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Cleaning Nicotine (Cigarette Smoke) Off Walls

A home occupied by smokers will collect nicotine residue on the walls and other surfaces. This is a guide about cleaning nicotine (cigarette smoke) off walls.

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May 31, 2016 Flag
7 found this helpful

We bought a cute cottage at the beach, but the walls, everything stinks of smoke. I am in the process of cleaning all the walls. I use Clorox cleaner with bleach. This is a picture of how dirty the walls are. The house was built in 1952 so we have a lot of cleaning to do.

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    November 26, 2011 Flag
    2 found this helpful

    What is the best product to use to clean nicotine and cooking grease from walls?

    By G. Riggs

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    July 22, 20160 found this helpful
    Best Answer

    When my brother and sister-in-law passed away their son needed help getting the house cleaned up and ready for sale. All 3 were smokers and the walls and ceilings were completely coated. I tried many methods then stumbled on the absolute best and EASIEST way to do it. I used WINDEX window cleaner and the swiffer wetcloths. Since the cloths are used with a pole it makes doing the walls and ceilings easy. Just spray a section at a time (make sure to start at the top as the nicotine runs down the wall) and follow with the wetcloths. You do go through a lot of the cloths but I discovered later they can be wrung out and reused a couple of times before having to toss them. The windex and swiffer method took all of the nicotine off and also neutralized most of the smoke smell leaving it smelling clean and fresh.

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    March 23, 2015 Flag
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    Can wallpaper be covered with paint and not be effected by the underlying nicotine? Is there any undercoat that can be used?

    By K Hassett

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    March 24, 20151 found this helpful
    Best Answer

    You'll need to prep the surface first by using a 1-1 ratio solution of vinegar and water - use a wrung out sponge and figure on at least three sessions of cleaning. Cleans, degreases, and deodorises, now that's win-win-win!

    No need to rinse, and the strong vinegar odour will dissipate within an hour or so - you may want to have a fan or open window to ventilate whilst cleaning but the fumes won't kill you if you choose to do this without ventilation. Wait at least 48 hours before trying to apply paint, more if your room is humid or cold or both.

    The vinegar and water wash will remove the nicotine and a good bit if not all the stain. Use Kilz or a similar product because really, Kilz is like a gold-clad guarantee, but really you shouldn't need it because the vinegar and water will remove any film and grease or other problem that might cause bleed-through.

    I learned this after being a smoker for years, and also as a landlady. Works a treat and I've never known it to fail.

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    January 27, 2014 Flag
    0 found this helpful

    I am looking for home remedies to get nicotine off of painted walls and paneling in the easiest way.

    By Tonya from Little Rock, AR

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    March 18, 20140 found this helpful
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    I found this recipe many moons ago and always keep it close by. It is the fastest way I know of to remove Nicotine , and is a general cleaner for painted walls and woodwork.

    1 Cup Ammonia

    1/2 Cup Vinegar

    1/4 Cup Baking Soda

    1 Gallon Hot Water

    I mix the ammonia, vinegar, water first then slowly add the baking soda. Do this over the sink as it can fizz up.

    Using a large sponge or rag, first wipe with the solution then wipe again with clear water. I only wipe it again if it is a real heavy build up your trying to remove.

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    November 8, 2011 Flag
    0 found this helpful

    How do you clean paneled walls and get cigarette smoke film off?

    By Brandy

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    November 11, 20110 found this helpful
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    For paneled walls, you could try Avon Skin So Soft. Water could discolor paneling so if you must use water solutions, do so sparingly. Dusting sprays such as pledge or old gold are also good for cleaning paneling as is Murphy's oil soap.

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    February 12, 2014 Flag
    3 found this helpful

    I'm currently cleaning an estate, and this is PROOF that nicotine can be washed off of the walls with vinegar, and ammonia. I didn't even use the baking soda with the concoction! :) Also, if you use a Scotch-Brite Dobie, it works much better than just using a rag! Happy cleaning!

    Clean Walls with Vinegar and Ammonia
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      June 30, 2015 Flag
      1 found this helpful

      Our apartment has been smoked in for 15 years. All walls were originally painted white, but now are a lovely shade of yellow/brown. We decided to stop smoking (yay us!), so now I have begun the arduous task of cleaning walls. I've tried many of the tips here. Great tips all, however, none quite up to the challenge.

      Last week, I spilled some Dr. Bronner's almond castile soap on my grill. The grease disappeared completely when I wiped it off! Today, I tackled the smallest room. I put the castile soap directly on a Dobie, scrubbed the wall, wiped it with a hot damp microfiber and voila! Came. Right. Off!

      I didn't even wear gloves, and the smell is fantastic! Next comes the fresh paint! Hope this helps someone. I love this site :)

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        April 16, 2013 Flag
        0 found this helpful

        I would like some advice for getting cigarette smoke off of walls and painted woodwork. I tried using Scrubbing Bubbles on a small area of my painted work.
        Wow, it was amazing. It feels a little sticky. Should I wash it before painting and with what. Can you use it on varnished woodwork?

        By Joan

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        April 22, 20131 found this helpful
        Best Answer

        LOL, you're asking several questions at once:)

        Re getting the cigarette smell out-a wash with vinegar and water (half water-half vinegar) will safely clean, disinfect, and even 'prep' walls for painting, all at the same time. You may want to wash twice if there is a lot of nicotine (will show as yellow on the sponge and will turn the vinegar-water wash solution yellow too). Don't rinse, vinegar 'fragrance' will dissipate after about an hour and take the stench of the cigarettes with it.

