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Cleaning Nicotine (Cigarette Smoke) Off Walls

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Cigarette Burning in Ash Tray

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.


Solutions: Cleaning Nicotine (Cigarette Smoke) Off Walls

Read and rate the best solutions below by giving them a "thumbs up".

Tip: Clean Walls with Vinegar and Ammonia

Clean Walls with Vinegar and Ammonia

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!

    By perfectlyflawed412 [1]

    Tip: Cleaning Nicotine Off Walls

    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 [1]

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      Here are questions related to Cleaning Nicotine (Cigarette Smoke) Off Walls.

      Question: Removing Nicotine from Walls

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

      By G. Riggs


      Best Answers

      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.

      Best Answers

      By Spacecase [11]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.

      Best Answers

      By Carmen Dunning C. [3]11/29/2011

      I use a cleaner called awesome, sold in dollar general family dollar etc stores, very cheap yet very good

      Best Answers

      By Frugal Sunnie [11]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.

      Question: Cleaning Cigarette Smoke Residue Off Paneled Walls

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

      By Brandy


      Best Answers

      By Tanya [4]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.

      Best Answers

      By Frances Adams [11]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!

      Question: Cleaning Nicotine Off Walls

      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

      Best Answers

      By Spacecase [11]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.

      Best Answers

      By Frugal Sunnie [11]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.

      Question: Painting Wallpaper Stained With Nicotine

      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

      Best Answer

      By Frugal Sunnie [11]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.

      Question: Removing Nicotine from Dry Wall

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

      By Margaret L from Florence, AL

      Best Answer

      By Frugal Sunnie [11]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.

      Question: Cleaning Cigarette Smoke Off Walls and Woodwork

      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

      Best Answer

      By Frugal Sunnie [11]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:)

      Question: Cleaning Nicotine Off Walls

      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

      Best Answer

      By Sandi/Poor But Proud [422]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.

      Cleaning Nicotine Off Walls

      Question: Buying Ammonia for Cleaning

      Where do I buy ammonia?

      By Joel R.

      Most Recent Answer

      By Gina B.03/16/2015

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

      Question: Removing Nicotine Stains from Plugs and Switches

      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 Katherine McMahon [1]

        Most Recent Answer

        By Abigail A. [8]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.

        Question: Removing Nicotine from Wood Trim

        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

        Most Recent Answer

        By M. Arndt [1]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!

        Question: Cleaning Nicotine Off Walls

        Is nicotine a grease?

        By Ann

        Most Recent Answer

        By helpmeclean09/30/2014

        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.

        Question: Cleaning Cigarette Smoke Off Walls

        How do I wash walls with heavy cigarette smoke?

        By Andrea L.

        Most Recent Answer

        By Neil R.07/19/2014

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

        Question: Removing Nicotine Stains from the Walls

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

        By Sharon E. from Louisville, MS

        Most Recent Answer

        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.

        Question: Cleaning Nicotine (Cigarette Smoke) Off of Bric-a-Brac

        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

        Most Recent Answer

        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. :-)

        Question: Cleaning Nicotine Off of Walls

        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.

        Most Recent Answer

        By Frugal Sunnie [11]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.

        Question: Nicotine Stains and Odor on Wood Paneling

        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

        Most Recent Answer

        By punkstermom05/08/2013

        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.

        Question: Removing Cigarette Smoke from Walls

        What is the best and easiest way to clean cigarette smoke off of walls?

        By Bob

        Question: Cleaning Nicotine from Painted Walls

        What product will clean nicotine of walls the best?

        By jrp

        Question: Cigarette Stains on Walls and Woodwork

        How do I clean cigarette stain off walls and woodwork?

        By David


        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.

        Archive: Cleaning Nicotine from Walls and Fine Furniture

        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

        RE: Cleaning Nicotine from Walls and Fine Furniture

        The best product I have ever used is Austin's Orange's made here in PA. There are national brands of orange cleaner that will work, but not as well. (01/27/2005)

        By spelch

        RE: Cleaning Nicotine from Walls and Fine Furniture

        For the walls (don't forget your ceilings either), use a product called tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) - it's sold anywhere you can buy house paint - and it's relatively inexpensive - about $3 for a large carton, and you'll likely only use half of it to scrub your whole house (it stores well too). Basically, it's a powdered mix that you add to water to make a mild acid (so use gloves when using) that eats just about any goo that has adhered to your walls over time. It's what all the professional painters use to prep the walls and ceilings with. We bought a mobile home many years ago that reeked of nicotine - we had to change our rinse water a lot, but it all came off, and you would never know that smokers had lived there previously. (01/27/2005)

