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help me lessen the stink
February 7, 2011 3:04 PM   Subscribe

What scents are good at minimizing/masking/neutralizing cigarette smoke?

A neighbor somewhere in my building smokes up a storm every other day or so, and it seems to vent right into my old bathroom (and sometimes bedroom, which shares a wall with the bathroom) via cracks between the wall and tiles. My landlord won't do any caulking, and I'm not allowed to, either. But I'll be moving out in a few months, so for the time being, am trying use candles/incense or other things to minimize or neutralize the odor a bit.

I'm currently using lavender tealight candles, which I think (or have convinced myself) helps a little bit. Any other scents or things worth giving a shot?
posted by raztaj to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Plain white vinegar in open bowls.
Coffee beans.
Box fan venting out your window if the weather allows it.

You also might want to make sure that your closet is sealed up as well as possible (maybe even put clothes you don't wear often into large garbage bags and close them up) so that your clothes don't get musty cancer stank all over them.

I used to share a back porch (where my bedroom window also happened to be) with chain-smokers, so I feel your pain.
posted by phunniemee at 3:21 PM on February 7, 2011


A smudge stick, which is basically a bundle of dried sage, is like super heavy duty incense. You can buy them at new age shops or some health food stores. There's probably a special way to use them, but I just light one end, blow it out, and put it in a dish. I don't know if it's specifically good at masking cigarette smoke but it puts out a lot more odor than candles or dinky little incense sticks.
posted by theodolite at 3:23 PM on February 7, 2011


Ozium
posted by jclovebrew at 3:26 PM on February 7, 2011


Incense is what potheads burn to cover up their OWN smell in apartment buildings...i'd go with that! tends to work much better than candles.

If smoke is too much to handle, try burning some home fragrance oil. Surprisingly enough, tobacco flower extract is an odor neutralizer that not only covers up but actually gets rid of unpleasant smells in the air (it smells NOTHING like tobacco). i use it, and it covers up smoke, as well as when my extra stinky cat decides to visit the litter box. here's links to buy, or visit a "The Body Shop" store near you if applicable. you can burn any scent you want, there are tons of oils, but tobacco flower actually kills the odors and has a nice, neutral smell that doesn't overpower or smell artificial.

Tobacco Flower Home Fragrance Oil

Oil Burners(soapstone is the best material for that no matter where you buy it from - diffuses the oil better and doesn't let it get that burnt smell.
posted by assasinatdbeauty at 3:29 PM on February 7, 2011


I am a smoker and sometimes smoke indoors when it's super cold outside.
I found this candle at Walmart and it works pretty well. I asked two non-smoking friends that came over the other day if my place smelled like cigarettes. They said it didn't.

I've tried many scented candles and they never worked as well as this one.
posted by KogeLiz at 3:34 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, I paid $3.50 for it. The reviewer says she paid $13. Maybe she bought it at a specialty store.
posted by KogeLiz at 3:35 PM on February 7, 2011


Adding more VOCs to your indoor environment, in an attempt to "cover up" objectionable tobacco smoke odor isn't the only strategy; you could probably HEPA filter it, with better results.
posted by paulsc at 4:00 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Body Shop's oils are INCREDIBLY strong. My office is attached to an outdoor mall and the Body Shop burns their oils daily. You can smell it for an entire city block. It might be overkill for a small space, even if you're trying to cover something up.

I use Bath and Body Works Wallflowers with the Lavender and Vanilla Odor Neutralizing bulbs in the laundry room where the litter box lives. But it looks like B&BW has discontinued that one, as they often do.
posted by elsietheeel at 4:13 PM on February 7, 2011


Keep a lemon verbena plant in the bath room near the vent.
posted by hortense at 5:19 PM on February 7, 2011


incense works fairly well. those odor-neutralizing air fresheners are okay, too.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:32 PM on February 7, 2011


Wow, these are some awesome suggestions! Thanks, guys!

Unfortunately, a fan or filter won't work given the space constraints, and that there's only one outlet--on the light above medicine cabinet. The cracks (where floor meets wall) where the cigarette smoke is coming from are coming from one end of a pedestal tub - cornered between the tub and the vanity. It's a smallish space hidden by these features, but with highly visible gaps allowing smoke to enter the bathroom. Putting something electrical there is out of the question. There is a sizable window that I regularly keep open a few inches (high up to not be much of a security risk, and radiators keep my apartment plenty warm) but it doesn't help that much when the smoke is seeping in and up from the walls.

