It’s happened to most of us: we’re cooking some food and we get distracted, only to find that there is a lingering smell of burned food in the air minutes later. The problem is that the smoke will not only set off the fire alarms, but it can get into the carpets, curtains, furniture, and other surfaces.
If there’s enough smoke, it’s a smell that can last for weeks or even months afterwards.
The Problem with Smoke
When you have smoke in your home, it can quickly become a lingering problem. All of the smoke particles can get trapped in fibers around your home. This means that your carpet, your curtains, and any other fabrics can have a smell of stale smoke.
Just think about cigarette smokers, for example. If you’ve ever purchased anything secondhand from a home where people smoked, the chances are that the item in question also stinks of smoke.
That stale secondhand cigarette smoke penetrates surfaces and fibers, leaving them smelling foul and stale.
The smell of smoke is generated by the resin or tar that’s left behind. Those smoke particles settle into fabrics and onto surfaces. They leave a smell that can linger for ages if not cleaned away properly.
How Can You Get Rid of the Smoke in Your Home?
If you’ve just burned the chicken roast and smoke is fast filling the air, how can you get rid of it so that it doesn’t get into everything? Here are some tips:
1. Get Rid of the Source of the Smoke
If you’ve just burned your favorite rice dish in a pot on the stove top, quickly take it off the heat and scrape out the food. This is what’s producing all of the smoke, and if you can get rid of it quickly enough, bag it up, and toss it in the trash, you can do a lot to save your home from that stale smoky smell.
2. Open the Doors and Windows
One of the easiest ways to clear out smoke from your home after a cooking mishap is to open as many doors and windows as you can. Make sure that you open a window or door on opposing sides of the room so that you can get a nice cross-breeze going. If you only have one window in the room, see this article for more ideas.
This will help to suck out all of the stale smoky air and clear it.
3. Use a Wet Towel
If there’s a lot of smoke and you already have the windows open, but it’s not shifting quickly, you can soak a towel in water, squeeze it out, and then swing it around where the smoke is lingering.
Direct it toward the window for more effective removal.
4. Box Fans and Air Conditioners
If you have decent air conditioning, you can turn it on to circulate the air in the room. If you have a box fan, you can also use this to create a vacuum.
Just place the box fan in reverse on a window ledge in your kitchen. Turn it on and then the smoky air will be sucked away from the room and blown into the great outdoors.
The box fan needs to be reversed so that you’re not simply blowing the smoke around the room inside.
How to Get Rid of That Stale Smoke Smell in Your Home
If the smoke has lingered long enough that it’s in your furniture, carpets, surfaces, and fabrics, what can you do to get rid of it? Here are some tips:
1. Use Fresh Lemon or Essential Oils
What if you have a smoky home and people are coming over to eat? How can you quickly mask that awful smell?
If you happen to have some fresh lemons handy, you can slice them up and put them in a pot of water to boil. You’ll be surprised at just how effective the fresh lemon smell is at covering up and masking some icky smoke smells.
Optionally, you can also use some essential oils in the same way. Just add some lavender, lemon, or other fresh smelling and strong essential oil into a pot of water to boil.
If you don’t have essential oils or lemons, you can also use onion. Believe it or not, onions are great at absorbing bad smells. In fact, some people still swear by placing half an onion on the bedside table to help in fighting a cold or other virus.
Just cut up a few onions and place them in a bowl or dish of water. The onion will overpower the smoky smell and will also help to absorb it.
2. Use Vinegar Soaked Bread
White vinegar is great at absorbing smells and masking them. If you soak a piece of bread in white vinegar and then put it onto a plate or in a bowl in the smoke affected area, it will pretty quickly absorb the smoky smell.
The only caveat here is that the smell of vinegar is pretty unpleasant for some people. In this case, the vinegar smell should evaporate and dissipate pretty quickly.
You can also keep those doors and windows open to make this happen more quickly.
3. More Essential Oils
If you have plenty of essential oils in your home, you can also try soaking some cotton balls in them. Lavender, almond, and so on are all strong smells and much more pleasant than the smell of smoke.
4. Use Coffee Grounds
Oddly enough, coffee grounds are great at absorbing stray smells such as smoke. If you have coffee each day and you have plenty of discarded coffee grounds, try placing them in a bowl or on a plate.
You’ll be surprised at how quickly and effectively the discarded coffee grounds can absorb that nasty smoke smell. Coffee is also going to be much more pleasant!
5. Use a Mix of Vinegar and Water
As mentioned earlier, white vinegar is fantastic at absorbing bad smells. If you have a smoky home and your stuff smells like smoke, you need to make sure you clean every surface.
Vacuuming and wiping down everything with commercial cleaners will help to some extent, but if you want a natural and safe solution, mix equal parts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle.
Spray down surfaces with the vinegar and water mixture and then wipe away with a cloth. This should not just mask the smoky smell, but also kill any bacteria and help to absorb the smoke.
The biggest problem you’ll have using vinegar is that the vinegar smell can also be quite offensive to some people. In this case, you might want to do the following:
- Dilute the mix of vinegar with more water
- Add some fresh lemon or herbs to the vinegar and water mixture to improve the smell
- Use baking soda on surfaces to absorb the vinegar smell and then wipe away
What About Using Baking Soda?
Many people are using baking soda in their household cleaning routines because it’s inexpensive, breaks down in the environment, and is great at absorbing bad smells. You can also use it to absorb those foul smoky smells too.
In fact, many people place a dish of baking soda in their refrigerators to absorb food smells.
If your kitchen benches smell of smoke after an ill-prepared favorite meal, you can use a pasty mix of baking soda and water. Just spread it liberally on the surface and scrub it with a cloth. Leave it for a while and then wipe it down with a damp cloth.
This will not only kill nasty pathogens, but it will also absorb nasty smells, such as smoke. The extra bonus is that this will also absorb other kitchen food smells on the benches, such as onion.
All of this will leave your kitchen benches and other areas smelling fresh and clean.
The idea is not to burn food in the kitchen, but it has happened to most of us at one time or another. We have some food frying or boiling in a pot and then go off to do something else.
As we’re distracted, the food overcooks and then burns, leaving a haze of smoke in the kitchen and other areas, as well as smoke detectors going off!
After flapping your arms around and trying to dissipate the smoke and turn off the smoke detectors, you’re left with a smelly mist of smoke in your home. If it hangs around long enough, it will also seep into the fabrics, fibers, and furniture around your home.
The good news is that there are a number of ways to clear the smoke and then mask and clear the stale smell of smoke. Your first effort should be to open doors and windows to create a cross breeze and suck the smoke out.
You can also do some other things, such as use vinegar, wipe down all surfaces, and so on to get rid of the remaining smoke.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems and over 10 years of experience working in IT. As a homeowner, I love working on projects around the house, and as a father, I love investigating various ways to keep my family safe (whether or not this involves tech). I’ve also played guitar for almost 20 years and love writing music, although it’s hard to find the time these days.