4 Tips For Removing Smoke Stains From Walls

Cigarettes not only present health risks, but they frequently discolor nearby surfaces with nicotine stains as well. New homeowners will often be left to deal with soot stains, smoke smell, smoke damage and smoke stains left behind from what could be decades of cigarette smoke. A coat of paint seems like a simple solution but is often not enough. 

Clean up with degreasers that can give you the edge you need to clean smoke and help you tackle the cigarette smell, black smoke stains, and discoloration left behind from years of use – in some cases these areas can almost appear to have the remnants of fire damage, feeling as if the drywall, baseboards and ceiling all need full restoration services to get the smoke odor out and clean walls again. 

Getting newly painted walls is a great idea to breathe life back into the home, and the removal of as much of the stain as possible reduces the risk of the residue bleeding through the new paint job. Interior painting, like all good painting, is as much about the prep as the paint itself!

1. Start With Removal

The odor of tobacco settles not only on hard surfaces like walls and ceilings. Smoke smells can linger on carpeting and even items you might not expect, like light bulbs. Remove and clean washable fabric, but consider replacing carpets, as the odor may have settled into the carpet pad as well and will continue to release the scent.

Remove and replace simple items like light bulbs as you clean the room. Bulb replacement costs very little compared to many other household repairs. The odor of cigarette smoke may seem minimal until the light turns on and the heat from the bulb increases the aroma of stale tobacco smoke.

Smells that continue to linger can affect new materials and any furnishing brought into the room. The odors could also signal that the air quality does not meet safety standards. Researchers call this third-hand smoke. A study showed that the smoke residue on household products can lead to airborne carcinogens.

2. Wash Everything Repeatedly

Many people prefer to start with safe, inexpensive cleaning products. If the smoker lived in the home for only a few weeks or months, scrubbing the surfaces with a dish soap mixture, white vinegar solution, or even using a baking soda mixture and a spray bottle , may be a cleaning agent that can work adequately as a remover  for cleaning smoke stains on drywall. Nicotine and tar can leave a sticky residue behind, so use a warmed mix of vinegar and warm water to clean and deodorize.

Always test your cleaning products on a small section of the wall’s surface (or upholstery if cleaning that) that is inconspicuous and out of the way – that way if there is an adverse reaction with the painted wall and your degreaser or chemical sponges, you can avoid damage. 

Some tools and materials available from hardware stores you may need for the job are:

  • Clean cloth
  • Clean sponge
  • Drop cloth
  • 5 gallon buckets (one for clean water to wring your rag out in, one for the cleaning solution, etc)
  • Magic Eraser 
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Mop brush or handle with brush attachment
  • And of course, always wear rubber gloves!

Once you’re done with the dry cleaning sponge and cleaning walls with the warm water cleaning solution, dry all surfaces thoroughly after washing, and allow them to air dry and ventilate to be able to see what is left. If the rags used to dry the surface have any yellow staining afterward, the surfaces still have the cigarette residue on them. Everything may seem clean until the room is brightly lit or someone walks in from outside and notices the stains or the lingering smells.

A stronger option may become necessary if the mess remains after two or three washes with vinegar. An all-purpose cleaner or bleach may help, but use caution with any heavy-duty cleaner. The room should stay well-ventilated, and anyone who uses the products should protect their skin and eyes. Do a test area to make certain the product will not harm the surface.

3. Clean the Ducts

HVAC systems transfer air throughout the home. Over time, the ductwork collects air particles. The HVAC filters cannot catch all particles or prevent odors. Consider ductwork cleaning and air filter replacement a priority in a home with cigarette smoke damage. Using air conditioning or the furnace before cleaning can increase the problem.

4. Call a Painter

The new owners will almost always need to repaint. The fresh paint will help to cover the stains and block the odor, but it usually takes more than one coat. A single layer of paint and primer may help the area look great initially, but over time, the residue underneath can penetrate the stain and show through on the surface. The smell may return with the stains.

Make certain the service that paints the home understands the situation. The painters will usually need to apply more coats than they would otherwise. Most will use a specific primer and paint that can trap the stains or smell. Plan to repaint all surfaces in the home – not just those in designated smoking rooms.

In troublesome situations, like when dealing with cigarette stains, call a professional. At Elite Painting KC, we can answer your questions and offer suggestions, as we’ve been there before and can help in nearly any situation. 

Our professionals have encountered many things in our time, and have enjoyed bringing new life back to these beautiful spaces, and the creative opportunities that come from being able to start fresh again with clean walls and new ideas! Contact us for a free price quote to give your home the fresh look it needs!