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thestealth
Premium
join:2009-11-10
Lasalle, QC

[Environmental] Cleaning a heavy smoker's house

My girlfriend's grandfather recently passed and we are in the process of cleaning the house. He was a heavy smoker. What is the best way to clean the walls, cabinets, etc...

BlueHeron

join:2013-11-14

kudos:1

1 recommendation

[Environmental] Re: Cleaning a heavy smoker's house

I'd call one of those businesses that specialize in cleaning up after events like fires and see if they have a quote for doing that sort of thing. If they do and its not too steep, it might be worth it to get it done by pros.

The estate would pay the charges in most cases.


dark_star

join:2003-11-14
Louisville
kudos:1

1 recommendation

reply to thestealth
I used to have an apartment painting business. Occasionally, I had the misfortune of painting the apartment of a longtime resident who had been a heavy smoker.

Hot water on a rag / paper towels works well to get most of the tar off of smooth non-porous surfaces such as walls and cabinets. Plan to use a case or two of paper towels.

Wear rubber gloves since nicotine can be absorbed through the skin.

You can speed things up on the walls by using a sponge mop, the common kind meant for floors. Don't soak the walls, if you do you will damage the dry wall. Wring the mop out first. Change the mop bucket water frequently, and don't forget to use hot water.

The walls will still need to be painted. But washing them down means you may get away with as little as two coats, if you use a top quality paint and apply it generously.

The ceilings aren't practical to clean. You'll have to prime and paint them multiple times. Let dry overnight between coats.

Carpets will need to be replaced. Ducts will need to be cleaned. Replace the furnace / air conditioner filters.

Ideally, replace all appliances. If you can't do that, be sure to clean the dust off of the refrigerator coils.


dandelion
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Germantown, TN
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reply to thestealth
I found the business were a little steep. I think it depends on what you wish to do with the house. Getting it totally smoke free will be very hard/impossible but you can get it close.

Take all carpets up, throw away things that can't be cleaned of smoke i.e. most books, magazines, pillows. Some hard to replace items MAY benefit from repeated washing and/or dry cleaning. Washing walls and ceilings then re-paint, pulling off wallpaper and washing all wood/furniture with Murphy's oil soap.

Attempting this myself, I also got the vents cleaned by professionals and of course basic things like changing furnace filters. A lot of furniture/mattresses also needed replacing if upholstered items. Some things were set out in the garage to air for a few months after washing and that helped.

Clean then repaint when you can, throw away what you can, remove all carpet and padding. Murphy's oil soap on wood floors and furniture including shelving all helps.

PS Only one-two coats of Kilz on the ceilings seemed to work.

--
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jrs8084
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Statesville, NC
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reply to thestealth
Obviously, the sky is the limit on how much you wish to spend on smoke remediation. I used to smoke-I know how it destroys a house.

If you are simply trying to clean this up a bit, a good wash with clear ammonia/water mix works wonders. You can add a small amount of a surfactant of your choice (i.e. lemon cleaner, pine cleaner) to help if their are additional soils. But, you will be changing the water often no matter what you do. I don't like sudsy washes for walls. You could also use lemon ammonia. This will knock down a vast majority of the tar in your first pass.

The ammonia won't work so well in the kitchen if their are grease buildups. a butyl based cleaner such as Mean Green or Greased Lightening will emulsify the grease and smoke.


aurgathor

join:2002-12-01
Lynnwood, WA
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reply to thestealth
I found that TSP (trisodium phosphate) in warm water will dissolve tar and grease very well. Wash down everything that is washable and throw away everything else (i.e. carpet, couch, etc.) where cleaning would be too costly.

You may also want to re-prime and re-paint walls and ceilings.
--
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BlueHeron

join:2013-11-14

kudos:1
said by aurgathor:

You may also want to re-prime and re-paint walls and ceilings.

TSP works well.

Prime with a really good stain blocking sealer, such as Kilz, or the nasty stuff will bleed back through.


DarkLogix
Texan and Proud
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join:2008-10-23
Baytown, TX
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4 recommendations

I hear a bulldozer does wonders.


John Galt
Forward, March
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Happy Camp
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reply to thestealth
Article on third-hand smoke:

»newscenter.lbl.gov/feature-stori···-damage/

I see tests for this becoming commonplace in the future for pre-sale home inspections, along with the lead paint testing.
--
Many believe, but few will question...I decline to be blind.


Mango
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To help with the smell, you may want to consider an ozone generator. I know someone who got a great deal on a used car that was formerly driven by a smoker. He rented an ozone generator, and four hours later you couldn't tell the difference. I've used one for other stubborn odors (large volume of animal excrement left in house by former tenant...don't ask) and it worked a treat.

