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Cleaning nicotine off walls can be a tough task, as its residue can leave unsightly yellow stains and an unpleasant odor. So, what is the solution and how to clean nicotine off walls without spending too much?

To efficiently clean nasty nicotine off walls, you can use different homemade solutions such as baking soda and vinegar, coffee, ammonia, vinegar with water and also chemical cleaners like TSP (Trisodium Phosphate Cleaner).

In this article, I will share the proven methods that I have personally tested to remove smoke and nicotine off walls.

Clean nicotine off walls before painting

How To Clean Nicotine Off Walls?

Here are the detailed methods to remove nicotine before painting walls and ceilings!

Baking Soda and Vinegar

When it comes to cleaning nicotine stains off ceilings and walls, I’ve found that the combination of baking soda and vinegar works wonders. The acetic acid in vinegar helps break down and dissolve nicotine residue, while as a great abrasive, baking soda can help scrub away stains.

To start, I created a mixture with water and baking soda until it results in a thick consistency. Applying this paste to the nicotine-stained areas and letting it dry for a few minutes does the trick. Afterward, I gently scrubbed the stains with a soft cloth or sponge. 

The abrasive properties of baking soda help lift the residue. To top it off, I rinsed the ceilings and wall with a solution made of equal parts water and vinegar, which not only neutralized any lingering odors but also added a fresh scent. At the end, I wiped the wall clean with plain water so that no residue remains in the area. 

This method has consistently proven effective for me, and it’s budget-friendly too!


before cleaning tobacco off walls
after cleaning tobacco off walls

I’ve also used strong coffee to tackle nicotine stains on walls, and it’s surprisingly effective. After brewing a robust pot of coffee and letting it cool, I dipped a sponge or cloth into the coffee and gently scrub the stained walls. 

It was like giving your walls a caffeine boost! The natural acidity of coffee works to break down the nicotine residue. After scrubbing, I rinsed the wall thoroughly with water to eliminate any remnants of the coffee. Not only does this method work, but it also leaves a pleasant coffee aroma in the room, making it one of my favorites.

Ammonia Solution (Use with Caution)

before painting over smoke-stained walls
After painting over smoke-stained walls

You should turn to ammonia as a last option for stubborn nicotine stains. Tar and nicotine residues often adhere stubbornly to doors, walls, and cupboards. For removing these tough stains and odor, ammonia is an effective solution but it’s important to exercise caution and proper ventilation when using this method. 

Mix one part ammonia with three parts water to create a solution. You can apply the ammonia solution to the nicotine-stained areas followed by rinsing with clean water. 

TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) Cleaner: Strong but Use with Caution

There were some areas of my walls where the nicotine wasn’t removed using homemade solutions and made me wonder how to clean nicotine off walls before painting? So, as a last cleaning option, I resorted to using a TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) cleaner. Also, I ensure the room is well-ventilated and take on the necessary safety gear. 

Applying the TSP solution to the badly nicotine-stained areas of ceilings and walls and scrubbing gently has thoroughly removed even the most stubborn stains for me. Remember to wash it with water to remove any residue of Trisodium phosphate (TSP). While this method is potent, I reserve it for situations where other methods were ineffective

Magic Eraser

Another option to consider when dealing with nicotine stains on walls is using a magic eraser. These are melamine foam sponges that work wonders on a variety of stains, including nicotine residue. Simply wet the magic eraser and start rubbing it over the nicotine-stained areas. 

The abrasive nature of the foam helps lift away the stains. Be cautious not to scrub too hard, especially if you have delicate paint or wallpaper, as it can sometimes be abrasive. This method is relatively quick and doesn’t require any additional chemicals. Make sure to rinse the wall with water afterward to remove any eraser build-up.


What convinced me to choose KRUD KUTTER degreaser was its reputation for being a powerful cleaner designed to clean even the toughest stains, including nicotine, grease, and grime. After trying various other cleaners with unsatisfactory results, I decided to give KRUD KUTTER a shot.

The fact that it’s non-toxic, water-based, non-flammable, biodegradable, and xylene-free made me breathe a sigh of relief. I didn’t have to worry about harmful chemicals lingering in my home, which is a huge plus for me and my family. No need to feel concerned about potential health hazards or harsh fumes, even in enclosed spaces.

