The smell of cigarette smoke can linger long after the cigarettes have been snuffed. Carpet fibers, furniture, and even cabinets or walls can harbor the stale stench months after anyone has smoked nearby. If your former renters smoked indoors on a regular basis, the scent can be overwhelming, and it can make the rental property completely unappealing for future renters.

Here are seven ways to clean a rental unit and get cigarette and smoke smells out of an apartment or house, once and for all.

1. Repaint

If the smell is strong, and you don’t want to spend the time cleaning the carpets and walls only to find out the smell persists, you can repaint the walls with an odor-blocking primer.

By placing a thick coat of primer, and then an eggshell or semi-gloss top coat, you can eliminate the smell.

2. Clean the carpets and rugs

Carpets take up a lot of surface area, and they often absorb and trap a lot of smoke smell.

To thoroughly clean a carpet:

  • Sprinkle baking soda over the carpet or rugs

  • Vacuum after waiting at least 30 minutes

  • If the odor remains, spritz the carpet with a light mist of two parts water and one part vinegar.

  • Turn on a fan to speed drying time.

  • If necessary, use more baking soda afterward and repeat the process.

3. Wash hardwood floors

Wash the floors with a non-wax cleaner designed for the room’s flooring. Warm water and a neutral-pH soap work well for hardwood or bamboo flooring. For most vinyl and laminate flooring, you can use water and vinegar.

Remember not to use vinegar on stone tiles or areas with grout.

4. Clear the air

Letting in fresh, dry air and sunshine can go a long way to clearing out the smell of smoke.

Open the curtains and windows, and turn on any available ceiling fans to help recirculate the air. To increase air circulation, place a box fan or a window fan in a window at one end of the room to draw fresh air in, then place a second fan in an opposite window to pull air out of the space.

Keep the windows open as long as possible while cleaning and then for some time afterward. If you can leave the windows open even an inch or two overnight, this will greatly help to freshen the space.

5. Clean the ceiling

Cleaning the ceiling might not be your idea of fun, but smoke rises, meaning that ceilings will absorb quite a bit of smoke.

If you have a smooth ceiling, wipe it down with a soft cloth dipped in a blend of one part white vinegar to two parts water. Vinegar is a must-have in your arsenal of cleaning supplies, as it cleans and deodorizes all kinds of surfaces. Wring out the excess moisture, then wipe the ceiling down. This works on ceiling tiles, too.

For popcorn ceilings, spritz a fine mist of the vinegar mixture on the ceiling instead of wiping it down.

6. Deodorize walls and window coverings

Remove any window coverings to deodorize them. Take sheers or drapes outside to air out, launder them, or send them to a dry cleaner.

To clean the walls, dip a soft cloth in the white vinegar, wringing out most of the liquid. Wipe the surfaces from the top down, rinsing the cloth frequently. The vinegar odor vanishes quickly, along with the stench of smoke.

Note: If you’re unsure whether the paint or wallpaper will hold up well to moisture, test by wiping it with a vinegar-moistened cloth in an inconspicuous area. Wait for the vinegar to dry before proceeding with the rest of the wall.

7. Refresh cabinets and other permanent furniture

Cigarette odor sometimes even finds its way into closed cupboards and drawers.

To clean these areas:

  • Wipe washable surfaces down with one cup of white vinegar per quart of water, using a soft, lint-free cloth.

  • Spritz the insides of cupboards and drawers with a fine vinegar mist.

  • Leave the doors and drawers open to air out and dry.

  • If any odor remains, place bowls of dry coffee grounds and wads of newspaper inside the cupboards or drawers for a few days to absorb the smell.

Finally, good luck freshening up your rental!