We are buying a house with a faint smell of cigarette smoke. How can I rid the walls and ceilings of the smoke smell?

Asked by Stephen
Dallas, TX

We plan to wash and paint the interior. I would like to know how best to clean the walls (solution/application) and a good primer/paint combination. I read about Zinsser B-I-N on another page which seems like a good option. Thanks!


William Janhonen

Answered by William Janhonen

Norwalk, CT

WSJ Enterprises

August 9, 2010

The very first thing you need to do is remove the smell of smoke from the interior surfaces of the home.

Professional disaster remediation companies have a green method of removing smoke and other odors from disaster sites. They use a hydroxyl generator to flood the area with hydroxyl ions that destroy the odors. Hydroxyls are ions created naturally in our atmosphere when UV radiation passes through water vapor. The ions cleanse the air we breathe (why do you think it smells so clean after a rain storm?).

I used a generator last winter when the damper in our fireplace broke and our house filled with wood smoke. In one day the generator eliminated all of the smoke odor from our carpet, furniture and clothes still hanging in the closet.

I don't know if they have a distributor in your area, but you can contact or call 905-604-9088.

To clean the walls, a solution of TSP has always been a good product for this problem and doesn't need rinsing. And B-I-N is one of the best primers, so you are right on track.

For more information:

Read Harold Remlinger's Q&A "How can I clean up my air quality in the 1975 home I just bought? The old owner was a smoker."

Read our green paint backgrounder for detailed comparisons of latex, natural, and oil paints.

Tagged In: home air quality, cleaning

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