The lingering odor of cigarette smoke makes any house a tough sell. It will take longer to find a willing buyer and will likely bring a lower price. Unless, of course, the seller is up for the challenge of a floor-to-ceiling scrubbing. Here’s a step-by-step guide.
Floors to ceilings. Unlike pet odors that are mostly contained to soiled areas, the smell of smoke permeates an entire house so begin by opening up the doors and windows while you work on eradicating the smell. Using a solution of one cup of white vinegar to a bucket of water, scrub all painted surfaces, including ceilings. Once the top layer of nicotine film is removed, apply a primer called Kilz, then two coats of fresh paint.
Be prepared to spend the money to replace any carpeting and to refinish hardwoods. Next, go over every surface in the home, using soap and water, vinegar and water, or, when necessary, cleaners made specifically for certain products such as granite or Corian. Windows, trim, ceiling fans, light fixtures and switches — every surface must be scrubbed.
Furniture, clothing and other possessions. Since every item in the house has been exposed to smoke, they, too, must be cleaned. Launder every piece of clothing in the house; air out books and other paper products; and professionally clean upholstered furniture and drapery. On nice days, put furniture outside to air out in the sun and breeze.
Time to declutter. Now is the time to get rid of any unneeded or unwanted items you’ve collected over the years. The fewer items you have, the less cleaning you’ll need to do.
Heating and air system. Although the air intake filters caught some of the smoke, the ducts will need to be professionally cleaned.
Air purifying systems. Consider running air purifiers in your home to trap odors. Electric air cleaners ionize odor particles while HEPA air filters use charcoal filters to trap odor particles.
After the cleaning. If possible open most of the windows in your home just before a showing. Take the time to bake a batch of cookies or grind coffee beans, too. These more natural smells will go along way toward attracting buyers.
What not to do. Incense or scented candles will not successfully mask the odor left by tobacco smoke. Prospective buyers are smarter than that.
It goes without saying. Do not introduce new smoke into the home while it’s on the market.