Maybe you recently quit smoking (go, you!). Maybe you were with a friend who smokes. Or maybe you bought a home or car that previously belonged to a smoker. In any case, you want to get rid of the smell, along with the nicotine stains in the walls. Here are some tips that will help you eliminate the odor and difficult stains from your home, car, and furniture.
1. What Doesn’t Work
Before you waste your time on things that won’t have much — if any — effect, here are a few things you shouldn’t bother to try. First, painting alone will NOT get rid of the smell or the stains. It may help camouflage some of the yellowing of the walls, for a while anyway, if you use a darker color. But the eventually the stains and the smell will just permeate through the new coats of paint. Instead of covering the odor and stains, you need to get rid of it.
2. Start With the Air
The more fresh air you can get into your home or car, the better chance you have at getting rid of the cigarette smell in walls, flooring, and upholstery. Not to mention the fact that bringing some good ventilation will help you be able to breathe while you’re doing the work of cleaning things up.
3. Use the Right Cleaner
For your walls, you need a strong cleaner that’s meant to be used before that fresh coat of paint. Use one with TSP (or Trisodium Phosphate). This is a powerful cleaner that removes not only dirt and grease, but also helps with that nicotine smell and staining. You can add another cleaner, such as Mr. Clean or Simple Green to it for an extra odor-busting kick. But those all-purpose cleaners alone WILL NOT do the job. You need the TSP.
4. Odor Sealing Primer
Don’t just use any primer when you’re painting over nicotine stains and odors. You need a primer specially made to seal odors away for good. One good one is called Zinsser Cover-Stain. The can says stain killer, and it they mean it. Do not skip out on the odor sealing primer! The odor and stains will eventually bleed through to the surface, and you’ll be stuck starting over. After using the special primer, you can paint as usual. Don’t forget door frames, baseboards, crown moldings, etc. Give all of it the same treatment with the odor sealing primer before painting. If you do it right, you’ll be having an odor-free housewarming party.
5. Carpet & Fabrics
There’s not much else you can do here but remove ALL carpeting and fabrics, like drapes. You can clean the carpets and launder the curtains or have them dry cleaned, but the smell will be back. Just get rid of it — all of it. The carpet pad needs to go, too.
For your car, we’d recommend having your car detailed and talking to the staff beforehand about the smell. Make sure they know you want the smell gone, and they might have some go-to solutions they use for that. If you can’t do that, you can try these other things that can help get the odor out of other upholstered items.
First, use the ventilation rule. In dry weather, leave furniture outside if you can for a few days. Leave your car windows down as much as you can for as long as you can. Above and beyond that, sprinkle the whole upholstered surface with baking soda from a new, fresh box. Be generous! If you can remove the cushions, let them sit outside for a few days, then give them the same treatment. Allow the baking soda to sit for about half an hour. Then use your vacuum to suck it all up. Repeat this process several times until you’re happy with the outcome. But don’t expect a miracle — cigarette smell is notoriously difficult to remove.
After the baking soda treatment, make your own refreshing spray with 2 parts water and 1 part white vinegar. Spritz the upholstery and let it dry, and see what a difference it makes.