Using this cleaner was a straightforward process. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, I mixed the concentrated cleaner with water to achieve the recommended dilution. I then applied the mixture to the nicotine-stained areas and let it sit for about 5 to 10 minutes. 

When it was time to scrub the walls, I was greatly surprised to see its effectiveness. With a sponge and a cloth in hand, I gently cleaned the walls, and the unpleasant nicotine stains vanished without much effort. Afterward, I ensured a thorough rinse with clean water to leave no cleaner residue behind.

Can Sugar Soap Help In Removing Nicotine Stains?

Yes, sugar soap is an effective and versatile household cleaner that helps in eliminating nicotine stains along with grime and grease from painted surfaces, while also enhancing paint adhesion. To use it, just spray on the nicotine-affected area followed by wiping with a rough cloth.

Here is an one practical example for you:

I undertook a project to clean years’ worth of nicotine buildup from both the walls and ceiling. To prepare the surfaces for painting and decorating, I started by steaming the ceiling to loosen the nicotine residue. Afterward, I used sugar soap to clean the walls thoroughly, followed by disinfecting them. Check out the pictures below which I have taken before and after cleaning walls.

before cleaning cigarette smoke off walls
after cleaning cigarette smoke off walls

With these preparations complete, I was ready to bring new life and color to the space through my painting expertise, making it a fresh and inviting environment.

Zinsser B-I-N Shellac Oil Sealer: Best Primer For Nicotine Stained Walls

After cleaning the walls, I applied Zinsser B-I-N Shellac primer before painting. This magical primer-sealer effortlessly sealed knots, sap streaks, and, most impressively, pet, smoke, and musty odors, leaving my home smelling fresh and clean. 

Its exceptional adhesion eliminated the need for extensive sanding, and with a lightning-fast dry time of just 45 minutes, I was able to proceed with painting quickly. 

Zinsser B-I-N not only covered the stains but also addressed the root cause of the odor issue, making it an invaluable addition to any home improvement project and I highly recommend it to anyone facing similar challenges.

Useful Resources: Here are some wall paint design ideas with masking tape that you may find interesting.

Recolor Interior Latex: Best Paint To Cover Cigarette Smoke

The last option to freshen up my home and get rid of the stubborn smoke and nicotine stains on my doors was painting with Recolor Interior Latex Paint, and it’s been a true friend in my DIY project. 

What’s so great about it? Well, first off, it’s good for the environment because it’s made from recycled materials and doesn’t have any harsh chemicals that can mess up the air. Plus, it’s super easy to use. 

I picked the White Semi-Gloss Finish, and it gave my doors a nice, clean look. One can covered a good-sized area, and it dried in a few hours. Cleaning up was super-easy with just soap and water. 

Conclusion On Painting Over Smoke-Stained Walls

Learning how to clean nicotine off walls can be easier if you follow my personal experiences discussed above, and I hope they provide you with practical insights for handling this challenging cleaning task. 

Each method has its strengths and considerations, so choose the one that best suits your situation, and always prioritize safety. You could easily restore your walls, ceilings, doors, and furniture to their former glory only with the right approach.

FAQs On how to clean nicotine off walls

Q. How long can nicotine persist within wall surfaces?

Nicotine can stay in walls for an extended period. It reacts with a common indoor air component that is nitrous acid, leading to the formation of harmful carcinogens. These carcinogens remain on surfaces for days and even weeks, continuing to pose health risks as they can be ingested, inhaled, or absorbed over time.

Q. What are the best practices used by professionals to effectively clean nicotine from walls?

Professionals clean nicotine off walls by using specialized cleaning solutions, scrubbing the affected areas, and sometimes applying a primer before repainting to prevent nicotine stains from bleeding through.

Q. Can nicotine stains on walls be removed with bleach? 

You can use bleach in a spray bottle by mixing a tablespoon with water. Apply the mixture to the wall, allow it to sit, and then use a sponge to wipe away the stains; you should notice the stains coming off.

Rosalie Sanchez-Holapaints writer and owner

Rosalie Sanchez

DIY enthusiast with years of experience in home decor and home improvement. With a passion for educating consumers about DIY projects. Every time, I work with our painting professionals to provide you with the best painting product reviews and how-to advice. You can follow me on Facebook.

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