How do I get rid of smoke odors?

Hello all, I have furnished studio apartments. We just had a tenant to move out and (against our rules) the place reeks of smoke! We have had the carpet steam cleaned. Had all of the fabrics dry cleaned and scrubbed almost every surface (other than walls and ceiling) which we will do next with pinesol, bleach, febreeze and disinfectant spray. Still the smoke smell remains. I know that repainting will probably get rid of the odor, but any other cleaver ideas? We’d like to paint as a last resort. Like furnishedowner, we have monthly rentals. This tenant has only been here for 3 months!

A fire restoration company that I know uses an ozone generator to eliminate smoke odor. However, I don’t know how long it takes to deodorize a unit using this method. Here’s a webpage that talks about deodorizing a vacant rental.

This is something I am interested in. Not just smoke odors, but just “vacant house odors.”

Thanks Javipa, I will check it out. Another question, I clearly state in my lease that smoking is NOT allowed inside. Being that they broke the rules, what can I do if anything to recover my cost of possibly having to repainting, the steam cleaning etc? I charge $250 deposit (which she won’t get back anyway due to missing and damaged items in the unit. In the future how do I avoid all of this? Is my deposit too low?

The only way we know to motivate tenants to not screw with us, is to get giant deposits.

The problem is, not all markets let us do this. Sometimes the market is too soft to demand the kind of deposits that motivate tenants to abide by the contract terms.

Of course we’re talking about the conventional market. There’s a sweet spot of ‘iffy’ prospects that will pay top rents and give us the deposits we want. These are people with problems in their past. I’ve gone into this elsewhere, so I won’t repeat myself. Suffice to say, marketing to the credit challenged is a great way to find tenants that are quite motivated to jump the hurdles we want and rent from us, because few others will rent to them.

Meantime, 2x’s the rent is the minimum we’ll accept as a deposit (in theory). It depends on what the actual rent is in a particular market. On a $500/mo apartment, getting a $1000 deposit can be a tough. That’s why it’s particularly good to rent to ‘hiccupy’ tenants at the low end, who will agree to put up higher deposits, if not pay higher rents than normal retail rates.


So, yes your deposit requirement of $250 is just not enticing enough for the tenant to try to get back.

Bottom line, if we can’t get higher deposits from ‘good’ tenants, we go for ‘bad’ ones instead. And don’t forget that co-signers can reduce/eliminate the tenant’s sinful temptation to “trespass against us.” :evil

Wood can absorb the smell of smoke if not properly sealed.You can wash wood cabinetry with a solution of Murphy’s Oil Soap and warm water.
Murphy’s Oil Soap leaves a fresh clean smell and a protective layer of oil that creates a beautiful and lasting shine.

We do encounter a smoke violator every few months.

We have tenants initial a RENTAL RULES page when they check in. The rules clearly state “I agree not to smoke indoors. I agree to pay a MINIMUM of $500 if an indoor smoke clean-up is required due to indoor smoking by me or my guests.”

Smokers always smell of smoke and we tell them verbally, too.

Then when we walk in and it reeks of smoke sure enough there are Febreeze cans in their trash. We have their credit card on file and we run the $500 charge or we notify their agency and they withhold it from their paycheck.

I know another furnished owner who charges 1 months rent for a smoke clean-up.

Do a “search” there are old posts here with what to buy for smoke mitigation.


Great idea furnished to charge for smoke clean up however I don’t always have clients who have credit cards. In this case do you just not rent to them or how much deposit do you charge? My studios are $850 which includes utilities and are fully furnished. What do you propose?

I would get a credit card number or a deposit each time. If they can’t afford it I probably wouldn’t rent to them.

How are your studios priced compared to hotel suites or other furnished studios?

Our utility costs here for a studio is $250/month. This includes water, gas, electric, sewer, trash, cable TV, wireless high speed internet, free long distance phone. That’s a lot of utilities plus furnishings. Our studios are full all the time.

We are thinking of raising the rate just a little. Currently they are at $1140/month, $38/day.

Really track your utility costs. If your market can bear a higher rent rate you get better tenants, who have credit cards. Otherwise you might fall into the old boarding house type of clientele. You will be full, but have more problems.


