The smell of smoke, whether from cigarettes or a grease fire, tends to stick around a lot longer than the actual event that caused the odor in the first place. Smoke clings to fabrics and virtually every surface in the room, permeating places you may never expect, such as the paneling on your walls. Thorough cleaning and ventilation help remove those unwanted odors once and for all.
Wipe down the wood paneling with a dust cloth to remove loose dust and debris. Add the brush and hose attachment to your vacuum to methodically vacuum the wood paneling from top to bottom and across the wall. If needed, use the crevice tool to access the cracks and indentations in the wood paneling. Continue vacuuming the whole wall until finished. After vacuuming, wash the walls with a clean cloth wrung out in hot water. Open the windows on both sides of the walls on warm days to get cross ventilation and fresh air into the room as you work.
White Vinegar Bath
White vinegar offers one of the best smell-reducing and inexpensive cleaning solutions when compared to proprietary cleaning brands. Pour undiluted white vinegar into a spray bottle until the bottle is full. Beginning at one end of the paneled wall, spray the white vinegar directly onto the wood paneling. Work in small 3-by-3 foot sections, wiping the vinegar from the wall. Repeat across the entire wall. Leave bowls of white vinegar around the room as you work to absorb smells. Add a few drops of lavender oil to the vinegar mixture if it is too strong for your nose.
After cleaning with white vinegar, you need to clean with an agent that removes any lingering odors. Lemon juice cuts through bad smells and leaves a fresh odor behind. Add the juice of two lemons to a spray bottle full of hot water. Directly spray the wood paneling with the lemon juice mixture, wiping it off with a clean cloth. Repeat across the entire wall.
Citrus Cleaner or Oil Soap
A citrus-based cleaner adds a fresh scent to the room as it cleans wood paneling and other wood items after applying white vinegar. If you do not have a citrus-based spray cleaner, you can also use liquid oil soap in your favorite brand. In a clean gallon bucket of hot water, add 1/4 cup of liquid oil soap. Swish the mixture with a wooden spoon. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands. Dip a sponge or clean cloth in the solution and wring it out. Apply it directly to the wall, working in small sections as you go. For a citrus-based cleaner, apply it to the wall and clean in the same manner as when using vinegar. Leave the liquid oil soap mixture or the citrus-based cleaner to dry on the wall if you buy a product that does not require rinsing. Otherwise, wipe off the excess with a clean, wet cloth.
Wax It Up
If the wood paneling in your home has a patina or smooth surface, after cleaning apply a wax product to the paneling to protect it from getting dirty and absorbing smells as quickly. You can use a paste wax, beeswax or your favorite brand of wax. Apply the wax with a small cloth, again working in circular motions and small sections. After applying the wax across the paneling, go back to the beginning of the wall and buff the wax. Buff the wood paneling in small circular motions to remove excess wax and leave a nice patina on the paneling.