HOUSE ODORS – Removing Smoke Odors

Groucho Marx, one of our most favorite clients, poses with his favorite cigar (above). This photo was taken for NBC promotional photographs. Learn more about Groucho Marx

Groucho Marx, one of our most favorite clients, poses with his favorite cigar (above). This photo was taken for NBC promotional photographs. Learn more about Groucho Marx

Eliminating the odor of stale cigarette smoke is an ongoing job. It permeates everything in the home and is not a healthy atmosphere to leave unattended. The tar and nicotine leave a film that binds the smoke to any porous material including walls, furniture, hair, and skin. Among other things, smoke does not only allow the odor to last indefinitely, but also discolors light-colored surfaces and fabrics. Some ordinary cleaning products leave a film that actually attracts tar and nicotine.

If the home has smokers, or there are going to be guests in the home who smoke, it’s best to address the problem from multiple angles: prevention, cleaning, neutralizing, and masking.

Quick Room Fresheners

Keep a stock of supplies on hand.

  • Air and fabric neutralizer (not freshener) spray, such as natural Orange or Lemon
  • Baking soda could be placed in discrete corners of a room behind furniture for a party
  • Pine-scented cleaner, such as Super Pine cleaner (from, a natural pine product
  • Potpourri made of porous materials such as sea shells, use with essential oils added weekly
  • Scented candles (made without a lead wick), preferably scented with essential oils
  • Vinegar solution in a spray will remove stubborn odors that have set into fabrics

Complete as many of the following steps in order, and as time permits before guests arrive.

Start with public rooms. Spray the room, furniture, curtains and carpets with an air and fabric neutralizer. Do not spray directly on furniture, drapes or carpet unless you have tested ahead of time. Let only a slight mist fall from the air if you have not tested. Some people are scent sensitive so be alert to the affects of products you choose. Don’t spray in the Kitchen, it will land on food and alter taste, not to mention is unhealthy, but do light a candle instead. Or put mulling spices in a pot and cook on low throughout the party to fragrance the atmosphere.

Light a fire if you have a fireplace. Fall through spring you can add some dried lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit rinds. Throw them on the fire. As the Native American Indians do, you can also “smudge” a room by burning dried sage or rosemary stalks. After lighting the stalks spread their scent by walking around for the fragrance to infuse the room. These can also be thrown into the fire as well as pine needles from a tree if there is one in the garden. This fragrance also sets the energy in the room for harmony and healing.

Place fresh potpourri in each room of fruit rinds mixed with flower petals to which a bit of essential oils are added from the citrus family. This works to enhance the natural scent of the fruit, or add cedar and pine for a forrest blend.

Light scented candles but purchase those that are not too sweet smelling. A more neutral scent doesn’t dominate the room and allows other fragrances to be enjoyed alongside.

If needing an extra measure, soak a washcloth with cider vinegar infused with lavender, wring excess liquid, and wave the washcloth around the room to neutralize the odor.

Sprinkle baking soda onto the carpet before vacuuming.

Wipe kitchen surfaces with a vinegar and water solution.

Mop tile or stone floors floor with a pine-scented floor cleaner followed by a cedar room spray.

Daily Maintenance

Allow fresh air into the house every day. Sealing your house in the winter traps the smoke inside. Ventilating is healthy, and it will help you keep smoke odor to a minimum.

Place odor absorbing materials around the house in hidden locations: small bowls of vinegar, baking soda, charcoal, even kitty litter. Be sure to place the bowls out of the reach of children and pets.

Place a drop or two of essential oils on a cold light bulb. When you turn the light on, the heat will mix with the essential oil, and you’ll have a continuous, long-term source of fragrance that is both healing and refreshing. Use scents such as lavender, rose, cedar, amber, frankincense, or other wonderful combinations. Experiment and create. Essential oils are readily available in health food stores. Pour a few drops of essential oils or perfume on a handkerchief to hold during a party, a custom hostesses used for years when entertaining to scent the room as they moved in it. Men can scent a handkerchief with rosemary and eucalyptus or other choice blends for added energy throughout the evening.

Store clothes and blankets folded in muslin bags to which you add herbal sachets and cedar chips. But the best preventive care is to line closets in cedar wood for its time honored long valued benefits. Ensure that closet doors close well. A bottle of cedar spray kept in the closet allows for spraying daily to refresh the air or keep an air purifier in it to circulate and clean the air.

Keep a supply of scented candles on hand. You can purchase candles formulated specifically for removing smoke odors. Light the candles before you or your guests smoke.

If you don’t have any potpourri, or mulling spice, simmer a pot with water, citrus rinds, and spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and clove.

Fill the bottom of your ashtrays with amber or mint scent crystals, or charcoal granuals. Always have a supply of mints in a bowl near the ashtray which might help reduce smoking.

NOTE: The object is to stay ahead of the smoke odors, and clean the residual film early and often. If you do those two things, you can live in a fresh, sweet-smelling atmosphere.

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