Asked on Apr 19, 2015

How do I get cigarette smoke stains out of a wall?

Mark Woolery
by Mark Woolery
I rented a home that has smoke stains in one room. The wall is semi gloss white paint. What would I do to solve this?
This wall is cigarette stained and was wondering how to get rid of it besides painting.
  52 answers
  • Franne Franne on Apr 20, 2015
    The only way I know of to clean nicotine stained anything is to wash them with ammonia water. You can use a rag and a bucket or, if it's a smaller area, a spray bottle and clean, wet rag works well. You may have to change your water and rinse your rags in the sink often depending how bad the staining is. There's no easy way...just a lot of elbow grease :-( Simply painting over won't do it...the nicotine will bleed through. Good luck.
  • Peggy O'Connor Hood Peggy O'Connor Hood on Apr 20, 2015
    I use Mean Green or a bucket of hot water with a scoop of Dirty Jobs or Oxiclean.
  • Doyle Tami Harmon Doyle Tami Harmon on Apr 20, 2015
    I used ammonia water. Use a mop and the job will be much easier! Get ready to change your water frequently! Follow with a paint in an eggshell finish that has primer in it and you should be good.
  • Kim C Kim C on Apr 20, 2015
    Paint them with KILLZ paint available at Lowes and Home Depot.
  • Jakes Du Preez Jakes Du Preez on Apr 20, 2015
    Just washing and painting over will do the job... use a primer!!!
  • Sherry Norman Sherry Norman on Apr 20, 2015
    Whatever you use, wear gloves to keep the nicotine and benzene from your skin.
  • Deena Bailey Deena Bailey on Apr 20, 2015
    Paint the walls with Kilz. Covers just about anything.
  • Jea549830 Jea549830 on Apr 20, 2015
    Mean Green and a mop. Then paint with Kilz.
  • KSS KSS on Apr 20, 2015
    My husband and I used to be smokers and we would wash our walls with TSP, trisodium phosphate. You can usually find it in the paint or cleaning supply aisle.
  • Katrina Scott Katrina Scott on Apr 20, 2015
    I am a smoker, I use magic erasers.
  • Kbee Kbee on Apr 20, 2015
    It is imperative that you use rubber gloves and a face mask. That much nicotine, a poison, will make you ill. My daughter's rental did this.
    • Jane Jane on Apr 20, 2015
      @Kbee Imagine what the smokers lungs look like....yikes!
  • Patty Henry Patty Henry on Apr 20, 2015
    The TSP works great!
  • Gail Salminen Gail Salminen on Apr 20, 2015
    @Mark Woolery painting is the quickest fix, but since you are renting you probably don't want to invest in paint. When I have a tough cleaning job I usually go straight to scrubbing bubbles with bleach - does an amazing job. Then I saw a post on here where vinegar and blue dawn dish detergent (1/2 & 1/2) is an amazing cleaner. I have tried it on several jobs and the results were always good and this product is much cheaper. Just found the post - works on more than tubs - just spray the solution on your walls, may take a few passes. Good luck.
  • Debra Grieve Debra Grieve on Apr 20, 2015
    There is a recipe on hometalk that cleans almost anything!! I use it on most surfaces! It is baking soda, vinegar, dishsoap, and water. We used this on our walls (used to smoke in the house), and what a difference! Just letting you know about a much more natural cleaner than tsp. Tsp does work great, though. You still have to paint. I don't know of anything that will remove the discoloring from smoking on paint. If you make this, use a big enough bucket, as it does bubble up some as you pour. 1 gal. water, 1/2 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup white vinegar, and about 2 teaspoons of Dawn dish soap and scrub away! Works for all wall washing jobs, too! Or floors, cabinets, dog messes, etc!
  • Renee Confere Renee Confere on Apr 20, 2015
    Natural gas heat , fuel oil heat & propane will make your walls look like this also ,
  • Mary Savage Mary Savage on Apr 20, 2015
    Use Odorban found at Lowe's for any smell and magic erasers.
  • Mar1556431 Mar1556431 on Apr 20, 2015
    Sugar soap it
  • Although it's not environmentally friendly, I used "Grease Lightning" that I bought from a Family Dollar Store. I sprayed it on and waited a few seconds before I wiped it off. Be sure to wear gloves and breathing protection!
  • Diane Diane on Apr 20, 2015
    Will any of thing bring cigarette smoke out of a purse ?
    • See 1 previous
    • Jane Jane on Apr 20, 2015
      @Diane Hi Diane, I bought a beautiful glove leather coat at the thrift store for $7.00. smelled like an ashtray. I tried baking soda and every other home remedy to no avail. I finally solved the problem by spraying between the lining and the leather with a product called 'ZORBX' "the stronger and safer odor remover" I found it in a small spray bottle at my local Lowes. Worked like magic. It did no harm to the lining or the leather. I also hung the coat outside as much as possible to air out. No lingering odor at all. Here's a link to the Zorbx website if you want to learn more.