I’ll second the Murphy’s Oil Soap. It’s a fantastic, inexpensive product. You only need a cap full with a bucket of warm water. I wash wood floors and staircases with it. I wash ceramic tile floors I even wash my car before waxing it and the finish comes out sparkling like diamonds. It doesn’t harm the vinyl inside your car either. And it smells great too.

As for deposits. If the market and local laws let you take damage deposits, do it. For me, I can only charge first/last month’s rent and have to rely on screening people really well. Be extra careful if they’ve got anything negative to say about previous landlords or they move around a lot, e.x, if they’ve lived in three different places in the past year, I can guarantee you you’ll regret letting them in

If their credit is stellar, they’ll probably leave the place in rentable condition. Verify what’s on the application. Gotta watch out for people with bad credit and marginal employment or assistance. They’ve got nothing to loose by trashing the apartment after you give them an eviction notice. In that case, I’d rather keep the apartment empty. I let someone in who smoked on a disability pension and she burned 36 cigarette marks into my resanded hardwood floors, broke over half the windows and destroyed the stove with a hammer. The burn marks went in half a centimeter when I tried to sand it out. She had nothing to loose once I gave her an eviction notice. Got a judgment for damage against her and it was completely useless.

If they’ve got average credit or no credit, then they definitely need a co-signer.

Furnished, currently I am the only one in town with studios however there is a residence inn in bad condition that charges 250 weekly. Even though that’s $150 more than I charge on a monthly basis, I wouldn’t want their clients. There is someone else in town that charges $900 monthly for a 1 bdrm but they aren’t as nice as mine are, neither is the neighborhood as nice. I offer electric, gas, water, cable, wireless Internet, garbage and pest control. ( no phone) the apartment is fully furnished with kitchenette, dishes, mini fridge, coffee maker, toaster oven, pots and pans, burner top and more. The space is very nice and large 850 sq ft. What are your recommendations? (we do plan to soon install full sized refrigerators.)

If the Residence Inn is in bad condition, are their other better hotels in your area?

What are your local hotels occupancy rates? Can you have a friendly chat with your best hotel manager? Here we refer short-term clients to the La Quinta Hotel, and they refer long-term with dogs to us if they can’t house them. I know when the hotels are full and when they are struggling. The hotels are your peer group–not unfurnished rentals. Go visit them. Know their rates. Talk about referring your short-term inquiries to them.

What does a traveling executive pay to stay in the hotel for a month?

Can you market to out-of-towners, not locals? If your amenities are better than the Residence Inn than you should charge more.

It’s trial and error in figuring out rates. It’s intensely local, seasonal and situational. Our studio rates have varied from $900/month to $1800/month and with the same occupancy rate. Currently we are 95% full all the time @ $1140/month. We are thinking of a rate increase since we have held this rate since the economic downturn and now things appear to be picking up.

This has high-jacked the smoke question, but the answer might just be a better level of tenant.


Wow furnished, you’ve given me a lot to consider. There are a few nice hotels in town. The Hamptons ($115 nightly) and holiday inn express ($95 nightly) just to name a few. That’s a great idea to have a relationship with the managers. I certainly would love outsiders. I don’t have much success with the locals. The only other thing is we don’t and don’t care to accept pets. Any and all advice is greatly appreciated. I’m taking precise notes on all of your recommendations! Thanks

You will have to wash the walls and ceilings and wash inside all the cabinets. Any heating vents and ducts will have to be cleaned also.

Is it against the law to charge a smoker a higher deposit?

You can use Scented Candles. It Works every time. Along with that if you clean the walls with diluted bleach and water, mop the floors, clean the sink, toilet and mirrors and turn on the fan, odors will totally eliminate the smell. Hope this helps

Smoker’s Candles contain enzymes that help neutralize and remove smoke odor. These candles are available in different scents. They burn for several hours thus removing the bad odor. You can buy these candles online also.

When you rent your house, tell the tenant about rules and regulations and if they go against it, some of the amount (extent of loss of the property) will be deducted from the deposit amount. It would be good if you mention all these lines in the agreement.

Once it is mentioned in the agreement, I am sure they will take care of it.

We use ozone… and lots of it. I think our machine puts out 14000mg/h and it seems to do a good job… We cannot go into the property for at least 1 hour after blasting but the machine does the trick.