        As an FYI, vinegar is a great cleaner. It kills mould safely (no potentially lung damaging chemical reaction as happens with bleach), it disinfects and deodorises incredibly well, and is just about the most inexpensive, cost effective cleaning agent around. A shallow bowl in room corners is a safe (pets won't drink it but if they do it won't hurt them) air freshener, just for one example.

        Now, about the Scrubbing Bubbles-did you read that part on the label about being careful when using on painted wood?:) The sticky you mention is because the cleanser in the product has 'eaten' through the surface of the paint and you will need to repaint.

        To repaint effectively (that is, to keep your new paint where you put it without peeling and blistering) you will need to prep your walls in accordance to what type of paint you need to paint over.

        If oil based paint (usually the glossy paints but not always so it's best to find out if possible), you'll need to either sand or scrape the paint off your surface, then use a primer to cover and prep surfaces that have been painted with an oil base paint.

        If a latex (water base) paint was used (usually flat, matte, and semi-gloss but again, not always), generally a simple wash with something that will 'rough' the surface is sufficient. You can buy (if in the US, not sure about other countries) a product called TSP that works great as a cleaner and surface prep wash for latex painted surfaces.

        Vinegar and water will also do the job on the flats and mattes; the semi-gloss applications are usually best prepped by the TSP wash.

        Hope this helps:)

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        February 19, 2014 Flag
        0 found this helpful

        How do I remove nicotine safely from dry wall without doing any damage?

        By Margaret L from Florence, AL

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        February 24, 20141 found this helpful
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        If it's finished dry wall, meaning it's been mudded properly and then painted, it's safe to use half water-half white vingear as a cleaning solution. Apply with a wetted and wrung sponge or soft cloth - it may take several cleanings to get the nicotine completely off.

        Once the sponge/cloth doesn't show any 'yellow' after a swipe, use plenty of clear water to rinse. From personal experience, this works a treat, also 'deodorises' the room as you clean.

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        March 18, 2013 Flag
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        Nicotine in the wall makes us sick, with cough and sore throat. Can I clean the walls with cleaner or do I have to paint over?

        By Emil D

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        March 18, 20130 found this helpful
        Best Answer

        TSP or Tri Sodium Phosphate is the best thing you can use. It's in powder or liquid form. Best stuff you can get.

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        February 24, 2015 Flag
        0 found this helpful

        Where do I buy ammonia?

        By Joel R.

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        March 16, 20150 found this helpful

        Dollar store! Or any grocery store in the cleaning product aisle.

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        May 13, 2015 Flag
        0 found this helpful

        I am cleaning out the home of a dear friend who recently passed away. He smoked for many, many years. I have had the walls cleaned, Kilzed and repainted and the carpets cleaned. I am now trying to figure out how to clean the wall plugs and light switches. I bought new plates to go around them, but don't want to have to hire an electrician to come in and replace the actual plugs and light switches. Help! I have to have the house ready to go on the market in 3 weeks.

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          May 14, 20150 found this helpful

          I'm not sure it's necessary to replace the plugs and switches unless nicotine is causing them not to work properly. I'd suggest just surface cleaning them with something dry like a stain eraser and just changing the plates, unless you have reason to believe nicotine is making them unsafe to use.

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          May 27, 2014 Flag
          0 found this helpful

          I just rented a home which was inhabited by smokers. I read about removing nicotine from walls. However, what is the best solution for cleaning wood trim and interior doors?

          By Jeannie from Pekin, IL

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          February 2, 20150 found this helpful

          Try Oxyclean with hot water! Must Sit for up to 10 Minutes! Also; 'Beekeepers Friend'; and 'Simple Green'; and for detailed work hydrogen peroxide! Vinegar and multi-purpose cleaners barely work! All of the suggestions need to be rinsed though!

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          May 5, 2014 Flag
          0 found this helpful

          Is nicotine a grease?

          By Ann

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          September 30, 20140 found this helpful

          I am not positive, but my landlord, who has the apartments painted with semi-glossy paint, said he uses a de-greaser cleaner that he buys at a dollar store to wipe the walls down with. He's owned these places for quite a while, so he's probably tried everything and this is what works for him. He swears by it, but I've tried it and it seems to work so-so.

          What I have a problem with is where pictures were hung, I cannot get that part to come as clean as the rest of the walls, therefore, it leaves where the pictures were hanging a brighter color. I've yet to find anything that will get the rest of the walls to the color of where the pics were hanging.

          I've tried vinegar/hot water/baking soda, the de-greaser spray, ammonia/hot water/baking soda, ammonia/baking soda, oxy clean/hot water and possibly more I can't think of right at this moment. Perhaps I've not tried the 'right' degreaser.

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          April 3, 2014 Flag
          0 found this helpful

          How do I wash walls with heavy cigarette smoke?

          By Andrea L.

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          July 19, 20140 found this helpful

          T.Z.P., cleaner is the best!

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          September 21, 2013 Flag
          0 found this helpful

          How can I remove nicotine stains from walls to prepare for repainting?

          By Sharon E. from Louisville, MS

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          September 26, 20130 found this helpful

          The only thing I have ever found that works effectively is dishwasher detergent dissolved in water. Or you can use a regular cleaner such as Mr. Clean or Lysol in water with a little bleach added to the water. Good luck. Hope you enjoy your new colors!

          Editor's Note: Be very cautious when mixing cleaners together, especially those containing chlorine or bleach. You can accidentally create a toxic gas that can be extremely harmful.

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