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Getting rid of Smoke Smell

OricalmOricalm MDRegistered User regular
edited March 2011 in Help / Advice Forum
Ok, so I'm in the process of purchasing a house (Hooray!) but it was previously owned by (heavy) smokers. Like, you can tell where things were hung on the wall because it's white where the rest of the walls are distinctly not as white. I'm not a smoker, and the smell HAS to go.

I'm looking for anyone who may have dealt with this kinda of stuff before and what tips they can toss out.

Right now, I'm planning:

Walls/Ceiling:
Scrub down (Internet suggests vinegar water but that seems like trading one nasty smell for another. Can anyone suggest an actual cleaner?)
Apply 2 coats of Killz
Paint


Windows:
Vinegar based cleaner (Windex has a version of this I believe?)


Floors:
Ideally I would rip out the carpets but I don't have quite that much money to throw around. I've read that a good scrubbing with a shampoo-er will do wonders, can anyone recommend a good machine and/or detergent to use? I'm pretty sure I can rent a rug doctor from a local hardware store.

The hardwood floors, I'm thinking a good cleaning with something like pledge?

Other:
Hire a duct-cleaning company
Swap out furnace filters
Scrub down every other surface thoroughly (Cabinets, counters, etc.)

Anything I'm missing or else that could be recommended? It's a foreclosure but it's generally in good shape. I'm on a bit of a budget (there's a lot to do: Roof, Appliances, etc.), but my time is cheap (I'm still at home and not getting kicked out) so generally doing it myself is preferred even if it takes longer.

Xbox Live: Oricalm
Oricalm on

Posts

  • FatsFats Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Half vinegar, half warm water is what I've always used on apartment walls and it works well. Clean, wipe down with straight water, and then dry. The smell is a non-issue. Ammonia might work better on gross smoke stains, but then you do have crazy fumes.

    Fats on
  • jeepinryanjeepinryan Registered User
    edited March 2011
    I'm not all that familiar with the home buying process or foreclosures, but would it be possible to ask the bank/current owner to cover the costs of a professional cleaning as a condition of your purchase?

    I've heard of people doing things like this in a normal sale, but I don't know if it can work with a house that has already been foreclosed on.

    jeepinryan on
  • spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Foreclosure sales are as-is... the bank probably won't negotiate with him unless he's bringing a substantial deposit to the table.

    Vinegar smell isn't trading one bad scent for another, as the vinegar odor will dissipate in a day or so, and leave no lingering reminder.

    spool32 on
  • zilozilo Registered User
    edited March 2011
    You can Febreeze the carpets as a stopgap but eventually you're going to want to rent a carpet shampooer and give them the once-over. Check your local DIY (Home Depot, Lowes) and see what they charge, it'll be much easier to do before you move your stuff in.

    Vinegar-water isn't smelly and it helps a lot. 50/50 white vinegar and warm water should go a long way towards getting the stank off of the walls. Don't forget to do the closets too.

    I don't know what the weather is like in Baltimore but something as simple as a good airing-out helps a lot. Back when I was a smoker I would smoke in my basement in the winter; come spring I would clean the carpets and open all the doors and windows for a few hours and it was back to normal.

    zilo on
  • iRevertiRevert Tactical Martha Stewart Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Oricalm wrote: »

    Floors:
    Ideally I would rip out the carpets but I don't have quite that much money to throw around. I've read that a good scrubbing with a shampoo-er will do wonders, can anyone recommend a good machine and/or detergent to use? I'm pretty sure I can rent a rug doctor from a local hardware store.

    For around the same price you can buy a nice bissel wet vac for around $150 plus another $30 for solutions and do the entire houses carpet (vaccuum first) and then have it around to periodically clean the carpets.

    Its worth buying a nice "shampoo-er" rather then renting as when you get down to it the cost (under $200) is worth investing in to have it around to take care of stains, accidents, and just general carpet cleaning down the road.

    iRevert on
  • zilozilo Registered User
    edited March 2011
    Renting a carpet cleaner is around $25/day, iirc.

    zilo on
  • vonPoonBurGervonPoonBurGer Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    I bought a house last year that was formerly owned by smokers. My partner has a number of autoimmune issues triggered by allergies, nothing life-threatening, but certain allergens can make her utterly and persistently miserable. Cigarette smoke can be one of those triggers, so for us "I can't notice smoke smell" wasn't good enough, it had to be really sealed off to ensure that it wouldn't cause my partner ongoing issues. If we hadn't gotten such a good deal on such an ideal place, I would have regretted it. But it's working out fine, mostly due to a lot of time and hard work on our part.
    Oricalm wrote: »
    Scrub down (Internet suggests vinegar water but that seems like trading one nasty smell for another. Can anyone suggest an actual cleaner?)
    We used trisodium phosphate. It's a degreaser, which is apparently what you want when tackling smoke residue. TSP works best for pre-paint cleaning as it contains no surfactants or foaming agents that will screw with your primer or colour layers. It has no smell, and is super-effective against smoke residue. It's caustic though, wear gloves, don't get it in your eyes, don't use it on metal or tile (the tile itself is fine, but it can damage grout).

