Help! My Apartment Stinks Like a Stale Ashtray

What do vacuum sealers and apartments that smell like a stale ashtray have in common? Absolutely nothing other than these two messages showing up in my mailbox at the same moment—both of them in response to earlier posts.

I just read your column on simple science that makes Nok-Out work to eliminate really difficult odors. Can you give me some quick advice on how to apply that method to rid my apartment of the smell of smoke? The apartment is new. The problem is that the crew smoked in here during construction. It’s yuk! Thank you, Judy

 Odor and stink


Dear Judy: You do have a terrible problem, and I’m so sorry about that. Have you contacted the owner or manager? Assuming you have but that hasn’t worked out very well—and you do not want to move—Nok-Out absolutely can oxidize (neutralize) the odor of tobacco smoke. The challenge is to make sure Nok-Out comes in contact with every square millimeter of a surface that the smoke has penetrated. And that’s a real challenge!

When treating a large open area where the odor became airborne and most likely is now clinging to every bit of the ceiling, walls, flooring, cracks, and crevices—Nok-Out must do the same in order to reach and then oxidize all of the stinks.

To do this, you need a room humidifier or vaporizer that produces cool mist (Nok-Out should not be heated to or near the boiling point) and has a capacity to hold enough Nok-Out to run for a number of hours between refills. When using Nok-Out in a vaporizer or humidifier, use it full strength. If it is a maintenance dose, then you can dilute with 1/3 water.

The best inexpensive humidifier that meets these criteria is Honeywell Germ-Free Cool Mist Humidifier HCM-350. Its large capacity will allow it to run for up to 24 hours straight between fill-ups.

Nok-Out has been thoroughly tested by the EPA and found to be completely safe for pets and humans while a room is being deodorized like this. However, keep in mind that as the stinky stuff is being oxidized, it will more than likely give off the smell of a swimming pool. That’s the sign that Nok-Out is doing its job!

RELATED: The Simple Science of Eliminating Bad Odors

Once allowed to dry fully, that will go away taking the cigarette odor with it. So it’s up to you if you want to sleep and live there during the hours of treatment. Just know that this would not pose a health issue. It could take a number of days to fully treat the entire apartment.

On a personal note, I had a stinky situation a while back involving a sick grandchild and an upholstered chair. I cleaned the area (which involved the cushion as well as one arm and side of the chair) thoroughly and worked hard to remove the resulting stain. This was no easy task, but visually the chair looked fine.

Then I used Nok-Out’s full strength to completely saturate the area. I wanted to make sure it soaked into the upholstery more deeply than the original problem might have penetrated the area. I removed the cushion and stood it up so air could circulate.

As the chair dried, the smell got worse! It was bad. I was experiencing the science of Nok-Out and it was not pleasant. It was the combination of the offending odor plus a stale, rancid swimming pool—the best way I can describe it. In a word: Awful!

Honestly, I considered getting rid of the chair, assuming I had the mother of all challenges—the one and only that went beyond even the ability of Nok-Out to eliminate. But I hung in, believing that Nok-Out was my only chance for success.

Within a few days, I was thrilled. Slowly but surely the smell dissipated. Within a week’s time, no stain, no smell. It’s been more than a year and not the smell nor a stain has returned. Not even a hint. My confidence and love for Nok-Out increased by a hundredfold!

You can order Nok-Out direct where the price includes shipping, or order Nok-Out by phone at 1-866-551-1927. Tell them Mary sent you!

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Just a few days ago I purchased a Ziploc Vacuum Sealer. It’s still in the box, unopened. A couple of hours later I could have kicked myself when I opened the newspaper and read your column on the FoodSaver vacuum sealer. Now I’m thinking of returning the Ziploc machine and getting the FoodSaver. Before I go to the trouble, I wanted to know if the Ziploc sealer might be comparable to the FoodSaver, in your opinion. Patti

Dear Patti: The Ziploc machine does not offer one of the most important features and reasons to have a vacuum sealing system—a jar sealer. It would be fairly useless for me as I use the jar sealer (both the regular and wide mouth sealer because I have both kinds of jars) accessory more than any other feature on my FoodSaver because I love to store everything from popping corn to fresh fruit in glass canning jars.

