BY KIM TUCKER ON DECEMBER 22, 2021
Kim Tucker says; Ok, it’s time to sell your home, either your home or maybe you have inherited a home or you are helping a loved one downsize. The only problem, someone smoked in the house and now the walls are covered with yellow nicotine stains, and let’s face it, it just plain STINKS! So how do you remove Smoke Residue when selling a smoker’s house? Click here to read more.
According to Realtor.com, smoking in a home can reduce the resale value by 29% because all that smoke is not just unsightly and stinky, but because many of the harmful carcinogens from the cigarette are still in the house and you can still breathe them in. So if you are selling a smoker’s house, you will want to deploy some or all of these tips to de-smoke the house, before you put it on the market.
Why Getting the Smoke Residue Out is So Important
While many smokers just don’t notice the smell because they are used to it, most buyers will pick it up quickly and turn around and walk out. They are not only afraid of the smell, but many understand that often breathing in that smell and all carcinogens is harmful to their health. According to Joshua Miller with Rainbow International, a home restoration company, the harmful carcinogens from the smoke will linger in the dust, on the walls and other surfaces and they can be dangerous for pets and small children who touch everything and then put their hands in their mouth. And all the pollutants could remain months after the home is cleaned and vacant.
How to Remove Smoke Residue
Simple washing of the walls is not going to do the trick. There is much more to it than that. Often particles are absorbed and have to be completely removed or sealed in. Here are a few of the steps we take here at kcmoHomeBuyer when we purchase a smoker’s home and they don’t always get the job done.
Removing Smoke Smells from Soft Surfaces
We have read several articles with tips on how to remove smoke residue and many say you can wash soft surfaces and for things like clothing and curtains, this might work. But no matter how much we clean carpets or soft furniture we can never seem to get the smell out. I guess all these articles are referencing each other. The absolute best way to get the smell out of the carpet is to remove the carpet and pad and for upholstered furniture, that has got to go as well. (This tip goes for Cat Urine as well)
Wash the Walls & Ceilings to Remove Smoke Residue
This one is a bit tough and it does not always do the trick. But start with a good cleaning solution such as vinegar and water or something mixed with trisodium phosphate (TSP) and scrub the walls and ceilings. Now if the ceiling is covered with that popcorn stuff, and it is from before 1990, you might want to have it tested first for asbestos as much of the older materials sprayed on ceilings contain this even worse carcinogen.
Kilz the Walls & Ceilings to Seal In Smoke Residue
After a good scrubbing, the walls and ceiling may look better, but you will probably still have a lingering smell of smoke residue. Our next step is to seal it in and the best process is to paint over everything with a good primer coat of a product called KILZ. Just make sure you have very good ventilation as you do so because this stuff has a smell that can do you in much faster than the smoke residue – at least until it drys. Then you can paint over the KILZ to make it all look pretty again.
And in some instances, we may remove the popcorn from the ceiling as it is no longer in style anyway. And sometimes, we will remove drywall and start over. And if you have wallpaper, well you are going to want to spend some time removing that before KILZ and painting.
Cleaning the Floors & Other Hard Surfaces of Smoke Residue
There are a lot of other hard surfaces in the home and quite often we just take them out and replace them with new ones because they are so dated anyway and the cost to get them clean is much better directed at newer styles for our resale. But for those that are not quite ready to replace items, its time to grab that vinegar and water solution or TSP product and start scrubbing to remove the smoke residue from Doors, Knobs & Handles, Windows and Frames, Light Fixtures, Light Bulbs, Fans Blades, Appliances, Counters, Cabinet Doors, Windows and Hard Furniture.
Now for floors like Hardwood, Vinyl, and Ceramic Tile you might want to consult with a steamer company and have them steam clean these hard surfaces. You can also have your steamer contractor clean tile backsplashes, and shower and tub surround as well.
HVAC Systems have Smoke Residue Too
HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning, and these need to be cleaned as well. Often because we are buying a smoker’s house that is rather old and has not had a lot of upkeep, we find the HVAC components need to be replaced, but that still leaves all those feet of metal ducts inside the walls that are covered with smoke residue that must be cleaned so you can remove the smell and sell a smoker’s house.
You can hire a company to clean the ductwork, they will bring in a device that looks something like the bubble in the photo below and run a big brush through everything as well as use powerful fans and suction to get the residue off the insides of your ductwork. The neighbors might be a little scared.
And after you get the HVAC System cleaned and or replaced, make sure to replace the furnace filters with a high-quality HEPA version regularly to continue to clean smoker residue out of the air when selling a smoker’s house.
Ozone Generator to Clean the Air
This was recommended to us by a friend – Ozone. Just be super careful. Get out of the house while the process is running. And vent the house you come back in. The ozone generators had their recommendations. Our friend however had several steps.
- Place several around the house – one by the HVAC system (Make sure the furnace is not running), one on each floor of the house.
- Have all the windows and doors shut while you run the fan only on your HVAC system to circulate the ozone throughout the house and the ductwork.
- He said to run overnight – at least 24 hours, the instructions from the generators say to run for an hour or two. We settled for somewhere in the middle at about 12 hours.
- Vent the house as you go in, we started opening every window and door as we walked through the house to get to the generators and shut them off. They do have timers, but most are only for a few hours, no overnight, so we had to manually shut them off.
- We let the fan on the HVAC system run for another hour with all the windows and doors open, to get all the ozone out of the house while we found things to do outside the home until the air was safe to breathe again.
This ozone process worked, but we had also taken all the previous cleaning and replacement steps to have the cleanest possible surfaces.
So, if you are selling a Smoker’s House and you are faced with getting rid of the smoker residue you can do all the work, you can hire someone to do all the work, or you can skip it and sell it to us “as-is” for a fair price. We have not found a stinky house yet that we didn’t like.
Kim Tucker is the Executive Director of the Mid-America Association of Real Estate Investors. They are a trade association for Real Estate Professionals in the Midwest. Based in Kansas City, Missouri and have members from all over the metro area and from across the country.