Staging a House with Cigarette Smoke Residue- By: M Shane
One of the particular challenges that comes with staging some older homes, especially ones that have had the same residents for decades, is that of nicotine residue accumulation. When someone smokes in a home for many years an oily residue builds up on the walls, on the furniture, and in the carpeting making the surfaces sticky and leaving an acrid odor.
Nicotine residue is resistant to cleaning or even painting over in many cases, particularly when it has built up over many years. Due to it's oily nature, the longer it stays on your walls or textiles, the harder to get off it becomes as well; it petrifies to a sticky noxious grime. Because the staging process is all about making prospective buyers feel welcome and comfortable in your house, it is important to not distract them with an unpleasant odor.
To get your smokey space clean and sweet smelling, first tackle the walls. Depending on how long the oils have been accumulating on the walls, it may be possible to wash it off. Try using a solution of hot water and ammonia or a TSP solution; you will likely need to also use a fair bit of elbow grease. If your ceiling is washable and accessible, give it a scrub too because it will be retaining odors as well.
Once the walls and ceiling are clean, let them dry and then inspect their condition. Normally it would be fine to leave them as they are if the smell and residue have been removed. However, if it has been long enough since the last coat of paint for nicotine to build up on the walls, then you will probably want to paint for your home staging. You will need to use a primer under the new paint, particularly if not all of the reside was removed. If the walls still smell you may want to use two coats of a special primer designed for painting over smelly or stained walls before you paint.
The drapes are another place that soaks up nicotine in your home. If the curtains are in good condition and are neutral enough to use in your home staging, then wash them with either bleach or vinegar in the wash water. If they cannot be washed, have your drapes professionally cleaned. If the smell does not come out of them then replace them.
The furniture in your home will also likely be retaining odors. Any upholstery that smells should be covered with a liberal sprinkling of baking soda and allowed to sit overnight if possible before vacuuming it up. To wash the upholstery with good results it is best to have the furniture professionally cleaned. If your furniture is in poor shape, consider renting or borrowing some.
Last but not least is the carpet or rugs. For area rugs, you may want to have them sent out to be cleaned because the job will be done more thoroughly than you can do at home. For any wall to wall carpeting that you have it's a good idea to start with a generous sprinkling of baking soda throughout; leave the soda on overnight if possible and then vacuum the next day. Repeat if the smell is still quite strong. I have had a lot of success with taking out some fetid cat urine smells out of carpets with just baking soda, it's quite impressive. As with any staging, you will want to have the carpets professionally cleaned or at least rent a cleaner and do it yourself.
Following these steps should help remove the stains and the stink of cigarette smoke from the interior of your house, leaving it more inviting to prospective buyers. Instead of distracting them with an unpleasant odor, they will be able to concentrate on the character of your home!
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