    Even the best cleaning won't get rid of 100% of the smoke residue, it sinks in to any porous surface (including latex paint), and will seep back out. We found that out the hard way, we painted a ceiling only to find that spots had gone from white to yellowish-white over the following day or two. We had to reprime and repaint it.
    Oricalm wrote: »
    Apply 2 coats of Killz
    We tried Killz, but ended up switching to BIN. BIN went on super-solid, one coat, every time. It costs more per can, but you'll save money (and time!) by only having to do one coat. The aforementioned ceiling was primed with Killz, but we must have had thin spots in the primer coat. While BIN works well, be forewarned, it smells like rum and death until the shellac has cured (less than 24 hours), and the fumes can make you loopy. Make sure you've got good ventilation, or use a respirator mask.

    TSP/BIN/paint is a big part of the battle, it can make a night-and-day difference in the amount of smoke smell you notice in a room.
    Oricalm wrote: »
    The hardwood floors, I'm thinking a good cleaning with something like pledge?
    I was worried about our hardwood floors and kitchen cabinets, but a simple washing with Murphy's Oil Soap worked fine.

    The other major areas of concern will be carpets, window blinds / curtains, and heating. For us, the only carpet was a stair runner, which was ripped out and replaced. Our place had cheap blinds left on some windows, we tossed 'em in favor of new ones. Our heating was electric convection panels... and that was the one thing that cost us $texas. We tried cleaning one, but it was impossible to get them really clean, and a lot of air moves through those convection panels when they're running. I turned a freshly cleaned unit on for all of three seconds before deciding that was a failed experiment. Hopefully you have better luck with furnace filters + duct cleaning!

    vonPoonBurGer on
    Xbox Live:vonPoon | PSN: vonPoon | Steam: vonPoonBurGer
  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Oricalm wrote: »
    The hardwood floors, I'm thinking a good cleaning with something like pledge?
    I was worried about our hardwood floors and kitchen cabinets, but a simple washing with Murphy's Oil Soap worked fine.

    Murphy's is the way to go. Pledge just dries the wood out.

    MichaelLC on
    Mugsley wrote:
    So now I need to get it trimmed and adjusted, and all in.

    Steam:MichaelLC
  • SarcastroSarcastro Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    *snip* Awesome advice *snip*

    When my folks and I flipped my aunts place (she had a 2-3 pack a day habit) this was pretty much exactly how it went down. Haven't tried BIN, we ended up doing a TSP scrub, 2 killz, latex primer and paint. Just TSP, killz and a single coat for the ceilings. An epic shiton of work, but well worth it. Good god the buildup in the ducts was especially disgusting. Imna keep BIN in mind if we ever hit the same issue again.

    Sarcastro on
    Edcrab wrote: »
    "See," said Lucifer, "God's an asshole."
  • OricalmOricalm MDRegistered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Thanks for the advice folks.

    The house has a heat pump for the HVAC (I haven't really looked much beyond "electric heat pump"), so I don't know how well that will compare to vonPoon's set up. I don't really want to buy a new HVAC unit though. I'll look into the TSP and BIN, so thanks for the tip offs.

    In terms of the other stuff, the house was basically stripped clean. No window coverings, no furniture, and a couple appliances are missing. Those that aren't probably need to be deemed a biohazard (Looking at you, fridge with food still in it).

    The weather should be nice by May (settle at the end of April) so I'm hoping having all the windows open and maybe the heat pump's fan going will help air out things. Common sense question, but I'm assuming I want to get the duct work cleaned before painting/shampooing carpets to prevent the blow off from settling into my nice clean rooms?

    With respect to the carpets, likesay, if I had the money I'd love to rip them up and replace them (preferably with hardwood/laminate hardwood) but I have to work on a budget, and the house has a couple big ticket items I need to worry about (Roof, pool, appliances).

    Oricalm on
    Xbox Live: Oricalm
  • ForbinForbin Registered User
    edited March 2011
    Nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

    Forbin on
  • SkeezicksSkeezicks Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Forbin wrote: »
    Nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

    Yeah, but then you're just trading smoke smell for radioactive contamination. Plus, there's the expense and hassle of buying and deploying a nuclear device. Personally, I'd try vonPoonBurGer's advice. :wink:

    Skeezicks on
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