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.
Read and rate the best solutions below by giving them a "thumbs up".
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!
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 :)
By Lina D 
Give a "thumbs up" to the solution that worked the best! Do you have a better solution? Click here to share it!
Here are questions related to Cleaning Nicotine (Cigarette Smoke) Off Walls.
What is the best product to use to clean nicotine and cooking grease from walls?
By G. Riggs
By Frugal Sunnie  11/29/2011
Half vinegar half water will not only cut the nicotine from the walls while leaving the paint on, it will also remove the odor of the nicotine. Yes, the vinegar smell will dissipate overnight. Promise.
By Carmen Dunning C.  11/29/2011
I use a cleaner called awesome, sold in dollar general family dollar etc stores, very cheap yet very good
By Spacecase  02/04/2012
Use a little ammonia, a little white vinegar, a squirt of dawn dish soap, 1/4 cup of baking soda, and some hot water - at least one gallon of hot water. This takes nicotine off your walls fast and you don't have to go back over it to rinse. I have even used Easy Off Oven Cleaner in the blue can on stubborn areas on the wall. With that though, you have to work very fast because it will remove the paint right off of the wall.
By Patricia S. 11/25/2013
I used white rubbing alcohol and a handi-wipe. Because alcohol evaporates quickly that was the only cloth that worked. I completely soaked the rag no need to wring out and wiped down wall. Follow immediately with a wet towel(not one of the good one's) . The nicotine came right off. I still have the handiwipe but the towel had to be tossed. Good Luck.
How do you clean paneled walls and get cigarette smoke film off?
By Frances Adams  11/09/2011
When we moved into our first home, it had the same problem. First, get 2 really cheap sponge mops. I mopped the walls the first time with bleach and hot water, just mix according to label directions for general cleaning. After that dried, I did the same with Pine-Sol, then the same thing again with Murphy's Oil Soap. The last thing I did was rub over the walls with the 'liquid gold' types of wood preserver.
Use the first mop for the bleach mixture, and the second for the Pine-sol, oil soap washes. I just used all our rags to put the Old English on the walls.
If your home is like mine, it will be on the ceilings, the floors, carpets, and inside the kitchen cabinets, even inside the fridge. All of them got the same treatment. The carpets got pulled out and replaced with linoleum.
Good luck to you!
By Tanya  11/11/2011
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.
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
By Frugal Sunnie  02/03/2014
Half water and have white distilled vinegar applied freely and repeatedly until the sponge or towel shows no nicotine residue - just wait till you see how well this cuts and removes the truly icky yellow mess! The vinegar 'aroma' will dissipate in about a half hour after the last wipe-down leaving the room/house odor free.
By Spacecase  03/18/2014
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.
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
By Frugal Sunnie  03/24/2015
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.
How do I remove nicotine safely from dry wall without doing any damage?
By Margaret L from Florence, AL
By Frugal Sunnie  02/24/2014
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.
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 Frugal Sunnie  04/22/2013
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:)
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
By Sandi/Poor But Proud  03/18/2013
TSP or Tri Sodium Phosphate is the best thing you can use. It's in powder or liquid form. Best stuff you can get.
Where do I buy ammonia?
By Joel R.
By Gina B. 03/16/2015
Dollar store! Or any grocery store in the cleaning product aisle.
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.
By Abigail A.  05/14/2015
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.
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
By M. Arndt  02/02/2015
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!
Is nicotine a grease?
By helpmeclean 09/30/2014
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.
How do I wash walls with heavy cigarette smoke?
By Andrea L.
How can I remove nicotine stains from walls to prepare for repainting?
By Sharon E. from Louisville, MS
By Kathy M. 09/26/2013
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.
I have lots of nic traps (bric-a-brac) throughout my home and have to clean these items of yellowing/browning that gets sticky once wet. When dry you only notice the discoloring. Anyway, great advice from you on walls. I tried the ones I did not know about with excellent results. Can you help with my nic traps or do I just purchase stock in water and soap lol.
By toe knee
By Rosemarie M. B. 08/07/2013
Bric-a-brac can go in a dishwasher, unless it's something with fabric on it. I wash light fixtures and anything else that requires thorough cleaning in my dishwasher; it cleans in all the nooks and crannies that would otherwise use up time and old toothbrushes. :-)
I live in an apartment that was smoked in a lot, you can see where the picture's used to hang on the walls. I have heard of products like T.S.P., and I do not want to use anything that is harmful to the environment. So any suggestions that any of you out there have would be appreciated. Thank you.
By Carrie L.
By Frugal Sunnie  06/04/2013
Vinegar mixed with water is a great way to clean and deodorise at the same time. It works a treat on nicotine! Half water-half white vinegar in a bucket and use a sponge or dishtowel to wipe away the ick. The vinegar smell will dissipate taking any odor with it.
I just purchased an old home with old wood paneling that reeks of nicotine. What is the best way to clean it?
By Donna G
By punkstermom  05/08/2013
I have done an entire home that was suppose to be white but it was literally yellow with dripping nicotine :P So there is really no easy way but if you get a good scrub brush a bucket and some water/bleach solution it will come off nicely and smell much better. It does take some elbow grease but produces nice results. don't forget eye protection,gloves and a respirator of some sort and lots of fresh air while working with bleach! And for painted surfaces after being cleaned and drying they can be primed and repainted. But wood should only need cleaned and dry.
What is the best and easiest way to clean cigarette smoke off of walls?
What product will clean nicotine of walls the best?
How do I clean cigarette stain off walls and woodwork?
How do you clean nicotine from walls?
By BHB from PDX
Thrifty Fun has been around so long that many of our pages have been reset several times. Archives are older versions of the page and the feedback that was provided then.
How do I clean fine furniture that has accumulated years of nicotine residue? I live in a mobile home. My walls are also stained from nicotine--how do I clean this stuff? - Lynne from Georgia
By Darby Rose
I am purchasing a new home where there were obviously heavy smokers in the house for a long long time. The walls are plaster!
Does anyone have any "valuable" recomendations about cleaning the residue off of the walls, cabinets, original wood molding, etc. ?
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
I was wondering if anyone knows how to get rid of nicotine that has saturated the walls. I live in an apartment, and while my husband and I are not smokers, the previous resident(s) were.
Scrubbing Bubbles is great for cleaning walls. It melts away the nicotine too. Spray on, wait 1 minute and wipe off with paper towels.
I have purchased a mobile home to rent. The walls are stained with nicotine.