Whether you’ve just bought a house with nicotine-stained walls or you’ve just quit yourself and want to get every trace of it out of your home, you’ll need an effective cleaning agent.
The unpleasant scent of cigarette smoke stays behind long after the cigarette has been extinguished. This also leaves a yellowish discoloration on your walls from the nicotine and tar which can harden over time. Not only does this make your house look grungy, but it might be harmful, as well.
These stains and the process of getting rid of them can be overwhelming. But although this can seem like a difficult problem, it is possible to get rid of the smoke stains and smell from your walls. With the right product, technique, and knowledge, you can get your walls looking and smelling new again.
The product that will work best for you (without harming your walls), will depend on the type of walls you have in your home. When you are cleaning walls with latex or oil-based paint on them, stay away from scrub sponges, harsh chemicals, or Teflon pads as these can leave unsightly scratch marks.
Always use a smooth cloth and start with gentle motions as you begin cleaning. In some extreme cases, you may still have to repaint your walls. Before you clean, switch the power off in the room, and avoid getting any water near electrical outlets.
The Top Ways to Remove Nicotine Stains from Walls
The following cleaning products were selected for their ability to efficiently remove nicotine stains from walls. Based on user reviews, we have selected the most affordable and effective products on the market for this purpose so you can get your house in order again.
- Pure 20% Vinegar
- Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
- Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap
- Savogran Trisodium Phosphate
- PAINTED WALL CLEANR by CHOMP
Pure 20% Vinegar
If you’re one for old, tried and true natural solutions, you will like this answer to your nicotine-stained walls. Vinegar is a classic method for cleaning stains off walls, including stubborn nicotine stains.
When you’re doing this, try to start with a small amount at first and work your way up to more, if needed. Add a few drops of this Pure 20% Vinegar to warm water in a spray bottle, then apply this directly to your home’s surfaces.
Since nicotine and tar create a hardened, sticky surface, the acetic acid present in vinegar can help break this down, removing both the stain and the smell of cigarette smoke. Another method for cleaning the walls with vinegar is using a sponge.
Just wet the sponge with the vinegar/water solution and squeeze it to wring the excess water out. This will help prevent unsightly drips down your walls. Just wipe off the stains, rinse your sponge, and continue working as needed. If your solution isn’t strong enough, you can add a bit more vinegar until it works. This method is also safe to use on other types of paint such as latex-based and glossy surfaces.
When you are using this vinegar solution on oil-based walls, you can add some household detergent to the mix, but check that it’s a mild soap and always follow directions closely. The benefit of this product is that it can be used for other household cleaning tasks and outdoor gardening, as well. Use it on shower glass or tile to remove soap scum, spots, and water stains or even to kill weeds in your yard.
This product is amazingly effective but it’s very strong, so always use rubber gloves or you might risk burning your hand. When you buy this product, you will get an entire gallon. Since you will be diluting it with water, it will last you a very long time and is a highly affordable option. If you cannot remove the cigarette smoke stains from your walls with these methods, you may need something stronger. We will go over a few suitable options below.
Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
Another highly effective method for removing nicotine stains from walls is the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Made in the USA, these cleaning pads provide strong, effective multi-purpose results using only water.
The water-activated scrubbers on these pads will remove the nasty cigarette stains from your walls, leaving them fresh. But they can also be used to clean glass tabletops, baseboards, doors, leather shoes, and even your windshield.
Many users find that this type of Magic Eraser is better than the type with ridges since they hold up better. This can be used to remove art paints from surfaces and to scrub your sink, in addition to removing cigarette stains from your walls. It can also be used to clean stubborn stains from your baseboards and door frames.
You may think that a product this effective at removing stains must be full of toxic chemicals, but it works with a fine abrasive that has a unique cell structure. If just vinegar and water or dish detergent isn’t enough to get rid of your stains, this is the next step up. It will take stains out that have been there for years. It also has a neutral, un-offensive scent, unlike other cleaning products.
As soon as you use this eraser, you will start noticing just how many tasks it can accomplish. It can be used to remove build-up from your non-stick finish iron and leave it looking brand new. You can also use it for your old counter top facings and leave them looking bright and white. If your bathroom doorknob is looking dingy from years of hairspray buildup, this product will also clean that.
