Apartment Smells: How to Get Rid of Odors from Neighbors

Have you ever found yourself wondering, “Why does my apartment smell?” If you live in an apartment or a multi-family building, it’s possible the smells from your neighbor’s home are spreading into yours. From food to smoke to pet odors, Zillow explains that smells can move through central ventilation systems, pipe shafts or cracks in the walls.1

Some of these smells are more of an annoyance, while others may be more serious and might require attention. To determine how to resolve the situation, find out where the smell is coming from and what is causing it. It might be one of the best things you ever do to make your apartment a better place to live.

Cigarette Smoke

In addition to drifting into other spaces, cigarette smoke can leave small particles on fabrics, making the odor long-lasting — even after the smoker moves out. According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), the following can help temporarily absorb or help neutralize cigarette smells2:

  • Baking soda: Sprinkle some baking soda on affected fabrics and let it sit for a couple hours. Then vacuum up the powder (and maybe the smell).
  • Coffee grounds: Wrap coffee grounds up in filters and spread them throughout your home to help neutralize some of the smoke smell in the air.
  • Vinegar: Pour some vinegar into bowls and put each one in a different room overnight to cancel out some of the odor while you sleep.
  • Charcoal: Put charcoal into bowls scattered around your home to help counteract the cigarette smell.

Other Common Odors (Pets, Paint, Cooking, Garbage, etc.)

While smoke may travel between apartments, other smells can also transfer from your neighbor’s home to yours. Odors from pets, cooking, paint or even a garbage bin can be a nuisance if they are an ongoing problem. To help lessen those smells, the Almanac.com suggests using baking soda, vinegar or other odor-eliminating items around the home3, such as:

  • Salt
  • Coffee grounds
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Vanilla

Whatever the odor, if you are bothered by a bad smell coming from another apartment, the New York Times says the first step could be talking to your neighbor. They may not be able to change anything immediately, but if they are aware they are causing an issue, they may be more courteous when possible. If not, you can get the landlord involved to help mediate the situation. Regardless, look at your lease and find out what your apartment’s rules are on this type of situation.

What If It’s Your Apartment?

Finding out the offensive odors might actually be coming from your apartment may be hard to take, but if you are the one causing the problem, you generally want to help remedy it. If you are a smoker and your neighbor complains, the Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests taking it outside and away from the building so you aren’t subjecting other people to secondhand smoke in enclosed spaces.4

Should a neighbor complain about smells, start by being more aware of the things you do and make a greater effort to help keep your home cleaner going forward. For instance, an air purifier with a charcoal filter may help combat the smoke in your home, says The New York Times.

InterNACHI also offers the following tips for removing smoke odors from your home:

  • Ventilate each room by keeping all doors and windows open when you are home (if weather permits).
  • Clean your light bulbs, as they may attract smoke residue and disseminate the smell when turned on and heated.
  • Have your carpet professionally cleaned to remove as many smoke particles as possible.
  • Wash hard, non-wood surfaces with ammonia-based cleaners.

No one wants to deal with a bad smell from a neighbor’s apartment, but by trying these suggestions, you might be able to better cope with your neighbor — or become a better neighbor yourself.

Who is Answer Financial?

Your apartment should be your peaceful escape from the world, but you should also plan for the outside world encroaching on your home and the valuables you keep there. At Answer Financial, we’re happy to talk with you about the right coverage for all the valuables in your home. Call 1-800-258-5101 to talk about renter’s insurance  with one of our experts. You can also visit our site to quickly compare rates and customize coverages from multiple companies.


1. “How to Get Rid of Smoke Smell in Your House,” Zillow.com, https://www.zillow.com/blog/get-rid-of-smoke-smells-in-home-150569/

2. “Tobacco Odor Removal,” International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, https://www.nachi.org/tobacco-odor-removal.htm

3. “IICRC Offers Tips for Combating Common Household Odors,” Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification, https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.iicrc.org/resource/resmgr/docs/081415_iicrc-combating-odors.pdf

4. “The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality,” Consumer Product Safety Commission, https://www.cpsc.gov/Safety-Education/Safety-Guides/Home/The-Inside-Story-A-Guide-to-Indoor-Air-Quality/