Even perishables like strawberries and lettuce, when stored in a glass jar—and kept in the refrigerator—last so much longer than they would in other types of containers. I do love my FoodSaver for all of its features but would be lost if I couldn’t use it to vacuum seal jars and wine bottles too. FoodSaver also makes a set of canisters that are as useful as they are attractive—just make sure you never put them in the dishwasher.

MORE: Surprisingly Useful Ways to Use a Vacuum Sealer

A FoodSaver Vacuum Sealing System plus a few accessories will cost more than the Ziploc sealer but it will be 100 times more useful. For me, that makes it hands down the best option. You will use it continuously once you see what a FoodSaver can do to extend the useful life of the food you buy. My advice is to return the Ziploc and get a FoodSaver.
First published: 1-26-18; Updated 4-17-19

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7 replies
  1. Deb Westmoreland says:

    Maybe you could use a pump sprayer, like for a garden and just spray all the surfaces, seems would be faster than the humidifier. I use one to disinfect office areas during flu season and it is fast.

  2. Polly Deal says:

    I have a food saver, and it came with a hose, but no “lid” for sealing jars. Never used it because I don’t know how!

  3. Linda Waud says:

    Will it work for mildew stink? We just bought a nice older boat. It used to live on the coast in the Pacific NW, so all the cloth parts, like the backing to the the top and the cuddy cabin liner and seat cushions, have that mildew stink. I clean the mildew off, but the smell lingers.

  4. Bethany Stinson says:

    I just am wondering – you say to never put the canisters in the dishwasher, yet they say dishwasher safe. Have you had a problem with this?

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Yes I have! I should have made that clear. Perhaps it’s the heat of the drying process, but the cracked on the bottom. But the ones I didn’t put in the dishwasher showed no cracks at all. Just a precaution I highly recommend at the canisters are fabulous but can be pricey.

  5. x_ray_tech says:

    I am a long time reader of yours Mary and have found your advice and reviews to be spot on and very reliable most of the time. But I must warn others about the SNiPER which is also sold by Nok-Out. Because you had talked so very highly of this product SNiPER a while back I bought $50 worth of the stuff. I had a very bad reaction to this product on my first use of it, no help or remedy from the company, and am stuck with $50 worth of product I cannot use. I Thought you and others would want to know my warning of use of this product.
    Here is copy of the letter of concern I sent to Ted and his reply.

    HI xxxxx,

    I am very sorry to hear that SNiPER has caused you distress. I have attached a copy of the safety data sheet for this product for you. It shows that it has been tested by the EPA and has been given an overall toxicity rating of “Category IV” by the EPA – that is the lowest toxicity rating that the EPA gives to any disinfectant product. There are four areas of concern – 1) contact with skin, 2) contact with eyes, 3) contact through breathing and 4) contact through swallowing. We get the lowest toxicity rating for all four of those categories.

    Please give me a call at 866 551 1927. I want to reassure you that this product is not harmful.

    Thanks – I hope to hear from you soon.

    Hello, Ted,

    I want to tell you my experience with your product and hopefully you can help me with the problems it has caused.

    I received my one gallon bottle and four oz. spray of SNiPER yesterday (very quick delivery). It was packaged very well with sufficient bubble wrap and taped caps. The box looks to have been handled very rough and box not in it’s normal shape as if dropped and crushed, so am very happy to report the packaging around the bottles inside the shipping box held up and protected the bottles well. That’s the good news.

    I used the product last night and am very concerned. I read the literature that was with it and were no caution statements other than to keep out of the reach of children. And the big sticker attached to the outside of the box it was shipped in says, “Non Hazardous Liquid.” And after reading about it on the website and Mary Hunt’s website, and my correspondence with you on it’s use and what I needed remedied, before purchasing, I felt confident using it as directed and on any surface, including spraying it in the air.

