Last Updated on December 19, 2016

Remove Cigarette Smell Before You Sell | Real Estate Article

By Alan F Macdonald

Have you ever walked into a stale, smoky house for sale? I’ve smelled my share of plenty. Not much is more off-putting than a smoky house. Buyers – no matter whether they smoke or not – want a fresh and clean home.

According to Statistics Canada, smoking rates are gradually decreasing in Canada. That’s good for people’s general health but not so great if you want to sell a house that has been smoked in. In Alberta smoking rates have decreased from 22.7% to 19%. For a long while now, a smoky house hasn’t been something many house buyers would tolerate and that trend is likely to continue. So what do you do if your house smells like smoke and you want to sell it? How are you going to attract a buyer for your property?

This Nose, Knows

People get used to things as they are. That’s why you can feel your socks when you put them on in the morning, but you don’t go through the entire day thinking about your socks on your feet. The same thing goes for smells. You’re going to be used to the way your home smells, and so maybe you think that it’s a-ok. It likely isnt, but to find out, the first thing you should do is ask someone you know (who is a non-smoker) to come over and let you know what your place smells like. Be sure to pick someone who is brutally honest and has a good sniffer. This will give you a baseline for knowing if your house smells ok. And that way you can invite them over later on to tell you how you’ve done.

Stop Smoking (Indoors)

This is your home, right? You can do what you want. Well, not exactly. This is your home now, but soon it won’t be. That is if you can convince a home buyer that it’s the right house for them. The first thing you need to do to mitigate smokiness in your home is to stop smoking in it. Sounds pretty simple. However, since most (read all) smokers are addicted to smoking, this isn’t going to be easy. But think about the extra money you’ll make on your home sale! A fresh smelling home could easily make you thousands of dollars. I have had many clients who wouldn’t buy a smoky house no matter what and many who were really turned off by the idea. Some people will out and out walk out if they smell smoke! Fewer potential buyers means your price might need to be decreased to sell your home. Make a rule and follow it. Only smoke outdoors (or better yet, not at all) to keep this problem from continuing. You can’t eliminate something you keep bringing in.

Air It Out

It costs nothing to open your windows (unless it’s winter time), so the first thing you should do to eliminate smoke smell from a house is open the windows. If your windows are left open for a good part of every day, the smell of smoke should actually decrease markedly over a few weeks. It’s a pretty passive method of cleaning a home, but it’s easy to do. Another way of getting air to circulate is to turn on your ventilation fans in the home – bathroom fans, kitchen fans, and (if your furnace can do it), your furnace fan as well. Bringing fresh air in can be accomplished by forcing stale air out, as well.

Cleaning, Cleaning, Cleaning

To be honest, opening the windows will help with the smell of smoke in a home, but it could take months to get rid of the smell even if you don’t smoke in the home at all. One of the most effective ways to eliminate odours from your home is to clean the house. This means cleaning everything that can hold smells, though.


The worst culprit for this issue is carpeting. Carpet soaks up odours and releases them back into the air continually. So get a carpet cleaner and go to town on the floor. This should eliminate the bulk of the odour in home.


You might not be aware that the walls of your home will soak up some smoke. It won’t absorb as much as carpet, but it will take in a fair bit. Clean the walls with a mild cleaner so as to not ruin in the finish of the paint. The ceiling paint will absorb as much as the walls, but cleaning them may or may not be possible. If your ceiling is stippled and unpainted, you cannot clean it. If it is painted, you’re really not going to want to clean it.


So your drapes, your blinds, your couch. You can probably dry clean your drapes and air out your closet but you’re not going to be able to wash your couch. Be aware that smoke gets into everything. Anything you can wash, you might want to,  provided it’s not too much of a pain. If you’re going to go to the trouble of washing the walls, you can certainly make an effort to wash your curtains.


Your furnace ducts can certainly hold smoky odours. Although the ducts are metal and don’t absorb anything, any dust sitting in your ductwork could easily hold and release odours. If you have tried cleaning the home and the smell lingers, try hiring a furnace cleaning company to clean your ducting. It’s not the cheapest thing on the list, but you can always use it as a selling feature. Be sure to tell potential buyers that the entire house has been cleaned – even the ducts. They should appreciate it.


As and aside: Windows don’t hold smells, but they do get foggy with nicotine and smoke. I had a summer job once washing windows and let me tell you – the smokers’ windows were the hardest to clean. I mean we’re talking a yellow film that didn’t come off with three attempts and commercial window cleaner. If you’ve ever seen a smoker’s car windows, you know how foggy they can get, so make sure to clean the windows of your home before you list it for sale. It does make a difference.


If the cleaning hasn’t worked, you can paint your home. Certainly if the ceilings are stained by smoke, you might want to paint them anyway. Painting the walls and ceilings will completely encapsulate any smoke and the house should smell great after. This is a lot of work, and it can cost a fair bit, so you might not want to go down this road. If this isn’t for you, be sure to air out the home and clean thoroughly and hopefully that does what it needs to.

Odour Neutralizers

The last step I would consider is masking agents and air fresheners. It is really hard to mask cigarette smoke with any kind of perfume or freshener, but some neutralizers like Febreeze can work. You can’t really spray everything in your home, so it’s best to start with the above tasks before spending money on an odour neutralizer. If you think you can just mask everything with a neutralizer, you’ll probably get carpal tunnel before you get a fresh-smelling house. These sprays are very popular, but I think that they should be reserved for finishing off a cleaning project, not really for replacing cleaning entirely.

Stay Fresh

So that’s it. There are lots of ways to make your home more desirable and looks certainly aren’t everything. Avoid low-ball offers for your smoky house by freshening it up. Your home should sell quicker and for more money!

by +Alan F Macdonald REALTOR® | Copyright © –



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *