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Quick Guide to Cigarette Odor Removal From Your Rental Property

Rental apartment

We dare to say that most rental property transitions between tenants are rife with problems – mostly due to the maintenance. There is a long checklist of tasks you need to clear once the old tenant has moved out. Making the house ready for a new tenant can be a nightmare if the older tenants were fond of smoking.

Did you know that residual smoke, including chemicals and nicotine, can remain on surfaces after someone has smoked in the area? Not only does the odor permeate every corner of the rental unit, but it also poses a health hazard to neighbors and future occupants.

This is why property managers and landlords should tackle the issue right away because it could discourage prospective tenants from leasing the unit. The good news is that it’s easy to remove the smoke odors. The bad news is that you have to act fast because the smoke can permanently damage some materials, such as plastic and hardwood flooring.

It can penetrate floors, walls, ceilings, and various textiles (including bedding, clothing, as well as furniture). Use the following tips to keep your rental unit free of cigarette smoke.


First things first – clear out airborne odor molecules by opening up all the windows. Keep the house ventilated for as long as possible. Bring in some boxer fans (if you have them) and place them next to the windows to blow out any residual smoke in the room.

Vinegar Always Works

Vinegar is especially effective at absorbing odors. You can go one step further by filling a few bowls with baking soda to accelerate this process. Another must-have item to neutralize the odor is powdered activated charcoal. Place some activated charcoal in a couple of bowls and leave them throughout the rental unit for a few days. You’ll notice a significant improvement in the quality of the air.

For the quality of job they do, activate charcoal is surprisingly light on the wallet and easy to get a hold of. You can get some of it from your nearest general store.

Pro tip: Buy an air purifier outfitted with a powerful HEPA filtering system to do all the heavy lifting for you.

Paint the Walls and Ceilings

This may sound like overkill, but repainting the walls and ceilings may be important if you didn’t get to the cigarette smoke soon enough. Start by washing the surface with a solution of vinegar and baking soda. Wipe the walls using a sponge and use a deodorize to neutralize the cigarette odor. Do this 2 to 3 times for a thorough job.

Next, start applying the new coat of paint. You may have to apply multiple layers of paint depending on how badly stained the wall and ceilings are. This is why it is important to wash and dry the surface.

Redo the Kitchen Cabinets

Cigarette odor can seep into kitchen cabinets as well as any textiles associated with it. Since this is an important part of the kitchen, it’s worth cleaning it up.

Start by wiping down the surfaces with a microfiber cloth dipped in vinegar. Make sure to leave the doors open to help them dry out. For the fabrics, such as the furniture and bed, sprinkle some baking soda over the surface and allow it to sit overnight. Use a vacuum to clean up the baking soda after 24 hours.


If you have carpet flooring, you may have to remove it. You might be able to salvage it with steam cleaning, but this only works if you act fast.

In the case of hardwood or vinyl floors, you can use an oil soap to remove the odor. For best results, use whatever cleaner that was recommended by the cleaner. Don’t apply too much water, and avoid vinegar to protect your finish and make the floors last longer.

Finally – Restrict Indoor Smoking With an Airtight Rental Lease

Smoking in a rental unit can significantly lower its property value and discourage prospective tenants from going anywhere near it. This is why you should strive to make your rental unit completely smoke-free. Instruct your tenants to smoke outside the unit. Add a non-smoking policy in your lease to enforce this ruling.

Work with your property manager to learn more about policies for rental units.

“Jivko Stefanov, Content Manager”