One of the most common objections from prospective buyers of used homes or automobiles is the presence of smoke odor from cigarettes or other tobacco products. Dealers, realtors and owners alike spend a fortune on various methods of masking this unwanted odor, if only temporarily. Many potential buyers (especially life-long non-smokers), will turn away at the slightest suggestion that the past owner may have been a smoker, since most people believe that these odors are permanent and can only be hidden for a short time at best. Although it’s true that the odor and residue from cigarette smoke can be difficult to remove for good, it is not entirely impossible to restore your home or car to a pre-smoke condition. Non-smokers know better than anyone else how penetrating, pungent and clingy cigarette smoke can be. The smallest puff of second-hand smoke in your direction can sink into the fibers of your clothes and hair and stay with you all day, much like the smell you’ll take home with you after enjoying a roaring campfire. The same fibers of your carpeting, upholstery and other surfaces of your car or home are equally susceptible to the pervasive and acidic properties of cigarette smoke, and obviously, removing them won’t be easy.
Whether the problem exists in your car or in your home, the nicotine in cigarette smoke not only fills the air but also attaches to every surface it touches. This is why yellowish stains develop over periods of long exposure to smoke from tobacco products. Essentially, the nicotine creates a tar buildup on the surfaces it touches, in much the same way that it does to your lungs, and sometimes the yellowish stains can be even harder to remove than the odor itself. The problem is worsened by your air conditioning system, spreading the sticky and staining substance and affecting every single surface that shares the same indoor air environment. There are some great homemade remedies for removing cigarette smoke odor that have proven to be highly effective, provided that the original source of the odor—the smoker—is first removed or relocated. Fill bowls with vinegar or activated charcoal in each room (or car) and keep the doors closed to allow the odors to be absorbed by the agent. Clothing and other small items can be sealed in bags with several dryer sheets to achieve the same result. If smokers will still be present in the home or car, filling your ashtrays with kitty litter is a very practical and effective solution for ongoing deodorization.
As for removing nicotine stains, a professional deodorization technician is almost always needed, and even then the process can be a series of trial and error experiments until the job is done. There is often no one solution but rather a variety of cleaning, treating and sealing processes customized for each job to achieve the right result. Restoration professionals have special formulas specifically designed for the deodorization, degreasing and removal of nicotine from walls, ceilings and other surfaces, and the first step is always a thorough cleaning to remove as much of the initial odor as possible. After that, depending upon the surface, it may be sealed to lock in and block any residual odor, and in extreme cases, the walls may then be re-painted or re-finished. Restoration professionals also use thermal foggers and other more advanced equipment and techniques to penetrate the pores, cracks, crevices and cavities with the same tenacity as tobacco smoke, only this time with a stronger and even more penetrating neutralizer. Softer items, like bedding, fabric furniture and some upholstery, may be more stubborn and resistant to smoke deodorization techniques. Your local restoration technician can help you decide if it’s better to restore or replace these items.