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We're buying a house from previous owners that were smokers. The house still smells of smoke even with no furniture or upholstery in it. We plan to replace all the carpet with wood flooring. We're hoping that will do the trick. But our realtor indicated that it might also need to be repainted and possibly primed with something like Kilz too. I'm just trying to get an idea of what we're in for.

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  • After I quit smoking, I was amazed at how many things held the smell. For example, a box at the back of the closet. Even years later. Good luck.
    – Jay Bazuzi
    Sep 3, 2011 at 1:40
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    @Ben Did you have any luck removing the smell? I'm in the same spot and am looking for advice. Aug 29, 2017 at 0:39
  • @measure_theory And meanwhile, have you tried and succeeded? I'm in a similar situation but in a rental, and apparently my landlord should be legally responsible to fix it.
    – gerrit
    Apr 17, 2019 at 14:34
  • @gerrit I have! I think we really benefitted from the fact that we have plaster walls and no central air, but we washed the walls and ceilings like crazy with TSP, primed with two coats of the Kilz Max, did a full skim coat of every wall surface, then two more coats of Killz and paint. No lingering smell and no sign of any smoke. Apr 17, 2019 at 14:56
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    @gerrit you’d still most likely get good results from skipping the cleaning part in that case, and I’d imaging stripping the paint off first probably isn’t feasible. Are the tobacco stains seeping through the current paint job? Hope it works out! Apr 17, 2019 at 15:15

2 Answers 2

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I know you're removing the carpets, but shampooing them will get rid of a lot of the lingering smell. You may need to do it more than once; if so, make sure to let them dry completely in between. After they're dry, vacuum them with a HEPA filter to remove dust or smoke particles that you might have dislodged while shampooing.

Smoke will have settled on all the surfaces in the house, so you should definitely think about repainting the walls and ceilings. Clean them thoroughly first using Trisodium phosphate (TSP). The Kilz that your realtor recommends is both a sealer and a primer; it will seal in any stains and smells and provide a good base to paint on.

Other surfaces should be cleaned too: kitchen or bathroom floors, doors, windows, countertops, etc.

Finally, just airing the house out will help some: open all the windows and have fans pulling fresh air into the house. You'll need good ventilation while painting, so you should be doing a lot of this anyway.

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  • Thanks! We'd replace the floors, even if it didn't smell, for other reasons. It's pretty immaculate right now, so I'll be surprised if cleaning surfaces makes a dent. But it's still a good tip. But sounds like maybe we should go ahead and have it painted before we move in.
    – Ben
    Sep 3, 2011 at 0:54
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Also consider using an ozone generator to breakdown the smell. There a companies that will supply them or they can be rented. Make sure you understand the precautions when using.

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