  • Beverly Hyder Beverly Hyder on Apr 20, 2015
    My home has beautiful paneling and the previous owners smoked for over 40 years. Everyone said I would have to paint it. Tried a number of products with no success. Finally sprayed on a mixture of ammonia and water (half and half) and wiped it down with paper towels. It worked beautifully but was a lot of work. Be sure and wear gloves and a mask.
  • Beverly Hyder Beverly Hyder on Apr 20, 2015
    For your purse crumple newspapers and leave them in it for about a week.
  • Barbara Thomas Barbara Thomas on Apr 20, 2015
    I'm a smoker and wash my walls about every 2 or 3 months. Mr. Clean or Dawn dish soap works great. Washing walls is not a hard job. Can't believe people let that go for so long.
  • Paula K Paula K on Apr 20, 2015
    I used Murphy's Oil Soap and it worked like a charm. The good thing about it too is that it's non toxic and smells good. Just follow the directions on the bottle.
  • Cindy Cindy on Apr 20, 2015
    Vinegar and water will clean any wall.
  • Betsy Wilson Betsy Wilson on Apr 20, 2015
    Greased Lightning is great, but test first as it CAN take the paint off.
  • Cathy T Cathy T on Apr 20, 2015
    Wash the walls in whatever product works for you, there are a lot of good suggestions here. However, smoke permeates the drywall so any type of humidity will cause the smoke to bleed through the drywall and leave nicotine stains. Once cleaned, it needs to be sealed with shellac or a shellac based primer. Once it's sealed, you can repaint and you won't have any bleed through issues. If you don't seal and paint, it's like my you will be washing the walls repeatedly. I use trisodium phosphate (TSP)to clean smoke or cooking stains. Rinse well before sealing. Works like a charm. Good luck.
  • Jeannie Milligan Jeannie Milligan on Apr 20, 2015
    Paint it with KILZ
    • Amy Edwards Amy Edwards on Apr 20, 2015
      @Jeannie Milligan yes I used Kilz works great on nicotine and any other stains, perfect.
  • Zhanna Zhanna on Apr 20, 2015
    I agree with the Dawn and vinegar. But use a sponge roller mop to wash the walls and do only a small area at a time. Rinse the roller each time under the faucet rather than in your bucket of cleaner so you're not washing with the same gunk you just took off the wall. The semigloss finish of the paint is probably a blessing rather than an appropriate decor choice as it will be easier to clean.
  • Jean Thompson Jean Thompson on Apr 20, 2015
    Used Awesome found at Dollar Stores and Baking Soda..
    • Donna Keeling Donna Keeling on Apr 22, 2015
      @Jean Thompson Totally awesome is the best kept secret in the world. Love this product and I use it for pretty much everything, however it doesn't cut nicotine like tsp does.
  • Ellen Doss Ellen Doss on Apr 20, 2015
    I would paint it with Kilz. Have used this in the past and it works wonders!
  • Marci N Marci N on Apr 20, 2015
    TSP My hubby was a painter. And he said it got it off the best. If you don't get it off even before you paint it will come right through the new paint. It works quite well. And you can use it for other things too. Smells nice and clean also.
    • See 1 previous
    • Donna Keeling Donna Keeling on Apr 22, 2015
      @Marci N Your right about the TSP--it is an awesome product, I have used it mupltiple times for nicotine cleaning such as this-(None of the other products mentioned here besides tsp worked very well for me) however you need to rinse it off very well if you are using it on kitchen cabinets or wood surfaces and make sure you wear gloves as it is harsh on the hands. I would then paint with kilz to seal it. If you don't get the nicotine off the walls and you paint it , anytime there is moisture in the room, the nicotine will bleed through the paint and run down the wall. Trust me I know I went through hell in a house that had nicotine on the walls until someone told me about tsp,,,took care of the problem once and for all!!
  • Lillyz Lillyz on Apr 20, 2015
    Vacuum your walls. There are dust bunnies on them that you may not be able to see. Have 2 buckets handy. One with cleaning solution and one with clean water. Start at the bottom working your way up. Apply the cleaning solution then rinse with plain water. when the rinse water gets dirty, empty it out and get clean water. Then dry it with a soft cloth. I tore up a bath sized towel to clean and dry with. If you go the TSP route, then wear gloves and a resperator.
  • Paula Edmonds Paula Edmonds on Apr 20, 2015
    My mom passed and her walls at her house were brown and dripping if there was any humidity. I washed the walls TSP and then paint the walls with Kiltz and then your final color that you want on your walls. You can find TSP and Kiltz at any paint/hardward store.
    • Capernius Capernius on Jun 02, 2015
      @Paula Edmonds TY Ms.Edmonds! I was going to ask about where to get that.. I have never heard of TSP till now.... Thanks! :)
  • Joan D Joan D on Apr 20, 2015
    After you wash the walls you can also paint them with varnish. It seals the walls and keeps the smell from bleeding thru.
