Removing Cigarette Smoke Odor and Stains

Getting rid of cigarette smoke and related side effects


The smell of stale cigarette smoke can be overpowering when you walk into a room in which the former (or current) occupant smoked heavily.

In my line of work (which is rental property painting and restoration), I come across, from time to time, the penetration of heavy cigarette smoke odor and stains in units. The odor can permeate the walls, ceiling, and the flooring. In extreme cases, the stench can be so bad, it can literally make you nauseous.

But generally, I deal with light to moderate smokers where no real problems exist for repainting the units.

If you do, however, run into a situation (heavy smoker) like I talked about earlier, or you simply want no trace of any kind of smoking whatsoever, you can remedy the situation, by doing the following:

Removing Heavy Smoke Stains and Odors

  • Rip up the old carpet and padding, as these have absorbed a lot of the odor, and discard. Thoroughly wash any linoleum, and/or tile floor.

  • Before new carpet is laid back down, apply a layer of oil-based primer on top of the subfloor (acts primarily as a sealer) to prevent any odors to emanate from the floor itself.

  • Completely wash the walls, ceiling, and all woodwork and trim (doors) with your favorite cleaner/disinfectant. Be sure to wash inside the closets and cabinets as well. Basically everywhere that the smoke could settle on.

  • Cover the walls and ceilings with an oil-based primer/stainblocker. This will seal any odors that can be embedded in the surface. As a stainblocker, it will also cover any stain left behind.

    (I find Kilz Original oil-base to be very good for this particular application)

  • Proceed to paint the walls and ceilings in the finish paint desired.

  • Clean thoroughly all fixtures and hardware

    Taking these steps should eradicate any stains and odors resulting from smoking associated with the previous tenants/owners.

    As I stated before, the amount of work to do is rather daunting, but, the negative long-term effects to the unit would amplify greatly if you did not take the necessary steps to remedy the situation in the present.

    You'll definitely be glad you did.




    TOP of Removing Cigarette Smoke Stains and Odors

    RETURN to Painting Tips

    HOME to HousePainting Guru