Note that although you may think you only have a stain in a single area, as soon as you begin cleaning, you might start noticing more and want to do all of your walls. When you’re using these Magic Erasers, always be sure to only apply light pressure to prevent damaging the painted surface. To use this product, just add a bit of water, wring out the excess, and start cleaning. You will see that most stains start improving right away. Again, if the stains persist even after this, you might have to paint over your walls using a primer first, then the color.
Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap
Another natural solution for people who are wary of mystery chemicals, Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap has been known to help with removing cigarette smoke stains.
This option is organic, biodegradable, fair-trade, and vegan. While some may worry that a product free from harsh chemicals couldn’t possibly be strong enough to take care of this task, it does work. And unlike the rest of the items on our list, it smells great.
Castile soaps are soaps made from vegetable oils instead of animal fats, making them cruelty-free and 100 percent pure. It’s a great way not only to clean smoke stains off your walls but to save some money on everyday hygiene and household products. As we will explain, this is definitely a multi-purpose product, suitable for countless tasks.
Free from any drying, harsh foaming agents, this soap is powerful and concentrated. When you use it, make sure it’s diluted or it can do some serious damage. Just a small amount will do the job and you will certainly get what you pay for. In addition to using this for cleaning your walls, you will never run out of ideas for other ways to put it to the test. Use it for your dishes, or even in the shower.
Dr. Bronners has been around for decades and many users have been faithfully buying it for years. Their formula has stayed consistently effective and appreciated. It’s great as a shampoo and body wash, especially for those sensitive to the ingredients used in regular products. It doesn’t have the harsh detergents that most cleaning products have and won’t irritate your scalp or skin.
As mentioned with the vinegar solution, try a small amount of this diluted in water, at first, when cleaning the nicotine stains from your walls. If that doesn’t work, you can add more until it does. You could also try adding a bit of this to your diluted vinegar solution. Just make sure you are using a smooth cloth or sponge to wipe your walls with.
Unlike other organic soaps, this one foams easily and just a tiny amount goes very far. You can use this as a natural detergent for your clothes, to wash your dog, or to clean your vegetables. It easily and ready rinses off without leaving a film or residue on either your skin or the surface you’re cleaning. The scents are unobtrusive, soft, and pleasant.
Choose from a variety of scents with this soap, all of which are made from essential oils. They have an unscented version for those who don’t like scented soaps, but they also have tea tree, rose, peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus, citrus, and almond.
Savogran Trisodium Phosphate
If you are working with years and years-worth of heavy nicotine stains, you might need a more extreme solution. Savogran Trisodium Phosphate (also known as TSP) will work to remove tough stains and is an effective de-greaser against cigarette tar.
Just a small amount mixed in water goes a long way. Make sure you are wearing gloves both when you mix and apply it to your walls and just use a tablespoon of the product in a gallon bucket of water.
“There’s little doubt that TSP cleaner works great. In fact, it often succeeds where other solutions fail to do the trick with the most stubborn stains,” said Steven at BobVila.com. “You might expect that using such a powerful cleaning agent would entail a complicated procedure, but once diluted, TSP can be applied simply with a brush or sponge, or via a sprayer.”
In order to prevent streaking, begin closest to the floor, working your way up the wall and allow the mix to sit for a while before you wipe it off. Have another bucket nearby full of just water with a clean sponge and rinse your sponge in this, then wipe the wall. As you work, make sure to change the rinsing water frequently.
This powdered, non-sudsing formula was created for very effective, heavy-duty cleaning needs. This formula has been used by cleaning and painting professionals for removing chalked paint, soot stains, smoke, and greasy grime from floors, woodwork, and walls. It will also remove mildew when you mix it with bleach. When you purchase this product, you get an entire pound and since it is so heavily diluted before use, it will stretch very far.
If the surfaces in your home including the ceiling and cabinets have years of grease accumulation, this formula can get the job done. Just add the solution to a sponge and you’re ready to clean. It will cut through grease quicker than any other similar product. Although TSP substitute formulas claim to be just as effective, they really don’t compare to the real deal.
As stated, you only need a small amount of this to get the job done. Mixing the solution too strong could have damaging effects on the skin. This product works by turning grease to glycerol, which the water then easily washes away. The mixture, however, doesn’t discriminate between the grease on your walls and the oils found in your skin, so gloves are always needed when you work with TSP.