  • Ann Sargent-Henderson Ann Sargent-Henderson on Apr 20, 2015
    The Simple Green product, worked for me, although one room had severe stains, that after washing , was not enough, I had to paint the ceiling! Good Luck!
  • Kaioverbeck Kaioverbeck on Apr 20, 2015
    Anything Awesom from the $tree or TSP. I had to have someone come in a re-paint my walls to seal out the smoke stains.
  • LoriKindler LoriKindler on Apr 20, 2015
    We rehab and houses and use Kilz. That seals the wall. Then paint. As a tennant you may not wish to go that far, so the vinegar/water or Awesome! would be a temporary fix.
  • Jeri Niksich Jeri Niksich on Apr 21, 2015
    I had one room in my home that was purely for smoking, the walls were literally brown from smoke. I 1st washed the walls with dawn/vinegar then rinsed & had my painter put 2 coats of Kiltz and then 2 coats of semi gloss paint. You'd never know a cig was smoked in here! Kiltz is the BOMB!!
  • Gwyn Gwyn on Apr 22, 2015
    Awesome is awesome and it's cheap, cheap, cheap. I use it to clean everything. You should see what it does to chrome hubcaps. LOL Never thought about sealing with shellac. Will it not yellow and ruin the paint color you just brought back to life?
  • Suzie hometalk Suzie hometalk on Apr 22, 2015
    I have painted for over 15 years and did 2 houses that were horrible with tar/ WILL bleed through primer!!!! You have to wash the walls first....we used bleach/water!!!
  • Beverley Hosking Beverley Hosking on Jun 22, 2015
    You could try vinegar, bi carb , lemon juice, sugar soap. Not sure what will work but these are excellent cleaners for the household
  • B. Enne B. Enne on Jun 30, 2015
    Whatever you use, start cleaning from the bottom up to prevent staining.
  • Karen Young Karen Young on Jul 16, 2015
    My daughter bought a house that the walls looked like yours. We used Awesome, scrubbed the walls, rinsed and repeat. Then painted. Also used it on the woodwork. So gross seeing the nicotine dripping from the walls. She replaced the carpet so we didn't have to be careful there, but it did takeout the smell and three years later there has been no bleed thru or return of the smell.
  • Lla612911 Lla612911 on Jul 24, 2015
    Use TSP for cleaning the walls, then seal with a Zinsser B-I-N 2 Primer Stain Blocker Odor Sealer. If the walls are that bad then you probably have to pull out the carpet too. If I'm dealing with strong odors, particularly cat pee, if I have to replace the carpet, i pull the pad to and seal the subfloor with zinsser BIN shellac based primer. No smell survives that.
  • Paula K Paula K on Oct 25, 2015
    I used Murphy's Oil Soap to remove years of tobacco smell and stains from a shelving unit given to us by a neighbor. I had tried other products like vinegar and they didn't work like the Murphy's Oil Soap did. All the smell and stain is gone!
  • Patricia Atwell Patricia Atwell on Feb 06, 2016
    I did it the easy way. One part white vinegar two parts water. Put in spray bottle and spray from the top. You'll see all of it melt down the wall. To remove residue wipe with a clean rag in just water.
  • Mary Savage Mary Savage on Feb 07, 2016
    there is a product called Odor Ban which can be used on walls and woodwork as well as in your laundry. It gets rid of the smell and works well. Chris S. Find it at Lowes.
  • Taf Taf on Feb 09, 2016
    I also used the vinegar and boiling hot water to clean the walls in my house, which had many years of accumulate cigarette smoke. I used a swifter mop handle and microfiber towels. The mop handle made it easy to reach the top of the walls. Best of luck...
  • Carol Montgomery Carol Montgomery on Jul 08, 2016
    I use tap water with a little squirt of dawn mixed together in a bucket to wash my smoke stained walls, it works like a charm!
  • Suz Suz on Sep 28, 2016
    i used a steam cleaner on the vinyl wall paper in our lake home we purchased from smokers. It did the job, but took a lot of time.
  • Crystal Meyer Griffith Crystal Meyer Griffith on Nov 16, 2016
    I moved into a house that had a similar problem. Heck, I thought the crown molding was ivory! Turns out it was white. I cleaned every wall in the house with this solution: 1 gal very warm water + 1 cup clear ammonia + 1/2 Cup Vinegar + 1/4 Cup baking soda. I used a sponge mop since there was so much wall to clean. I did make up a new bucket for each room & two for a LR-DR combo. Start at the BOTTOM and work UP because you will have cleaner streaks if it runs down the wall into a dirty area. Not sure why but that's what it did and that's how I prevented it.
  • Deborah Hopper Deborah Hopper on May 24, 2017

    Good tip's, Thanks