In which I get rid of cigarette odor from my home

TLDR; there is no TLDR.

I came back to my apartment after spending the winter break in Houston, TX, and was surprised to find that my living room smelled like a giant ashtray. To be certain, it smelled an awful lot like my neighbor’s apartment. He’s an ex-military cat and a chain smoker, and he regularly smokes indoors. That neighbor smokes Camel cigarettes, but that’s a story for another time.

While I have been a smoker for the past few years, I have never enjoyed the stale smell of cigarette smoke in an enclosed space. My friends who do smoke generally don’t do so indoors, and I can appreciate their reasons for choosing not to. The last time that I smoked inside of my own apartment was during one particularly troubled morning, when I decided that I would like to try smoking with my morning shower. I elected never to do that again after noticing how quickly my bathroom smelled began to smell like the public toilets in China.

I quickly moved my suitcases and my dog through the doorway, and it dawned on me that the culprit was likely my girl neighbor who I’d entrusted with the care of my apartment’s flora and fauna in my absence. Finding my potted plant still verdant, and my fish still swimming, I decided that I might as well ignore the odor for the moment. I knew I’d have to deliver a tongue lashing to her in time, though I distinctly recalled pointing these house rules out on the day that I’d given her my spare key.

I sat down and placed a call to a friend who had relocated to New York after finishing her last semester of college. We touched base while I began laying out my brown-bagged dinner from KFC (my dog was keenly focused on me at this time, or so I thought) when suddenly, my girl neighbor’s voice came to me from my 3 o’clock.

“Hi, welcome back!”

I bit my tongue, at least partly in surprise, thinking it best to defer any talk of the heavy musk of cigarette smoke that had welcomed me back moments earlier. Better not to get to fighting, lest I spook her.

“You surprised me. How long have you been here?”

At this point, Paul was jumping all over her. He’s very excitable.

“Oh, I came here at maybe 3? 4?” she responded while petting the dog, “I felt tired so I came here to sleep”

I ask her some more questions while eating. She gets some food out of the fridge that she bought earlier and heats it up. I forgot to ask her about her trip to Washington, but I suspect that I can ask about that later.

After the meal, I invite her to go outside with me to have a cigarette. She mentions that she’s smoked a few packs over the break, but she didn’t smoke any on her trip. Then I ask her whether she’s been smoking inside of my apartment.

“You can smell it? Last time I smoked in your living room was (some time ago)!”

I told her that the smell was in fact very strong. Further, I offered that she could help me do something about it. We finish our cigarettes and I head back inside to light a stick of incense.

Fast forward to the next morning, and we’ve vacuumed the whole apartment. I enlist her help in washing the bed sheets and pillow covers that have been used. I go to sleep that evening feeling hopeful, but enter the living room to find that the smell is still in the air.

So on the morning of the third day, I shut off the forced air heater, open the windows, and turn on the ceiling fans. I open the balcony door and step outside to watch as the hot air from my living room goes rushing out. Meanwhile, I retreat into my study to begin my day’s work. Within the first hour, the temperature in the living room has plummeted from a comfortable 68˚F to 51˚F. I close everything up after a few hours of air exchange and leave it at that.

A day later, the smell is much fainter, although it is still present. This, after vacuuming all of the carpets. I think I will try out some old tricks that I read about.


You get rid of the source of cigarette odors first, then take remedial action

Air out the space as much as possible before tackling lingering odors