House Smells Like Cigarettes – Though You Don’t Smoke? (6 Reasons)

Cigarette smoke can leave a lingering odor in your home, even if you don’t smoke.

The smell can be unpleasant and persistent, making it difficult to enjoy your living space.

Whether it’s residue from previous residents, neighbors smoking outside, or the scent of cigarettes on clothing or furniture, there are several reasons why your house might smell like cigarettes.

 In this article, we’ll explore some common causes of cigarette smoke odors and 8 effective ways to eliminate them:

1. The Previous Residents Smoked

Even though you aren’t a smoker, the previous residents in your house might have been.

It can take months for cigarette smoke to go away. So, if you buy your house from cigarette smokers, you may have a long-lasting problem.

However, if it has been years since you bought your house from smokers, that doesn’t mean the smell has gone away.

Cigarette smoke can seep into walls, carpets, and other surfaces, leaving behind a lingering odor that can be difficult to eliminate. It can also get into the vents and leave behind an oily residue that is almost impossible to clean without a professional.

For example, my aunt and uncle smoked constantly. Their walls turned from white to beige; eventually, the whole house had a filmy layer on top of every surface.

That stuff doesn’t go away easily!

Even if you have cleaned your house thoroughly and used air fresheners or other odor-eliminating products, the smell of cigarette smoke may still be present.

I highly recommend hiring a professional cleaning company to remove cigarette smoke. Find a company that performs this service well, and make sure to do your research on possible contractors.

2. The Neighbors Smoke

Sometimes, smells travel across distances.

If your neighbors smoke, you might end up smelling it in your own house. Why?

Well, the odor from cigarette smoke contains tiny particles called particulate matter, which can be carried by air and enter your home through open windows, doors, or ventilation systems.

Additionally, the smoke can stick to clothing, hair, and skin. If your neighbors smoke outside their homes, the smoke can enter your home through open windows or doors – or on your own clothes, skin, and hair!

If you are concerned about the smoke from your neighbors, you may want to consider speaking to them. If you have an apartment, contact your landlord to address the issue and find ways to minimize your exposure to secondhand smoke.

3. Residue from (Used) Clothing or Furniture

Many people love thrifting their clothes and furniture to save money during harsh economic times. However, some clothes and furniture can carry the smell of cigarette smoke from previous owners.

Most thrift stores don’t clean the clothes or furniture that they receive. Especially if they receive it in bulk, it is highly unlikely that your purchase items will be clean.

The residue from cigarette smoke can be embedded in the fabric or other materials and can continue to emit an unpleasant odor even after you bring the items home.

You can try washing clothes or fabrics with a strong detergent or soaking them in a mixture of vinegar and water before washing them to eliminate the smell.

For furniture, you may need to use specialized cleaning products or hire a professional cleaning service to thoroughly clean and deodorize the item.

Also, always clean thrifted items. Never wear clothes from the thrift store without washing them first!

Finally, make sure you get a good whiff of whatever you are about to buy at the thrift or resale shop. If it smells too foul, don’t buy it!

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4. The HVAC System

If you are smelling a weird cigarette smell but don’t smoke, it may be your HVAC system.

An HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system can hang onto cigarette smell and smoke for a long time.

Those smoke particles are small enough to be carried by air and can get trapped in the system’s filters, ducts, and coils. Once the smoke particles settle in the system, they can continue to emit an unpleasant odor and potentially contribute to poor indoor air quality.

Removing this smell is also hard and usually requires professional help.

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5. Burning Candles or Incense

Candles and incense can create a cigarette smell, even if you buy the “good smelling” ones.

Both candles and incense release smoke and particles into the air when burned, which can be similar in composition to cigarette smoke. This smoke can settle on surfaces, such as walls and furniture, and can create a lingering odor that can be mistaken for cigarettes.

In particular, incense can create a cigarette smell if it contains smoky ingredients, such as frankincense, myrrh, or patchouli. These scents can be pleasant when used in moderation, but if overused or burned for extended periods of time, they can create a bad odor.

Incense and candles can also create black or dusty marks on walls or surfaces, which guests can mistake for cigarette residue.

Additionally, incense that is burned improperly or in an unventilated space can create more smoke. More smoke means more residue on your surfaces or furniture!

To avoid this, it’s important to burn candles and incense in a well-ventilated space and to avoid overusing them. Consider using candles and incense made with natural ingredients that do not contain synthetic fragrances or other chemicals, too!

Outside Pollutants

Several outside pollutants can smell like cigarette smoke, such as:

  • Wildfire Smoke
  • Industrial Pollution
  • Vehicle Exhaust
  • Burning Trash
  • Agricultural Burning

Pollutants can have these terrible, acrid, and rotten smells that imitate the smell of leftover cigarettes. Living in a polluted area can cause your house to smell even if you don’t smoke.

Not only are these odors pungent and gross, but they can also be harmful. For example, wildfire smoke can contain harmful particles and gases, including carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.

Exposure to vehicle exhaust can cause respiratory symptoms, such as coughing and wheezing and can exacerbate existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma and COPD.

Even worse, things like agricultural burning can release harmful pollutants, including particulate matter and volatile organic compounds, which can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.

Identifying the source of any bad smell is important to determine the potential health risks associated with exposure to a pollutant.

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8 Ways to Get Rid of Smoke Smell:

Even if you don’t smoke but are having trouble with your home smelling like smoke of any kind, it is important to find the source of the problem and then immediately take care of it.

