How to Remove Cigarette Odor From (a Lot Of) Books




Introduction: How to Remove Cigarette Odor From (a Lot Of) Books

My fiancee and I recently moved into our own home.

I came from a household with three smokers (at least, depending on who visited) who smoked 100% indoors.

This, naturally, posed a problem when we moved into a clean-smelling house, especially since neither of us are smokers.

Google searches and Instructables searches for removing such odors were for small quantities or for rooms, and I couldn't find anything for doing hundreds of books in a short amount of time.

I wracked my brain, packed with limited household skills (so far) and hit upon an idea.

Back when I had gerbils, years ago, I used cedar shavings as bedding.  While most pet stores and pet professionals will strongly advise against using cedar shavings for bedding for rodents these days, there was a side effect that I was most interested in taking advantage of.

Back then, cedar shavings made my bedroom smell absolutely wonderful.

I hopped in the car and drove out to a nearby chain pet store and picked up a 2 cubic foot package of cedar shavings for under 12 bucks.

If you have access to cedar chips or shavings from somewhere else, you could save yourself the gas and cost of the purchased package.

Step 1:

Since a large portion of my belongings to be moved all were quite malodorous and stinky, my fiancee got farther along in unpacking than I did, while I did laundry.

Also, I wanted her empty boxes for this project.

After opening the package of cedar shavings, I spread a thin layer of shavings on the bottom of an empty box.

Then I stacked books (and eventually CDs and DVDs) on their long end.  Not the binding side, but the flippy page side.  I let it sit for an hour or so, but it wasn't quite working.

It took 3 tries with alternating the depth of the shavings for an optimal scent removal.  I discovered that between 1/4 and 1/2 an inch worked well, as long as I closed the box lid.

For DVDs and CDs, I ended up either slightly popping the case open, or in the case of multiple DVD sets, removing each specific DVD case from the set box and setting them inside.

After a minimum of an hour (longer for the DVD sets and hardback books) I put the "deodorized" objects into an empty, non-stinky box (as we haven't received delivery of the shelves for them yet.)

The cedar shavings didn't have to be replaced often; in fact, two of the boxes still have their original layers.  If you can't smell the semi-pungent cedar smell, they should be replaced.

All told, I did over 400 books, 200 DVDs, and around 150 CDs, rotating in and out of 4 boxes with the layer of shavings, in about 9 days.

When removing the objects from the box, simply shake off the shavings.  If necessary, thumb the pages of the book to flip little pieces out.  I was doing 3-5 paperbacks at a shot like this.

Regarding the "expired" shavings, those that aren't smelling so good any more, you could conceivably trash them, use them for fireplace kindling, compost it, use it as a mulch additive, or a number of other things, I'm sure.

Be the First to Share


    • Reclaimed Materials Contest

      Reclaimed Materials Contest
    • Home Cooked Speed Challenge

      Home Cooked Speed Challenge
    • Halloween Contest

      Halloween Contest



    5 years ago

    Hi, is anyone there to write a little update to let us know if the smell ever came back in any way or any other changes within months or the +-2 years since this article was written. I have a lot of books to do, too many to try this on the short term. Your results after 2 years would help me so much ! Perhaps it only absorbs a portion and covers some ? Please anyone that tried this a long time ago if you can share. Thank you so much this is the best alternative for my situation if it works longterm. Cant wait, crossing my fingers youre still around Mike ! Ye!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    If you don't have access to cedar products using an ozone generator also removes all unpleasant odours.
    For books and clothing you can use a sealed bag, a little aquarium ozne generator and fill the bag with some ozone.
    Leave closed for about 3 hours and then air it all out, best outside as some of the concentrated ozone can be still in the bag and it is not advised to breathe it in.


    Thank you so much for posting this. I now live in my mom's house. When she passed away I took all the photo albums and stored them in an empty closet. I open the door to the closet for the first time a few weeks ago and the smell of nicotine smoke is overwhelming. Will be picking up some cedar shavings today while I am in the city. Will post an update later when I get it done.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am new to the book trade and recently kind of accidentally (long story) bought a ton of books that it turned out smelled badly of smoke. As I have a boss I was super-worried about the purchase and did a lot of research and experimentation about how to fix the problem. Hands-down the best method I have tried. Not only did it save my rather large (and otherwise great) buy from being a bust but I think we may use it in our store for other books. It is effective and doesn't take a lot of time away from our employees, as it only takes a few minutes to change out books every couple hours.