I'd totally give coffee and vinegar a try, but thought they were more of use for stale, old smoke, rather than "fresh" cigarette stank. If that's not the case, I'd definitely put some bowls of vinegar and coffee cans out in that nook or bedroom (the best part of waking up, is Folgers under your bed?)! I'm think I'm leaning towards the smudge stick and oils, but these are all great ideas to consider. Thank you!
posted by raztaj at 5:56 PM on February 7, 2011


Since it's cracks in the tiles that it's coming through, maybe you could try rolling up a towel and kinda shoving/wedging it in somewhere. I've used this, erm, technique successfully in other situations where I wanted to prevent air leakage.

You could also consider putting tape (like duct or packing tape) over the cracks. With a bit of scrubbing, any residue it leaves behind should come off.
posted by !Jim at 6:11 PM on February 7, 2011


I know you said no caulking, but could you just use some of the good old press-on grey cord stuff? It's labeled as "caulking" but it's totally removable (unless you use it on unfinished wood or something) so your landlord shouldn't have any objection. Possibly in a bathroom the humidity will cause it to fall off, but it's worth a try.
posted by staggernation at 6:42 PM on February 7, 2011


A few drops of vanilla essence on your light bulbs works well. As the bulbs heat up, the vanilla scent is released. [I don't much like the dark blobs this leaves on light bulbs, so I tend to put a few drops into a bowl of water]
posted by honey-barbara at 7:22 PM on February 7, 2011


My husband and I were given a hotel room that had just been vacated by (apparently) a large group of hardcore chain smokers. Nothing else was available. The hotel came and sprayed something to try and get rid of it, but it didn't work. We ended up getting this air freshener in a can from a gas station. It is STRONG. You might be able to use it to get rid of the smell, then store it in a ziploc or something until the next time you need it. It did the trick in that skanky hotel room!
posted by wwartorff at 7:35 PM on February 7, 2011


"... The cracks (where floor meets wall) where the cigarette smoke is coming from are coming from one end of a pedestal tub - cornered between the tub and the vanity. It's a smallish space hidden by these features, but with highly visible gaps allowing smoke to enter the bathroom. Putting something electrical there is out of the question. There is a sizable window that I regularly keep open a few inches (high up to not be much of a security risk, and radiators keep my apartment plenty warm) but it doesn't help that much when the smoke is seeping in and up from the walls. ..."

Close the bathroom window, and open any other window in your place. Put a fan in the bathroom doorway, and block the remaining space above the fan with a sheet of corrugated cardboard, to create positive pressure into the bathroom. Better yet, if you can stand the fresh air, put the fan in any other window you open, and slightly pressurize your whole apartment. Your efforts need not be perfect, to be effective. Even slight positive pressure of atmosphere in your bathroom will keep smoke from coming in. And of course, smoke that you never smell, never needs be neutralized...
posted by paulsc at 7:38 PM on February 7, 2011


I cannot remember the name of the product, but I used to get it from Canadian Tire. It was an "ionizing" or "ionized" deodorizer that came in a (non-pressurized) spray bottle (in various sizes). Grey/Blue coloured label, titled something like "Smoke Eze" or something. Last time I saw it available was maybe ~5 years ago, so maybe it's not available anymore.

The smell was not strong at all, but it soaked cigarette smell from indoor carpeted rooms really really well.
posted by porpoise at 10:09 PM on February 7, 2011


put the fan in any other window you open, and slightly pressurize your whole apartment
This is what I was going to suggest - it would only take the tiniest difference in pressure to stop the smoke getting in. It's possible that, due to vagaries of breeze and the relative location of windows/vents etc, you have some negative pressure inside that is drawing the smoke in and this technique would reverse that. For enough smoke to be getting in through cracks, I think this is quite likely, in fact.
posted by dg at 11:10 PM on February 7, 2011


There's removable caulk, or even silicone (clear) caulk that I would bet your landlord wouldn't even notice. I'd try that too.
posted by lemniskate at 4:43 AM on February 8, 2011


You don't need a scent. Put out four or five shallow and wide bowls filled with regular white vinegar, and the smell will be gone in six hours.

Not that, um, I've ever smoked in the house when my super-taster wife and kids were away....
posted by digitalprimate at 4:04 PM on February 8, 2011


Febreze?
posted by kestrel251 at 6:45 PM on February 8, 2011


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