How can I clean up my air quality in the 1975 home I just bought? The old owner was a smoker.


How can I clean up my air quality in the 1975 home I just bought? The old owner was a smoker.

Asked by John Stephens

The entire home smells like an ashtray, but besides the smell I imagine there are health issues. How can I improve the indoor air quality?

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Harold Remlinger, AIA, LEED AP, NCARB's picture

I have just experienced this same situation myself.

Here are a few simple things you can do to improve your indoor air quality.

  • Wash and paint all walls and ceilings
  • Remove carpet
  • Change furnace filter
  • Wash cabinets
  • Wash flooring
  • Wash wallpaper
  • Hire a duct cleaning company

Wash and paint all walls and ceilings. Purchase a quality low-VOC paint for all walls, ceilings and trim. By performing this simple step, you will remove the tar left behind on the surfaces and encapsulate any remaining odor beneath the fresh paint. Also, by choosing a low-VOC paint, you will reduce the amount of offgassing from the paint itself.

If the home is carpeted, I would recommend removing all of it. The odor embeds itself in the fibers, and even thorough cleaning will not fully remove the odor. If it is cost-dependent, have the carpeting thoroughly cleaned and deodorized.

Change the furnace filter or wash (if installed) the electronic air cleaner and filters.

Wash all cabinets and fixtures to remove any remaining residue and odor.

Wash or refinish all wood and tile flooring.

Wash all wallpaper which is to remain.

And finally, hire a qualified duct cleaning company to clean and disinfect all supply and return air ducts after all painting and refinishing is completed.

Good luck!

For more information:

Read William Janhonen's Q&A "We are buying a house with a faint smell of cigarette smoke. How can I rid the walls and ceilings of the smoke smell?"