When you see a stain—no matter if it's sticky, greasy, or simply set in—you likely know which tools to reach for in getting rid of it. But what about the cleaning tasks that you don't see? Think: smoke odors. Smells can be tricky to address because you can't actually see improvements being made, but there are specific ways to erase the offending odor from your home, even when it's as tricky as smoke. Step one? Open up your windows for ventilation. "You can even set up two fans, one to draw fresh air in at one end of your home and the other to move air out," says Mary Gagliardi, also known as "Dr. Laundry," Clorox's in-house scientist and cleaning expert. She notes that depending on how long the smoke has been in your house, this step could be all you need.
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However, in the event of lingering scent from burnt food, tobacco use, or a nearby wildfire, you'll need to do more. Luckily, Gagliardi says there are a few more steps you can take to refresh your space.
Wash your clothes and fabrics.
"If you have aired out your home, and initially it seems like everything is okay but later you start to notice a lingering smoke smell, then the smoke is on your fabrics," explains Gagliardi. In this case, you'll need to prepare your washing machine for a load of laundry. She recommends including a laundry sanitizer, like Clorox Laundry Sanitizer ($9.75, target.com), in the rinse cycle to freshen your clothes and textiles of any smoke and cigarette odors. "If you have a single item you want to deal with (maybe a shirt worn while enjoying an outdoor fire) you can use Clorox Fabric Sanitizer Spray ($5.69, target.com) to spray the fabric just prior to washing," she explains.
Don't forget to clean overlooked fabrics in your home like curtains and drapes, too. "These are often machine washable, which is great news if your curtains need a thorough cleaning because of smoke odors," adds Gagliardi, also noting that steam cleaning is a more temporary option. "Fabrics that aren't machine washable or appropriate for steam's high temperatures should be dry cleaned—always follow the care instructions."
Restore your furniture and floors.
When it comes to upholstery, Gagliardi recommends steam cleaning, but do make sure to test a hidden spot (like under seat cushions) with pretreatment products to check for changes in color. The same rule applies if you're using a fabric sanitizer on furniture, either alone or in conjunction with a steam clean—spray a little bit of it and then wait for five minutes. Once your test area has air-dried, look to ensure the color is the same as it was before. If everything looks good, spray a fabric sanitizer over as much of your furniture that you would be able to clean in five minutes, then steam clean it. "After three minutes, begin cleaning with the steam cleaner," explains Gagliardi. "Repeat with another small section until the entire surface (including cushions and arm rest covers) has been cleaned." Lastly, air-dry.
You can also follow this exact process to steam clean your carpets, or you can also try out baking soda as a cleaning product—this can clean your furniture and carpeting, too. Sprinkle this thoroughly on your carpets, and let it sit for 24 hours. Afterwards, vacuum it and you're all done. "If the smell returns (not uncommon with years-old cigarette smoke odors in carpet), that could mean the odors have penetrated through the carpet to the pad," says Gagliardi. "In that case, replacing the pad and the carpet would likely be necessary."
Cleanse walls and most-touched surfaces.
Walls are the most common areas smoke absorbs into in your home. Gagliardi says that mixing powder TSP (trisodium phosphate), like Sunnyside TSP Heavy Duty Cleaner ($32.06, homedepot.com), with water will combine for a cleaning solution that combats "the greasy component of cigarette smoke and soot." After cleaning with this mixture, repaint your walls if any stubborn smoke smells stick around.