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Cigarette Odor Removal from Ductwork

calvincalvin Member Posts: 4
A customer purchased a condo that used to be home to two bigtime smokers. Her efforts of sealing and painting, washing down all other surfaces and removal of all carpet, floor and wall coverings has removed most of the smell. However, the latent aroma still hints of cigarettes. She's at a loss as she did have the ducts cleaned. I'm not sure (nor is she) that they did anything other than vacuum them.

I know from removing some cabinets, mirrors, shower doors etc that a film was present on all surfaces. I assume the same film will be in both the returns and supplies.

Any proven ideas for removing this film?



  • JackJack Member Posts: 35

    Activated charcoal?
  • leelee Member Posts: 458

    Check with tool rental shops for an ozonator. Electronic air cleaner that gets rids of odors and cleans the air. Works awesome for fuel oil odors after a spill. I would think it would work on cigeratte smoke.
  • calvincalvin Member Posts: 4

    I have seen ozonators used in Fire Restoration work, seemed to be used to clean the air. My concern was the aroma producing film that probably is on the insides of the ductwork-she didn't notice a rebirth of the stink till she turned on her AC.

    Do you think the general running of the ozonator in the rooms would do the trick (provided the fan is set to ON?

  • leelee Member Posts: 458

    I own one, and when something goes ripe that my kids hid and we don't find. It quickly gets rid of smell. Most have a sanitize setting and boy does that work. We haveused mine to get rid of fuel oil smell after spill. I would think fuel oil smell would be harder to get rid of then cig smoke.

    It would be worth a try for the minimal rental fee.
  • RolandRoland Member Posts: 147
    Smoke removal

    I'd be very carefull with an industrial ozone generator. While they are widely used to help eliminate odors due to smoke and mold, you cannot safely stay in the same area as the generator. Humans and animals will suffer significant lung damage from exposure to high levels of ozone.

    Do some research before you consider this route of treatment.
  • calvincalvin Member Posts: 4

    Thank you all for the information. I am going to advise my customer that there could be benefit with the use of the ozonator, but to contact a qualified company to do the deed.

    I know now that it rids many smells, is not childsplay but still not 100% sure the cig smoke will be gone. I was hoping someone else had the situation of nicotine film stink removal.

    If she goes ahead with this I will hopefully remember to come back here and report the outcome.

    Thanks again.
  • cigarette smoke residue inside ductwork

    Tobacco smoke is a very complex mixture of chemicals. You probably have seen the yellow film that stains the walls, or the brownish gunk that clings to fabrics like curtains or drapes. The same stuff collects in your ductwork. It is oily and sticky, and very hard to get rid of. Conventional duct cleaning with powered brushes probably won't remove it. You can't use liquid cleaners.

    Ozone generators work well for getting rid of smoke smell, and are often used during fire restorations. They can be DANGEROUS! DO NOT STAY IN THE HOUSE when the thing is working, remove pets also. Ozone can cause potentially fatal lung damage. It also attacks rubber and certain fabrics. Use of an ozone generator is best left to a pro. If they are in your area, look up "ServPro". They specialize in fire and water damage.

    You could use a charcoal filter, but change it frequently. I generally don't recommed using deodorizers, but some of the plug-in variety might be useful to mask the smell. It will fade, but only gradually, and will be noticible when the heat is on and on humid days. Removal and replacement of the contaminated ductwork is the only complete solution. Sorry, but this is a nearly insoluble problem.
  • calvincalvin Member Posts: 4

    Thanks Bill. I'll add that to the information accumulated thus far.

    I figured the film could be a problem. I can only assume the ozonator MIGHT help. With the proper operator would you say it's worth the try?

  • Ozone

    IF you can direct the ozone thru all the ducts and returns, it might help. It is "iffy" that it would completely cure the problem.
  • mountainaire55mountainaire55 Member Posts: 1
    Smoke in Duct Work

    Would you think you could try sprinkling baking soda just inside the duct - below the vent cover? I was hoping that as the air flowed over the baking soda it might help the problem,

    I don't want to remove and replace the duct work.
  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    Start smoking you wont even notice the smell..

    I own a duct cleaning company as well as my HVAC co. and In my experience to get rid of cig odor, you need a thorough duct cleaning {the odor stay in the dust bunnies} and then have the company you get to clean your ducts fog in a deodorizer, I personally use Sporicidin because I dont like adding moisture to duct work, but the Sporicidin will not mold up on you and will get rid of the smell like it was never there... But you need to have a duct cleaning and get the dust and any standing debris out of the system first, then change fog them, and install new filters...

    If you just want to mask the odor, dryer sheets work in the heating season, but your house will smell like a laundry mat...
  • GordyGordy Member Posts: 7,111
    edited February 2013
    Straight ammonia

    Undiluted cleaning ammonia. Set a bowl full inside the plenum what ever size fits. the more surface area the bowl can achieve the better. Run the fan all day, and clear out.

    Ammonia is cheap 1.99 a gallon around here.
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