Seminar Speaker

President's Message

Eliminating Smoke Smells

SURPRISE! … Your tenants just moved out, and instead of leaving a clean, fresh unit behind, they’ve left a unit that reeks of smoke. The smell permeates every corner of the property and now poses a health hazard to neighbors and future tenants.

Landlords may be discouraged by the damage that lingering smoke creates. Not only will it cost resources to repair, but it can delay unit showings for new tenants. Fortunately, there are various ways to remove the smell and make a unit or home livable again. Here are the critical moves to take.

1. Air It Out

The first course of action should be to open all the windows and doors and air out the unit. Portable fans on opposite ends of the unit will push out stale air while simultaneously pulling in the fresh breeze. Allow them to run all day, if possible.

Hang several bags of activated charcoal around the property to absorb odors. Expedite the process by using a few air purifiers as well.

2. Deodorize Carpets

Remove smoke smells from carpets with baking soda. Sprinkle the white powder over the stinkiest areas and allow it to sit for a few hours before vacuuming.

This deodorizing method is generally safe for all carpets. However, it may not be strong enough to eliminate more stubborn fumes. In this case, landlords should hire a professional carpet cleaner or replace the carpet altogether.

3. Mop Hard Floors

Next, tackle hardwood and tile floors. Sweep the surface to remove dust and dirt. Then, apply a disinfectant and mop it up using warm, soapy water. Water should be replaced periodically so stinky ash and residue aren’t spread around the floors.

If a mop doesn’t do the trick, steam the floors to melt the tar and oils from smoke molecules. Otherwise, a professional cleaner might be needed.

4. Replace HVAC Filter

The unit’s HVAC filter should be changed every few months. However, replacing the filter becomes an absolute necessity after each move-out.

5. Scrub the Walls and Base Trim

The stale stench of ash and cigarettes can cling to the walls, too. In some cases, tar may even harden on the walls and discolor them. Remove both soot and foul smells by scrubbing walls down with a solution of white vinegar and warm water. You can also use ammonia and water, allowing it to sit for a few minutes before rinsing.

For tougher stains, try trisodium phosphate (TSP). This is a cleaning product that is mixed into hot water, which you can then apply with a sponge or brush. This compound degreases the tars in smoke, making them easier to remove. If this method doesn’t work, priming and repainting might be necessary.

Note: If TSP is not available, use a low-phosphate substitute, like Simple Green, Clorox‘s Green Works, or Orange Power Cleaner.

I hope this makes it a little easier to conquer the smells of all types of smoke.

Be Kind, Stay Safe and Healthy!