How do you remove nicotine stains from walls?

The nicotine in cigarette smoke can leave behind a yellowish residue that can stain walls and windows. If not dealt with immediately, the residue can accumulate over time, making it harder to remove. Additionally, the unappealing nicotine stains are considered a health hazard which is often described as “thirdhand smoke” by medical experts. Read further to learn ways to remove nicotine stains from walls.

A guide on how to remove nicotine stains from walls

When dealing with nicotine stains on the walls, you might want to try out a chemical-free approach in which the recommended cleaner is a solution of half vinegar and half water. Aside from cleaning the nicotine stains, the vinegar can also remove the remaining odor. 

  • Spritz the vinegar solution straight on the stained area.
  • Allow it to sit for a few seconds before wiping with a moist cloth. 
  • In most cases, it might take several applications before the stain is fully removed.

If you want a stronger solution, the best cleaner that can get rid of nicotine stains on the walls is any product that contains trisodium phosphate or TSP. Take note that TSP is a general-purpose cleaner that you can find in most hardware or home improvement stores. 

  • Before cleaning the stained wall, place a tarp down on the floor to protect it from any drips. Wear gloves since TSP can irritate the skin. 
  • Follow the instructions on the label regarding the correct amount of water to cleaner ratio. 
  • Soak a sponge or brush into the solution and work on the nicotine stain until it vanishes. It might take several attempts for stains that are building up over time. 
  • Rinse the sponge in clean water and wipe the site to remove the cleaning solution. 
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Nicotine stains that have been left on the wall for a long time might be remedied by repainting. If you are going to repaint the stained walls, initially paint a primer to neutralize the odor and cover the stain.

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What is nicotine?

Nicotine is a toxic and addictive substance present in tobacco smoke. Although it is colorless and not distinguishable in the smoke, it can leave behind an oily, yellowish residue.

When a person is smoking indoors, the cigarette smoke sooner or later disperses, leaving behind an oily residue. This residue can taint teeth, clothes, and even the furniture and walls. The stains are not evident at first but can build up over time, resulting in an unappealing yellowish discoloration on the walls. It is quite noticeable in areas where the smoker stays most of the time. 

How do I get smoke stains off walls?

The unappealing and foul odor of cigarette smoking can linger inside a house or room long after the cigarette is out. It can cause a yellowish discoloration on the walls that hardens over time. Whether you have decided to quit smoking, moved into an apartment, or house with smoking stains on the walls, do not lose hope. You can remove the odor and smoke stains off the walls.

White vinegar. One method that can remove the tar and nicotine from smoke stains on the wall is using white vinegar. 

  • Add warm vinegar to a spray bottle for stubborn stains. For less evident marks, dilute by following a 1:1 ratio with warm water. 
  • Apply pure vinegar or the diluted solution straight to the stained walls. 
  • Since tar and nicotine forms a tacky and solidified surface, the warm vinegar helps soften these substances. Vinegar can remove both the odor and unappealing smoke stains.
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Ammonia. This can also be used to remove smoke stains on the walls when mixed with water.

  • Mix a tablespoon of ammonia for every cup of water or approximately ½ cup of ammonia to a gallon of warm water.
  • If you have painted walls, lessen the mixture to ¼ cup of ammonia to a gallon of water. For an aggressive approach, add more ammonia to a full cup. 
  • Apply the cleaning solution directly to the wall and let it sit for up to 5 minutes before wiping it away.
  • Follow up by rinsing thoroughly with warm water.

Can I paint over nicotine stains on walls?

The nicotine from continuous smoking can permeate through paint and move into the pores of drywall. This results in stains and odors that seem permanent that can only be remedied by repainting. 

You need to clean and prepare the stained walls properly before repainting. This is important to prevent the smoke and nicotine from bleeding through. 

Clean the walls using a strong cleaning solution and seal with a stain-blocking primer to make sure that the stains will not seep through later. It is recommended to apply two coats of high-quality latex paint so that your walls will look like new without the odor.

What is the best cleaner to remove nicotine stains on walls?

The best cleaner that can get rid of nicotine stains on walls is a product that contains trisodium phosphate or TSP. It is important to note that TSP is a general-purpose cleaner that you can buy in most home improvement stores.

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Final thoughts

Once you notice a yellowish discoloration on your walls or discover one after moving to a new apartment or house, it is best to deal with it right away. Luckily, with the methods described on how to remove nicotine stains on the walls, you can keep your walls clean and looking good as new.

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