How to Get Rid of Smoke Smell Due to Wildfires, Cooking, & More

Smoke smell from wildfires, burned food, smoking, and other sources can linger long after the fire is out. Here's how to prevent & remove it.

Updated June 14, 2023
wildfire near houses

Smoke smells can be notoriously difficult to remove. They cling to upholstery and soft surfaces and seep deeply into the furniture, walls, ceiling, and floors of your home. Regardless of the source of the smoke, having your house smell like a giant ashtray for days, weeks, or months on end is not only unpleasant, but it can also be unhealthy. So, whether a wildfire has popped up nearby or you have smokers in the house, understanding how to get rid of smoke smells will help you protect your home, family, and pets.

How to Get Rid of Smoke Smells in the Air

Smoke smells that have seeped into your walls and furniture can linger for a very long time, making your house smell like a campfire every time you step inside. This is especially true in spaces that have had prolonged or intense exposure. While shorter or less intense exposure is usually easier to banish, even that can linger for quite a while. Try one or more of our methods to rid your home of the acrid scent of smoke - and prevent smoke smells from getting in.

Air Out Your House

The first thing to try is airing out your house. In some cases, this is all you need, so it's always a good first step.

You will need:

  • Electric fans

What to do:

  1. Put a fan or two in front of your largest windows, pulling the smoke from the room and sending it out the window.
  2. Keep the windows open for at least a full day.
  3. Move smoky furniture and upholstery outside to air it out if possible.

This can quickly and easily pull any lingering smoke out. This can often be enough to get rid of minor smoke smells.

Absorb the Odors

After airing out the house, the next step is to try to absorb odors.

You will need:

  • Small bowls
  • Activated charcoal, coffee, baking soda, or white vinegar

What to do:

  1. Fill several small bowls with activated charcoal, coffee, baking soda, or white vinegar and place them around your house. These will pull the odors from the air.
  2. Replace the bowls as needed.

Use Air Purifiers

If you live in an area that gets a lot of wildfire smoke, invest in an air purifier. The machine has a HEPA filter to filter out any lingering smoke and smells. Consider one with an activated carbon filter for dealing specifically with smoke. Check the specs on the purifier to see how much space it will cover in your home - you'll likely need one for each room.

Need to Know

During wildfire season, air purifiers disappear quickly from store shelves and online retailers. Buy them during the off-season so you're not left scrambling to find one or paying an exorbitant price when a wildfire breaks out nearby.

Woman adjusting a home air cleaner

Replace HVAC Filters

HVAC filters do a decent job at keeping smoke smells from getting into your house in the first place. Replace them right before the start of wildfire season (or even as soon as you start noticing smoke smells in the house) with a filter that has a high MERV rating. In areas especially prone to wildfire smoke, a MERV rating of 13 or higher can make a huge difference. Replace furnace filters every 90 days - and more frequently during periods of intense smoke.

Remove Smoke Smells From Walls and Hard Surfaces

If you've aired out everything and you still smell smoke, prepare for a long cleaning session - there's really no easy way to remove it other than using a ton of elbow grease. Smoke clings to every surface in your home, so you'll need to clean your hard surfaces like counters, floors, cupboards and drawers (inside and out), and walls.

Vinegar is a good, nontoxic cleaner you can use to try to remove smoke smells. Washing everything down is labor intensive, but it's worth it to breathe clean air in your home. Since washing everything in your house can take a long time for one person, it's a great time to enlist the help of other household members. For protection while cleaning, everyone can don rubber gloves and N95 masks.

You will need:

  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Large clean sponge or cloth
  • Broom & mop

What to do:

  1. In a large bucket, create a solution of 1:1 water and white vinegar.
  2. Dip a large clean sponge or cloth in the mixture and use it to wash all the walls, ceilings, desks, tables, cabinets, drawers, glass, mirrors, and other hard surfaces. Replace the mixture when it turns gray.
  3. Do not rinse.
  4. Sweep and mop hard floors (hardwood, laminate, etc.) with the vinegar and water solution.
  5. Repeat as necessary.

