contain harmful chemicals and carcinogens that can have detrimental effects on your health and that of your tenants.

If someone has smoked inside your rental property, then there's a good chance that there are residual particles on surfaces located throughout the property.

By getting rid of the odor and improving the overall air quality in the apartment, it's not only easier to breathe, but it also reduces the risks associated with secondhand and thirdhand smoke. Additionally, eliminating cigarette smells will make your apartment more inviting, comfortable, and enjoyable for prospective tenants.