Be sure to get a generator that is sized appropriately for the house. Using a cheap low-powered generator for a long time will not work as well as a powerful generator for a short time because the ozone quickly converts back into oxygen. If the house has lots of doors, you can use the generator in one room at a time.

It cost me about $100 to rent mine and was worth every penny. The machines can be harmful if used improperly, so be sure to follow the directions. As long as no people, plants, or pets are in the house while it's operating and for the prescribed amount of time after the machine shuts off, you should be fine.

BlueHeron

join:2013-11-14

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reply to jrs8084
said by jrs8084:

The ammonia won't work so well in the kitchen if their are grease buildups. a butyl based cleaner such as Mean Green or Greased Lightening will emulsify the grease and smoke.

I cleaned the inside of an exterior door with Greased Lightening. It took the paint right off.


John Galt
Forward, March
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Happy Camp
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reply to Mango
From the link I posted above:

quote:
The 2010 studies from Berkeley Lab found that residual nicotine can react with ozone and nitrous acid—both common indoor air pollutants—to form hazardous agents. When nicotine in thirdhand smoke reacts with nitrous acid it undergoes a chemical transformation and forms carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines, such as NNA, NNK and NNN. Nicotine can react with ozone to form ultrafine particles, which can carry harmful chemicals and pass through human tissue. Humans can be exposed to thirdhand smoke through inhalation, ingestion or skin contact.
--
Many believe, but few will question...I decline to be blind.



DarkLogix
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Baytown, TX
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said by John Galt:

From the link I posted above:

quote:
The 2010 studies from Berkeley Lab found that residual nicotine can react with ozone and nitrous acid—both common indoor air pollutants—to form hazardous agents. When nicotine in thirdhand smoke reacts with nitrous acid it undergoes a chemical transformation and forms carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines, such as NNA, NNK and NNN. Nicotine can react with ozone to form ultrafine particles, which can carry harmful chemicals and pass through human tissue. Humans can be exposed to thirdhand smoke through inhalation, ingestion or skin contact.

SO what you're saying is ozone plus a very good hepa filter to catch the particles and stay out of the place while thats going on.
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iknow_t

join:2012-05-03

1 edit
reply to John Galt
said by John Galt:

From the link I posted above:

quote:
The 2010 studies from Berkeley Lab found that residual nicotine can react with ozone and nitrous acid—both common indoor air pollutants—to form hazardous agents. When nicotine in thirdhand smoke reacts with nitrous acid it undergoes a chemical transformation and forms carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines, such as NNA, NNK and NNN. Nicotine can react with ozone to form ultrafine particles, which can carry harmful chemicals and pass through human tissue. Humans can be exposed to thirdhand smoke through inhalation, ingestion or skin contact.

either that study is wrong, or George Burns had an undisclosed method of getting rid of that, because he smoked from 9 years old to 100 years old, and died from old age.. I don't think there is one thing that a study has not found to be bad for you at one time..


mix

join:2002-03-19
Utica, MI

1 recommendation

reply to thestealth
Just wanted to concur that the ozone generator idea works well for getting rid of smoking order.


John Galt
Forward, March
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Happy Camp
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reply to iknow_t
said by iknow_t:

either that study is wrong, or George Burns had an undisclosed method of getting rid of that, because he smoked from 9 years old to 100 years old, and died from old age.. I don't think there is one thing that a study has not found to be bad for you at one time..

Yeah, and you can fall from 10,00 feet without a parachute and live.


IowaCowboy
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reply to thestealth
If you are dealing with a forced air heating/cooling system, you'll have a real mess on your hands as smoke gets sucked into those things. If you really want the smoke gone, you'll have to clean the ducts and replace the furnace. If you are dealing with a hydronic heating system, you'll be much better off with cleaning.

I'm glad my landlord doesn't allow smoking in her property.

PX Eliezer
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reply to thestealth
Sorry for your loss.

-----

It sounds like the cost could be thousands of dollars (carpets, appliances, painting, etc).

I wonder if there is a local custom in your area where the house could be sold to another smoker. In that event the cleanup might be a little less costly, and the house could be priced proportionately lower.

I know that sounds silly, but you could ask the real estate broker if such a thing can be done. If another smoker buys the house, they might not care as much.

thestealth
Premium
join:2009-11-10
Lasalle, QC
reply to thestealth
Thank you for the feedback. I'll give the TSP a try and take it from there.

goldfinger

join:2000-12-24
00000
reply to thestealth
I will 3rd the TSP others have mentioned. We purchased a house in 2010 that was previously owned by heavy smoker. It was so bad after going through with the Realtor my nose burned all night! I was expecting to have to deal with the smoke smell forever. We washed the walls / doors / cabinets with TSP. Then painted all surfaces with 2 coats of Killz. Shampooed the carpet. I thought we'd never get rid of the smell completely, but it was gone in a couple days.