If you have a steam mop, you can also use this to help get the smoke smell off the walls and floors. You can also use dish soap for areas where it isn't safe to use white vinegar.

How to Get Smoke Smell Out of Furniture, Upholstery, & Carpets

Next, tackle soft surfaces like furniture and carpets. Smoke smells cling to fabrics, so you need to clean them to get it out.

Baking Soda And Vinegar On Table

Use Vinegar

White vinegar is a powerful, nontoxic odor neutralizing agent. So, you can use it to clean your furniture quickly.

You will need:

  • Vacuum
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Clean microfiber cloth

What to do:

  1. Vacuum the furniture.
  2. Check the furniture labels to make sure the upholstery can handle water cleaners.
  3. Mix a 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water.
  4. Dip a cloth in the mixture and wring it out.
  5. Dab every area of the furniture with the mixture and let it dry.

Use Baking Soda

Like white vinegar, baking soda is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to smoke smells.

Woman Using Vacuum Cleaner On Carpet

You will need:

  • Vacuum
  • Baking soda

What to do:

  1. Vacuum the furniture and carpets well.
  2. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda on the furniture and carpets.
  3. Allow it to sit for several hours.
  4. Vacuum it up.
  5. Repeat as needed.

Steam It Out

If you're still struggling to get rid of that horrible smoke smell, try steam cleaning.

  1. Follow the instructions for setting up the steam cleaner.
  2. Steam clean your carpets and furniture several times.
  3. Allow to dry.

Consider a Deodorizing Spray

If you are still fighting lingering smells in the air, you might want to consider trying an odor-neutralizing spray like Febreze.

How to Get Rid of Smoke Smell on Leather Furniture

Leather furniture is a different beast than fabric upholstery. So, the method for cleaning it is different.

Hands in gloves disinfecting coffee table

You will need:

  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Clean, dry microfiber cloth

What to do:

  1. Mix a 1:4 ratio of white vinegar to water.
  2. Add it to a spray bottle.
  3. Spritz the furniture.
  4. Wipe it dry.

Don't Forget the Laundry

Don't forget that smoke smell will make its way into your drawers and closets. Use our helpful tips to remove smoke smell from your clothes and other laundry.

A Note About Ozone Generators to Remove Smoke Smell

You'll often see ozone generators recommended for removing smoke smells from occupied spaces. According to the EPA, this is not a safe practice - ozone can have many damaging effects on human and pet health and can cause lung damage, asthma, and other issues. So, it's best to skip the ozone generator, no matter how tempting it may seem.

When to Call a Professional

If the smoke lingers even after all that cleaning, it's probably time to call in the professionals. Professional cleaning services use specialized technology to remove smoke odors from your home. While it's not always necessary to call a professional, some smoke odor problems are so deeply ingrained into the house that using professional services may be the only way to get the smell out.

Prevent Smoke From Getting in Your House

Whether it's from wildfires or smoking, there's a lot you can do to keep smoke at bay and mostly out of your house according to the EPA.

  • Never smoke in the house.
  • Keep doors and windows tightly closed during periods of wildfire smoke.
  • Replace HVAC filters every 90 days.
  • Replace air purifier filters on-time and according to manufacturer's instructions.
  • Use high-efficiency HVAC filters with a MERV rating of 13 or higher.
  • Attach a high-efficiency HVAC filter to the back of a box fan to make a DIY air purifier and replace when dirty.
  • Turn your HVAC to recirculate mode during wildfire smoke events.
  • Close outdoor dampers on window air-conditioning units during wildfire smoke events.
  • Avoid using evaporative coolers and portable AC units during periods of smoke (they can bring smoke inside).
  • Avoid burning candles, incense, and fires.

Get Smoke Smell Out & Keep It Out

There's a lot you can do to get smoke smells out of your house and keep the air your family breathes pleasant and safe. So, once all the smoke has cleared, it's time to roll up your sleeves and get to work to keep your family and home healthy and smoke-free.

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How to Get Rid of Smoke Smell Due to Wildfires, Cooking, & More