I'm a smoker, and of course I smoke in front of the computer when I'm at home.

Last Friday I moved out from my mother's house to my own, and since the computers were always turned on and the room was one where everybody could smoke, the smell didn't bother me.

At my new home, I turned them on, about 15 minutes ago, and now I'm dying because of the smell of cigarettes (this may be kind of stupid to hear from a smoker, but I hope some of you understand).

This solution has to be relatively quick, because I can't stay without the desktop and the server for one week, for example.

Tomorrow, I'm going to open them both, and remove all dust there is inside, this should clear some of the smell, but probably won't remove it completely.

Does anyone know a technique to get rid of the smell?


Some pictures of the case after I opened it:

Side Fan of the case

Side Fan of the case
click to enlarge

CPU, Graphics Card and PSU

CPU, Graphics Card and PSU
click to enlarge


click to enlarge

  • 5
    At a guess, gas duster. Maybe some Old Spice?
    – Ciaran
    Jun 9, 2012 at 22:35
  • 11
    Don't be surprised if the inside of your computer looks like this: [NSFGeeks] i.stack.imgur.com/Lg1Ww.jpg . Tobacco smoke and computers never mix well. :(
    – iglvzx
    Jun 9, 2012 at 22:59
  • 3
    Put a cut lemon inside
    – random
    Jun 9, 2012 at 23:07
  • 2
    Is this actually computer related? Sounds a lot like a general electronics device issue...
    – Daniel Beck
    Jun 10, 2012 at 4:48
  • 2
    I don't mean to be crass or rude, but have you considered quitting smoking? It's not exactly the healthiest of things for you or you computer. Jun 23, 2013 at 3:23

5 Answers 5


Air Freshener sounds like a good idea, least on the short run.

Taking apart your computer as far as possible, dismantling all the plastic trim off the case, and wiping down everything non electronic with a solution of vinegar might help - metafilter seems to suggest being in the same vicinity as a bowl of vinegar may help too.

The same thread also seems to suggest mineral stink reducers as another option.

Of course, this is a cleanup, and dosen't actually solve the original problem

You can find some things that don't work here - rice, kitty litter, incense and just airing. Dryer sheets are suggested here, which may be worth a try.

  • Great idea, take everything out of the case and clean the case as best you can.
    – Ciaran
    Jun 9, 2012 at 23:34
  • Vinegar is important. It allegedly has some wierd property which makes it VERY affective at destinking.
    – Journeyman Geek
    Jun 9, 2012 at 23:39
  • Maybe it's the acid - not a chemistry guy so I don't know much about it.
    – Ciaran
    Jun 9, 2012 at 23:41
  • Good suggestion, but it also may help to switch to liquid cooling. This will stop the fans from pushing the contaminated air into the room every time your turn on your PC.
    – Usta
    Jun 10, 2012 at 0:58
  • 1
    Taking it apart is definitely the best option, I just dismantled part of the desktop and server, and most of the smell is gone, after blowing a lot of air trough the case and components with a vacuum cleaner on reverse, I also updated the question with some pics.
    – Tio
    Jun 10, 2012 at 18:00

Most of the smell will be in the PSU, cleaning the case will help, but you should replace the PSU, no good way to clean the inside of a PSU of cigarette residue.

Example of a heavy computer and cigarette user.

enter image description here

  • 20
    Dear god, that is horrible
    – Journeyman Geek
    Jun 9, 2012 at 23:40
  • 6
    If only you could power-wash a computer: i.stack.imgur.com/yow4b.jpg
    – iglvzx
    Jun 9, 2012 at 23:51
  • 1
    I've never smoke a cigarette in my life but imagining that it must look like the smokers lungs I think I would cut smoking... (I would add that IIRC cleaning PSU is probably bad idea as voltage might still be high even hours after detaching power cable). Jun 10, 2012 at 5:23
  • 1
    Am I the only person surprised arc over of the PSU doesn't happen MORE often?
    – Earlz
    Jun 10, 2012 at 6:03
  • 1
    The majority of that stuff is just dust that even smoke free people will have in an old psu. Cigarette smoke does make the dust stickier and gross though.
    – Grant
    Jun 10, 2012 at 13:22

I once worked on a computer network in a trucking dispatch center. Every piece of equipment I opened up had a layer of brown tar on it. It's sticky and attracts dust which liberally coats everything. Changing out network cards was difficult as the cards had actually been glued into the slots with the mixture of tar and dirt that had accumulated.

The first step for rehabilitation is to pull out the power supply and toss it in the garbage.

The next step is to use a mixture of dishwashing liquid and Glass Plus to dampen a cloth towel to wipe down the exterior and interior of any case cover you can remove. Wipe down every flat surface that will allow it. The towel should come away clean when you've finally got all the tar off. DO NOT GET THE CLEANER ON ANY ELECTRONIC COMPONENTS!!!

Avoid cleaning the motherboard and cards, there's nothing you can do here, you don't have access to an R-11 freon bath and 91% alcohol is probably the only "safe" solvent you can use to dissolve the muck which will drive it into the card slots, causing more grief than good. Any caustic liquid or cleaner that gets into components and connectors will damage them. If you have to pull any memory cards or expansion cards, use a paper towel dampened in 91% alcohol to clean the connector pads, then treat them with a q-tip soaked in DeoxIt.

CD drives have to be scrapped, what gets inside them will cause them to fail soon anyway.

Floppy drives have to be scrapped (yes, it was back then) as the muck gets into everything, half the drives would lose the optical sensors to tell whether the little drive write tab had been moved or the other side which told whether it was 720 or 1.44. Stepper motors would start seizing.

Hard drives could have the non-electronic parts wiped down, avoiding the breather holes with anything liquid (almost dry moist towel).

All this will only help reduce the stink, not eliminate it. The only way to eliminate the smell is to back everything up, throw out the equipment and get a new system. As my boss in a former career said, "Some cars can only be fixed by jacking up the radiator cap and driving a new car underneath."

Let's say that I didn't miss the job six months later when I went on to better things.


I just used a very little bit of good 'ole Febreze, and VOIILA! Masked stink completely. Of course, do NOT spray directly onto circuit boards of any kind. :) We'll see how long it lasts, but I'm hopeful, and it's incredibly cheap to reapply if/when needed.

The machine I just received from an ebay seller stinks to high Heaven. NO visible tar gunk on it anywhere thankfully.

Good luck.

  • Spraying in your case might be fine. Spraying in this case seems to be just covering the symptoms. Cleaning parts would remove lots of possible smell carriers - have a look at the pictures shown below!
    – r2d3
    Jan 27, 2021 at 23:14

Start by using a vacuum to clean the case and then clean the computer parts with a clean towel with a bit of perfume on it. With all the dirt removed, it should already help a lot. Dirt can produce smoke when heated and even on a nonsmoker computer. Make sure that there's no dirt left.

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