How to Clean a Rental Property and Eliminate Smoke Odors


If you’re wondering how to get smoke smell out of house furniture, ceilings, walls, and other parts of your unit, chances are you had a tenant who broke your no-smoking lease policy. Read the steps below to learn the best ways to get rid of this pesky issue.

How to Get Smoke Smell Out of Your Property

Spraying Febreze in a property that has been occupied by a smoker will not be enough. Smoke particles seep into almost every part of your unit, so when it comes to getting rid of that pesky smoking smell, you have no easy task ahead of you.

Here are a few steps on how to remove smoking smell from house furniture and fixtures:

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Step 1: Air Out the Property

The first thing you should do when beginning your cleaning process is to aerate the property by opening all windows and setting up an air filter to draw out any existing smoke particles in the air. 

Step 2: Scrub Everything

The best way to get smoke smell out of a house is a simple solution of either two tablespoons of ammonia mixed with two cups of water, or one cup of vinegar mixed with one cup of water. This will help you clean some of these absorbed odors. Scrub ceilings, walls, and other hard surfaces with a sponge or mop, and be sure to wear a good set of rubber gloves. 

Don’t forget cabinets, light fixtures, windows, and fans. When cleaning cabinets, leave the cabinet doors open to air-out overnight. 

For walls and ceilings, after scrubbing them down, you will most likely need to repaint them. Use an oil-based, smoke-blocking primer to prevent seepage and lock in odors, then repaint. 

Step 3: Sprinkle Odor-Absorber in Affected Areas

You will need to sprinkle something to absorb the smoke particles that have settled in carpets, furniture, and other parts of your property. White vinegar is a natural and cheap deodorizer; fill bowls with white vinegar and place a few in each room. Then, sprinkle an odor eliminator like ammonia or baking soda on any other surfaces where smoke odor is clinging. Leave your solution and powder to absorb overnight. 

Step 4: Clean your HVAC Units

Hire a professional to remove built-up smoke within your HVAC units. Running an HVAC unit that has not been cleaned and rid of dust, ash, and smoke residue could undo all your hard cleaning work. 

Optional Step 5: Hire a Remediation Service

Hiring a professional remediation service can cost you a pretty penny, so this step is optional for those who have serious smoke damage. These experts may use ozone generators to get rid of smoke molecules still clinging to furniture and other parts of your property. However, you’ll need to evacuate any current tenants living in the property.

Document Everything

Many landlords have smoking policies written in their lease. If you do not, strongly think about doing so. However, even without a no-smoking clause, proving that your tenant damaged your unit due to smoking is still grounds for deducting from their security deposit.

You will want to document a list of damage caused by your tenant’s neglect of the property. Write down each room that has smoke odor, and have several witnesses verify that the smoke smell is there and sign off on it. There may also be visual evidence of smoking indoors, like yellowing blinds or cigarette ashes and stubs. 

Add up all the repair costs after you’ve finished cleaning and make deductions from your tenant’s security deposit as appropriate. 

If you have a tenant that seriously damaged your unit because of their smoking, consider modifying your smoking policy enforcement practices. Consider conducting periodic inspections of your units and encouraging other tenants to report evidence of breaking the no-smoking policy. If you catch a tenant breaking your smoking policy mid-lease, you are within your rights to send a lease violation notice and start the process of evicting them before they cause more damage. 


The first step in preventing smoke damage in your property is to have a clear no-smoking indoors policy in your lease agreement. Sending out frequent reminders and making it known that tenants will be charged and held accountable for their violations is a good way to keep these issues from arising.

However, tenants breaking aspects of your lease is an inevitable part of being a landlord. Follow the steps on how to eliminate cigarette smell from your unit in this article to return your unit back to its original state after a neglectful tenant.

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