Casey R. asks: I just bought a bargain-priced rental property. It’s well-located and has a great floor plan, so I anticipate it will rent quickly. However, the house’s former occupants smoked. How do I get rid of the smell?
Rental Agent Guide answers: Ugh. There’s nothing worse than the smell of stale cigarettes, especially when the odor has permeated every surface in your home. Since you just purchased this rental property, we’ll assume that your project involves removing nicotine residue from window coverings, walls, cabinetry and flooring. Here’s how we’d go about cleaning the place up:
1) Open all the windows, and let the place air out. While this isn’t a solution in itself, it certainly can’t hurt to get some air circulating when it comes to cutting any lingering staleness.
2) Scrub all hard surfaces with a mixture of water and bleach. When a cigarette is smoked, the nicotine released forms a residue that clings to every available surface. Scrubbing walls, cabinetry, appliances, and hard flooring will remove this tar film. Be sure to include ceilings, light fixtures, and bathroom fans in this clean-up.
3) Remove and replace, or steam clean, carpet and window treatments. Since you just purchased this rental property, we’re guessing you have at least a modest amount of cash set aside for renovations. We strongly recommend the purchase of new carpet and window treatments with this money. However, if this isn’t in the budget, have the carpet (and drapes, if you have them) professionally steam cleaned.
4) Repaint the walls. Use an odor-blocking primer underneath the new paint for extra coverage. This will seal away any remaining residue on the walls and prevent the cigarette smell from returning.
5) Run an air purifier. As a good final step, run an air purifier in each room. Choose one that has a HEPA filter for best results, or use an ozone machine, which will circulate O3 through the house, oxidizing and eliminating fumes.
Once you’ve completed all these steps, your rental property should smell fresh and inviting to prospective tenants. Good luck!