Rental dilemma: getting rid of cigarette odour


If you've ever lived in a rental home (or bought a second-hand car) where the previous occupant was a smoker, you'll know how the smell of cigarette smoke lingers. We give you some practical tips to get rid of the smell as quickly as possible.

Francine Africa writes

My daughter has just moved into a new apartment which obviously housed smokers previously, as the place reeks of cigarettes. It’s in the carpets and the walls – which are even a yellowish colour. We can only imagine what their lungs must look like. How do we get rid of this odour?

Dr Frédéric Motz of Beyond Nicotine replies

Ventilation is key, so open as many windows as possible. The longer smoke stays in a room, the higher the chance it will seep into the walls, carpets and furniture.

Other solutions

• Vinegar is an affordable way to reduce odours. Place a bowl of vinegar in the room as the acidity will cut through leftover resins and tars – and the smell of vinegar disappears much quicker than that of smoke.

• To eliminate the smell of smoke in your furniture or carpets, sprinkle generously with baking soda and leave overnight. Vacuum the residue away in the morning and repeat after a few days if necessary.

• Some people swear by citrus peels for removing foul odours. Leave a liberal amount of citrus peels in your house until the peels are desiccated. When you remove them, you will also remove that horrible smell – or at least most of it.


• Charcoal is, surprisingly, also highly effective and affordable. Place a few bowls of charcoal around your room, and you’ll find that it absorbs the odour after about a week.

• Utilise the odour-absorbent quality of ground coffee to get rid of cigarette odours. Simply pour ground coffee into several individual coffee filters and tie them together, then place the coffee bags on whatever is harbouring the odour.


• Don’t neglect linoleum floors or glass and wood surfaces. Use glass cleaners, diluted ammonia (such as Handy Andy) and wood-cleaning solutions to scrub the stinky residue off a multitude of different surfaces.

• Burn vanilla-scented candles, place sachets of fabric softener in your home and plug perfume diffusers (designed especially for your home space) into the main living areas. Soon the lingering smell of smoke will be replaced with lovely fragrances.


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April 2023

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