Homes and offices that have been subjected to tobacco smoke have a distinctive and pervasive smell that is not easy to eliminate. In general smoke smells can be difficult to eliminate but the smoke and resulting residue and odor from tobacco smoke and especially cigarette smoke are especially difficult. Cigarette smoke produces exceptionally small odor particles. The size of the odor causing particles allow them to penetrate textiles and porous materials. That is one of the reasons that cigarette smell is so persistent.
How does smoke affect properties?
Tobacco smoke is a complex mixture of over 4,000 compounds. Smoke residue sticks to every surface such as walls, windows, furniture, wood, carpets and ceilings. It gets everywhere. In extreme cases we can see the residue on the walls and other surfaces. It can be thick enough to scrape with a putty knife. This residue is visible, sticky and it stinks.
The residue you can’t see can be much more damaging and difficult to eliminate. The odor causing particles will penetrate the fabric and padding of furniture, seep into the carpet and pad and into draperies and bedding the only effective option may be to replace all those items.
The particles will penetrate any unsealed wood including furniture and the structural elements of the house or office. The unfinished elements of the building will absorb the smell. The exposed rafters, wall studs, ceiling joists, subfloors, all will absorb the smoke and continue to release it back into the space forever.
While the microscopic particles are lingering in the air the heating and air conditioning system time to suck the residue into the system contaminating the furnace, air conditioner and all the filters and ductwork.
So, now that it’s clear how deeply the smell has contaminated the building how do we remove tobacco smoke and the smell?
Tobacco residue is pervasive and widespread throughout the building. Removing it can be very time consuming and costly. There are no shortcuts nor magic odor eliminating chemicals that will do the trick. The normal chemical compounds we use for odor control and elimination may have a positive immediate effect but that improvement will be very short-lived. These solutions combine with odor causing chemicals and form a new compound that does not produce the odor. Unfortunately the volume of odor causing particles produced by long term smoking requires a more systematic, mechanical and persistent effort for removal.
The most effective process includes multiple steps and takes time:
Clean or replace all textiles that are contaminated. Carpets, padding, bedding, mattresses, furniture, everything that has absorbed the odor and can be removed should be removed and either cleaned professionally or replaced.
Thoroughly cleaning every surface using high quality detergent agents and deodorizing chemicals. Floors, walls, ceilings, doors, trim. every surface.
Once the cleaning is complete we may seal some surfaces using shellac or a high quality paint primer. This applies to unfinished wood surfaces including the structural elements and the subfloor. We also, usually, seal the walls and ceiling.
After the cleaning we may also employ some of our odor eliminating processes to get rid of the last remaining smells. These options include hydroxyl generators or ozone generators as well as the chemical options available to us. These options help to get into those impossible to reach areas that can’t be addressed by cleaning.
The final step we employ and recommend is to have the furnace, air conditioner and duct system completely cleaned and deodorized by a knowledgeable professional.