Mr Matt

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reply to thestealth
At one time my Brother In Law owned Service Master Franchises. They have a process to remove smoke odors. Step 1 is misting the interior of the home with a proprietary vapor. In extreme cases where soot is present they wipe down walls and ceilings with treated pads. I saw an example when I rode with him while he inspected various jobs. The process worked.


dandelion
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join:2003-04-29
Germantown, TN
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reply to thestealth
Just putting this link as a FYI to watch as you would most chemicals:
»www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency···2489.htm


linicx
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reply to thestealth
said by thestealth:

My girlfriend's grandfather recently passed and we are in the process of cleaning the house. He was a heavy smoker. What is the best way to clean the walls, cabinets, etc...

If you want to do this on the cheap take a page from motels. Throw out the curtains. Wash the walls with something like vinegar and hot water. When dry, paint using 2 ounces of pure vanilla extract to every gallon of paint. The smoke smell is gone! It is how they convert the smoking rooms to non-smoking.

Clean linoleum, faucets, sinks and counters with hot water and vinegar. Last call a company like Service Master. They cleaned the Pentagon after 9/11 and have carpets cleaned. If they are not worth cleaning remove it, mop the subfloors with vinegar and water and then install new carpet. What vinegar does is loosen dirt so you can get rid of it. 1/2 C vinegar per every 1 gallons of water is a good mix. Use 3/4 C for extra dirty surface.

You can use paper towels or go to the auto parts store and buy a package of shop towels for $7. They're tough, washable, and often lint free and streak free. If they are dirty they usually wash pretty good with a dab of soap, scrub it between your hands and be sure to rinse all the soap out. Let it dry. My natural shampoo strips oil from hair and also my dish cloths. I bought and clean houses for 30 years. It works pretty good most of the time.

Be cautious of plaster walls. Too wet is a recipe for disaster.
--
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jed
Premium
join:2001-07-06
Alberta, Can
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reply to thestealth

Re: [Environmental] Cleaning a heavy smoker's house

When we had our apartment, besides the obvious cleaning, for paint, we would use Kilz or similar, then normal paint. Otherwise the stains would come back through


FiReSTaRT
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Canada
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TSP or vinegar, original Kilz and adding a bit of vanilla won't hurt. I can personally attest to the fact that it worked like a charm for one of my acquaintances who was put in a pretty bad situation by a house guest with a substance abuse problem.
--
If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.
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PX Eliezer
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Graustark
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reply to thestealth
My God, if all this crap is on the walls and other surfaces of a smoker's house, just imagine what is in their lungs?!


02778712

join:2013-07-08
MA
said by PX Eliezer:

My God, if all this crap is on the walls and other surfaces of a smoker's house, just imagine what is in their lungs?!

Yea I know. If you juice any kind of fruit whole like an apple you get this great juice you drink but all this trash left over from the process. Ooo wait that just shows there's no real correlation between what goes in and what says out. Doh!


John97
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reply to Mr Matt

Re: [Environmental] Re: Cleaning a heavy smoker's house

said by Mr Matt:

At one time my Brother In Law owned Service Master Franchises. They have a process to remove smoke odors. Step 1 is misting the interior of the home with a proprietary vapor. In extreme cases where soot is present they wipe down walls and ceilings with treated pads. I saw an example when I rode with him while he inspected various jobs. The process worked.

I lived in an apartment for a short time. I remember seeing a crew cleaning the apartment next door after it was vacated by a smoker. They used the methods you describe. They routinely re-carpeted after each tentant moved out anyway, so it was a pretty thorough remediation. You couldn't tell a smoker had lived there let alone even been in the apartment at all.
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Snakeoil
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Mentor, OH
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reply to John Galt
But is lead paint testing still actually needed? How long has lead paint been out of the market place?

But I agree that since the findings came out about 3rd hand smoke, it wouldn't be a shocker to see testing/laws about it.
--
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02778712

join:2013-07-08
MA
said by Snakeoil:

But is lead paint testing still actually needed? How long has lead paint been out of the market place?

There is a lead paint form you must sign that's mandated by law if the property was built in or before 1978 before you can close. You don't have to have lead testing but you have to sign that you know there could be lead in the property. If the seller has ever tested they have to disclose the results. I doubt it's a huge thing in Ohio but in New England it's very common to have lead paint somewhere.