    I started with my (plastic) kitchen waste basket as first test. Put it in my bath tub and added some warm water (enough to just cover the bottom) and a bit of SNiPER (about 50/50 ratio), washed inside and out with a clean cloth in the solution, rinsed well and added same proportions again but with cold water, wiped down inside and out and left sit for 30 minutes, then rinsed again. It did not take the odor out but rather intensified it and added another chemical smell (almost like a chlorine but different and bad?). So I added water and dish soap and scrubbed it and rinsed very well and wiped down with dry cloth and put away. It still smells strong of the chemical smell (and the original waste basket odor intensified) and did slightly lighten the blue color of the basket.

    When at first adding the SNiPER to the waste basket I decided to do the bathroom floor the same time, so used the spray and left that sit until I was finished with the waste basket and then wiped down the floor but did not rinse the floor. As I sprayed the bathroom floor I also sprayed the air in my kitchen and adjoining living room to rid smell of popcorn made on the stove earlier. I did not wear a mask or goggles or ventilate any areas I was using this product and nowhere does it say to. It did nothing to “clean the air” of the popcorn smell so I sprayed the air again thinking I just didn’t use enough of it. It actually intensified the popcorn smell with added chemical smell now too, still very strong today. I have Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and when I am sensitive to something my Tinnitus really increases. It is when I sprayed the air that this Tinnitus kicked into high gear. This was my first indication that this product may not be as harmless as I was told and had read. I then started feeling very dizzy and a cool and irritated sensation in my throat and lungs and a bit queasy, so immediately opened my front and back doors and had fans going to try and air out my house. It has been in the 30’s and 40’s here at night (I was using this at night) so left the doors open and fans going for two hours and then had to close up the house again for heat the rest of the night. The house still smells of this chemical and is still very much affecting me today. I am afraid now that it has covered everything in my house.

    I have kept the bathroom door (next to my bedroom) closed as the smell is still very strong and makes me very dizzy and increases Tinnitus when I go in there. I am going to try a vinegar and water solution to see if that will get rid of it – or at least neutralize it. My kitchen and living room still smell of this chemical and still makes me dizzy, increases Tinnitus and the cool sensation, irritated throat and lungs. I am also now concerned for my lab as she stays in the house and is an older dog. I am concerned of what all in my kitchen the spray may have landed on also, including big and small appliances, fruits on the table and packaged foods on the shelves, as well as hanging utensils and pots and pans. And everything in my living room as well. The walls, ceiling, carpet, furniture, everything, was surely exposed and covered with the spray when I sprayed the air.

    I am worried about my health and welfare, and that of my dog. I’m glad I didn’t use it to fully saturate, undiluted, on the rug and ceiling of my adjoining enclosed porch as I was instructed and am certain it would have penetrated inside the house even worse than this and no way to get rid of it.

    I need to know what I am in for in the long haul and what needs done to get this out of my house and off of everything in it. Since it remained in my waste basket I assume doing the same with scrubbing everything else in my home down with soap and water will not do anything to remove it from anything else either. Nor could I physically do that myself anyway, especially now with the physical affects I am experiencing.

    Please advise.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Hi X-ray Tech. I have read your [very long] comment! I hope you will REREAD this earlier post to which I referred in the post to which you are commenting. The Simple Science of Eliminating Bad Odors Then reread the post above. In both we make it very clear that this is not an instantaneous process!

      The Nok Out (it’s the same as SNiPER, just a different label) must come in contact with the offending odor and be allowed to stay there and fully DRY. During the drying time, it does give off an odor I referred to as a stinky swimming pool. You call the offending odor something else, but we are both describing the same thing.

      If you choose to not believe the data, findings, research and conclusions of EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) that this product is harmless to humans and pets, that is your choice. But I can assure that if the EPA were lying, you would be able to find data to the contrary in the form of law suits and sick people. You have nothing to worry about!

      I hope you will reconsider and go ahead and use that Nok Out as instructed. It is a wonderful product. If possible can you take your trash cans outdoors for the processing time? That’s an idea. Other than that, I don’t know what to tell you. I trust the science here and have proven for myself that Nok Out (SNiPER) is and works as represented.


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