Mostly, you want to be safe from possible harm – but also it helps improve your peace of mind. No one wants a bad-smelling home!

Here are a few simple things you can do to mitigate the smell of smoke in your home:

Eliminate the Source (If you can find it)

If you can identify the source of the smoke smell, it’s important to address it directly to eliminate the odor from your home. For example, if the smell comes from your HVAC system, you may need to have your ducts cleaned or replace your air filters.

If the smell is coming from your neighbors, you can try talking to them about the issue or installing weatherstripping around doors and windows to prevent the smoke from entering your home.

If the smell comes from previous owners, you may need to do a deep cleaning or use odor-absorbing products to eliminate the odor.

By eliminating the source of the smell, you can help ensure that your home stays fresh and odor-free!

However, if you can’t find the smell’s source, consider contacting professional cleaning or ventilation crews to help you find it.

Open Doors & Windows

If the weather permits, open your doors and windows.

Spring and autumn cleaning are great times to open up the house, get all the dust, smoke, and dirt out of your house, and let the fresh air in!

I love the smell of fresh air in my home, especially when it rains. Not only does it make a musty room feel more open and large, but it can also release any odors, dust particles, or smoke that is trapped in your home.

However, if you haven’t found the source of the smell yet, you may want to wait to open up the house. If you release the odor, you may never find where it is coming from.

Finally, if the odor has a gaseous or dangerous smell to it, make sure to ventilate the house immediately – and even vacate if necessary!

Clean Surfaces & Fabrics

If previous owners or tenants smoked in your home, then it is important to clean all surfaces, carpets, and furniture.

Moving into a new home with an unpleasant smell is never fun. It usually requires deep cleaning and elbow grease to make the house smell normal.

Especially if the previous owners smoked, you must hire professionals or start cleaning yourself.

As mentioned, cigarette smoke burrows deep into fabrics and settles on surfaces. It can even coat the walls, vents, and carpets in a slimy, oily film.

If your house smells pretty bad, even after a deep clean, you may have to completely replace the carpets or furniture you inherited from the previous owners.

Furthermore, if your house is polluted, you may have to cover your fabrics and furniture to keep them clean when they are not in use.

Use Air Purifiers

If you find that the cigarette smells are coming from neighbors, pollutants, or incense and candles, having an air purifier in your home can help reduce smells, smoke, dust, and dirt.

Air purifiers work by filtering the air in a room and removing harmful particles such as allergens, bacteria, and viruses. They can be large or small and are great for most spaces!

They can be particularly useful for people with allergies or respiratory problems, as well as those who live in areas with high levels of air pollution. Pet owners love air purifiers, which help reduce the dander and dust in the air.

When using an air purifier, it’s important to keep it clean and change the filters regularly to ensure it’s working effectively.

While air purifiers can help improve indoor air quality, reducing indoor air pollution sources is still important. Avoid synthetic candles and incense, close windows when neighbors smoke outside and only use natural products.

Check the Ventilation

Over time, smoke, odors, and other contaminants can build up in your ventilation system and hinder its performance.

Regular cleaning and maintenance of your ventilation system can help improve its effectiveness. If your home’s ventilation system is outdated or insufficient, installing or upgrading ventilation equipment, such as fans or air purifiers, can help improve air circulation and filtration.

Any leaks and gaps in your home’s exterior also allow outside air to seep into your home, which is how many pollutants get inside. Sealing these gaps can help maintain proper air pressure and circulation. 

Most of all, identifying and reducing the sources of indoor air pollution, such as smoking, cooking fumes, and pet dander, can help improve the overall air quality in your home and reduce the strain on your ventilation system.

Clean the HVAC System

If you want to fix the odor problem in your HVAC system, the first step is to replace the air filters. Your filters can become clogged with smoke particles and other debris, reducing the system’s efficiency and contributing to poor indoor air quality.

Once the filters have been replaced, cleaning the ductwork and coils may be necessary to remove any remaining smoke residue.

I highly recommend hiring a professional HVAC cleaning service. Professionals can use specialized equipment and techniques to thoroughly clean the system. They will also have those cleaning products that are specifically designed to break down and remove smoke particles.

After you get it cleaned, make sure to keep your HVAC system clean and maintained. This can help prevent other pollutants from accumulating in the system in the first place.

Regularly change the air filters, schedule annual maintenance check-ups, and ensure the system is properly ventilated.

Hire Professionals

Professional cleaning crews can get to spaces and use tools and supplies you probably can’t.

For example, HVAC cleaning crews have specific methods of getting into your system and flushing out any odors or smoke residue.

Crews specializing in removing cigarette oils and film from the walls and carpets will have high-end cleaning chemicals and impressive machines like industrial carpets and fabric cleaners.

While it is possible to do much of the cleaning yourself, some tough jobs require people with special skills and heavy-duty equipment to complete the task.

Repaint & Replace

Once you have done a really good, deep clean, it might be time to paint and replace carpets, furniture, and clothing.

While most clothes and furniture can be stripped of cigarette smells, others may be lost cause.

Trying to salvage your carpet is just not worth the time and money, mostly because the padding or insulation below the carpet might have cigarette residues in it, too!

That’s why it is better to replace carpets and padding entirely.

Furthermore, repainting the walls after a deep clean can help cover or remove any leftover smells. It can also cover up stains or damage to walls!

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