        By Shari

        RE: Cleaning Nicotine from Walls and Fine Furniture

        We bought a mobile home that was furnished and saturated with smoke. We washed the walls down with Murphy's Soap - not the ceilings. They can't be washed. Then we called Servicemaster to come in and fog. This was 9 years ago and it cost $150. Don't know what it would be today. That fogging is guaranteed forever. We had it done twice and there is NO smoke smell. We close up and go north for the summer and when we return NO smoke smell. It's amazing!! Worth the money. (01/27/2005)

        By Marylin

        RE: Cleaning Nicotine from Walls and Fine Furniture

        For the FURNITURE, and walls IF they are wood paneling: Liquid Gold. It's in the house cleaning area, but you might have to do some looking for it. (01/27/2005)

        By john

        RE: Cleaning Nicotine from Walls and Fine Furniture

        Year ago my friend moved into the same situation and we used equal parts of water and ammonia in a squirt bottle and it worked beautifully. It was wood paneling and it didn't damage it at all. Keep your area well ventilated and wear a mask for whatever cleaner you use. (01/27/2005)

        By Annie.

        RE: Cleaning Nicotine from Walls and Fine Furniture

        Scrubbin' Bubbles Bathroom Cleaner works great to clean vinyl wallboard. It does most of the work for you. Just be sure to wipe off any residue with a damp cloth. (10/16/2007)

        By Dana

        RE: Cleaning Nicotine from Walls and Fine Furniture

        Awesome Orange is good, also Scrubbing Bubbles, If anyone knows of a better way--please let us know. Diane (07/12/2009)

        By Darby Rose

        Archive: Nicotine Residue on Plaster Walls

        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.

        Best regards.


        RE: Nicotine Residue on Plaster Walls

        I bought a house last year with nicotine on the walls and a professional painter recommended that I mop the walls with Trisodium Phosphate. I picked up a box at a local hardware store and it worked great! (05/03/2005)

        By CeiliSue

        RE: Nicotine Residue on Plaster Walls

        That's exactly what you need to use! I worked in the Paint department of Home Depot for several years. The product is commonly referred to as TSP and comes in a green and yellow box. It will be found in the paint section of your local hardware store. Make sure you wear gloves and follow the manufacturer's directions exactly. TSP can also bleach some fabrics so make sure you remove all curtains etc before you start on a section. I would also recommend using a product called KILZ as a paint. This product is not only a paint but also a sealer. Often times, even though you wash the walls thoroughly, steam from the bathroom or kitchen can cause the nicotine residue buried deep in the walls to make brown spots on your paint. They sell KILZ at most hardware stores, and they just started carrying it at Walmart too! You can usually have it mixed to any color but I recommend going to Home Depot or Lowes if you want it colored because they use computerated coloring systems. That will insure that all your cans of paint are uniformly colored. (05/03/2005)

        By bunnyboo

        RE: Nicotine Residue on Plaster Walls

        My mom and I have had a lot of success cleaning up my grandparents' belongings with foaming bathroom cleaner, like Scrubbing Bubbles or Lysol Basin Tub and Tile Cleaner. My grandparents smoked A LOT for YEARS and it was amazing to see the nicotine residue melt away-- many items that we thought were supposed to have a brassy finish actually had a silver-type finish! (05/03/2005)

        By Allison

        RE: Nicotine Residue on Plaster Walls

        I had the same problem and used Oxy Clean with warm water, rinsed with clear water, then painted with Kilz primer (2 coats) and regular paint. Your rags/sponges and rinse water will turn orange, but it really works well and you do not need gloves, mask or anything as it is non-toxic. You can work with closed windows also. (05/05/2005)

        By QueenBeeCrafts

        RE: Nicotine Residue on Plaster Walls

        Speaking from personal experience, I recommend the amazing quality of KILZ as a primer for the nicotine problem. But under no circumstances should someone use this product in an unventilated room! This stuff comes with a vapor that will stun an ox at a distance. So beware! (03/14/2008)

        By JimmyD

        Archive: Nicotine Saturated Walls

        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.


        Archive: Scrubbing Bubbles for Walls

        Scrubbing Bubbles is great for cleaning walls. It melts away the nicotine too. Spray on, wait 1 minute and wipe off with paper towels.


        Archive: How can I get Nicotine off the walls and stains off my linoleum?

        I have purchased a mobile home to rent. The walls are stained with nicotine.