How to Clean a Smoke Smell From Wood Panel Walls

Mary Ylisela

No matter where smoke smell comes from -- cigarettes, the fireplace or a fire-- the stale odor permeates wood paneling. The natural porousness of wood causes heavy or continuous exposure to smoke to build up on wood paneling in the form of stains and odors.

Smoke-stained walls cause odor on the surface and in the room.

The greasy residue traps smoke smell and creates a lingering odor. To clean smoke smell from wood-paneled walls, you must get rid of the smoke stains, too. You can clean and deodorize your wood paneling with supplies that safely clean the surface without leaving the paneling looking dull.


Completely removing the brown discoloration and stale smoke smell can require more than one washing if smoke odors and stains have built up for years.


Heavy stains may need to cleaned off with mineral spirits. Test an inconspicuous area to ensure the mineral spirits don't cause discoloration on the wood. Wood paneling absorbs moisture quickly. Always wring out cleaning cloths and sponges to avoid water damage.

  1. Moisten a clean sponge with water. Wring out the sponge to remove moisture.

  2. Sprinkle baking soda over the sponge. Wipe the walls, one 2-foot section at a time, with the baking soda to deodorize the wood surface. Rinse the baking soda residue off the walls by wiping them with a damp cloth.

  3. Vegetable oil adds shine and moisture to wood paneling.
  4. Fill a bucket with 1 gallon of warm water. Add 1/2 cup of dishwashing detergent and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to remove remaining smoke odor as well as stains.

  5. Wet a clean cloth with the detergent and oil solution. Wring out excess solution. Wipe one 2-foot section at a time. Rinse the cloth as needed, apply more of the detergent and oil solution and continue to scrub.

  6. Dry the wood paneling with a clean cloth. Buff the paneling to a shine.