This can be used in your dishwasher along with your detergent, just add half a teaspoon to strengthen your machine’s cleaning power. Since this formula is hygroscopic(meaning it easily absorbs moisture from its environment), it must be stored in a sealed bag to protect it from moisture once opened. As soon as this is used to clean your walls, you may need a coat of primer, then paint to make them fresh again. As always, though, this depends on the type of walls you have in your home.
PAINTED WALL CLEANR by CHOMP
Many homeowners accept the inevitability of having to repaint their walls when they get stained, but a product like this PAINTED WALL CLEANR can get rid of that hassle.
If your walls cannot be safely cleaned with any of the products listed above, give this a try. Arriving in a 32oz bottle, this product will clean fingerprints, food, oil, grime, dirt, and nicotine stains from your walls without causing any damage to the paint.
This can be used on all washable surfaces, including switch plates, alkyd and latex paints, and faux finishes. It’s non-etching, free from phosphates, non-corrosive, and pH neutral. There are many instances where cleaning the walls could be necessary in addition to removing nicotine stains, so having this around is a huge plus.
Subcontractors have been known to leave messes behind. Instead of re-painting or using a standard cleaner that could ruin your paint, this allows you to scrub and scrub until all stains are removed with zero damage left behind. It’s also effective for surfaces other than painted walls.
The PAINTED WALL CLEANR by Chomp is not easy to find in stores, but thankfully it can be bought online for a very affordable price. Cleaning baseboards, trims, doors, and walls with just water causes the paint to come off, oftentimes. With this product, however, you can apply plenty of pressure to the sponge and it won’t harm the paint.
Sometimes, stains are so old or extreme that nothing seems to work. If you’re in that situation, you may have to combine forces. For extra effectiveness, this formula can be used together with the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser mentioned above. It’s also effective for removing dust and everyday dirt around door frames, in the kitchen, and more. It cleans your painted surfaces without leaving behind any streaks. Once you get it, you’ll always want to keep it in the house.
Getting Rid of the Smoke Smell in your House
All of the products listed above are great for removing stains and smells from your walls, but what about the leftover cigarette scent in the rest of your house? If left unattended, the smell could remain in your house and contaminate the walls all over again. As you’re cleaning your walls, make sure your house is well-ventilated, for starters. You can do this by using your whole house fan or by using a reversible window fan to get the air outside.
Be sure to take out and clean the cold-air return filters (if they’re washable) or just get new ones altogether. You should also clean the surrounding grates to get nicotine stains and tar off. Next, clean your drapes and carpet completely to remove the unpleasant odors. Once you’ve done this, you’re ready for the following steps:
- Zero Tolerance for Smoke Inside: The best way to get rid of the smoke smell in your home is to stop adding to it. Starting now, you must never smoke or allow anyone else to smoke in your house again. If someone tries to light up indoors, kindly remind them to go outside.
- Use Smoker’s Candles: Smoker’s candles have been specially crafted with materials that neutralize scents from pets, cooking, and smoking. Just burn one for several hours and it will remove these odors from your home gradually.
- Odor-Absorbing Products: You can fill bowls with materials that absorb odors, like white vinegar, activated charcoal, kitty litter, or plain baking soda. Put one of these bowls in each room and it will help to absorb any leftover smoke scents hanging in the air.
- Odor-Neutralizing Sprays: Some products can actually neutralize scents if you spray them onto your carpet, furniture, drapes, or other fabrics that smell like smoke in your home. If you get the right kind, it won’t just mask the smell, but will actually get rid of it. There are also odor-neutralizing powders available.
- Don’t Forget the Ceilings: When you’re getting the smoke stains and smells out of your house, don’t forget the ceilings. Clean the ceiling of each room with whatever product you’ve used on your walls. Make sure that you always keep the area well-ventilated as you do this type of work in your home.
And last but not least, don’t be afraid to call in the professionals if you try everything and the smell still lingers. Have your upholstered furniture, carpets, and draped cleaned. The nicotine and tar from cigarette smoke attach easily to all fabric and professional solutions might be the only thing that works. Although it may cost you, the result of a fresh-smelling home will be worth it.