Nicotine and soot removal

downeastwavesApril 14, 2007


I'm looking for YOUR tried and true formula for removal of years of tobacco smoke and a couple of time the chimney damper not working properly from an real old house.

The white woodwork is yellower as you get closer to the ceiling.

I've googled and found some different suggestions but I'd like to hear from folks here who may have gone thru this already.

We plan to clean everything and repaint all previously painted places and remove wallpaper and paint those walls. The floors--thankfully have not been painted! Many have nice looking wood.

I would really appreciate your tried and true remedies--pretty please.


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Steam cleaner! It happened by accident. I was steaming off some wallpaper and had the steamer pointed toward the ceiling. It hit the ceiling and water collected, I didn't want it dripping on me so I wiped it up with a cloth..... all this residue from the PO who smoked came off.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2007 at 10:33PM
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I just spent many hours cleaning my tenant's living room after he moved out. You could see the nicotine and you could sure smell it! I used TSP. I had to clean one wall six times before it really came clean. It's a nasty business. I should have done the ceiling first, but I didn't. I'm procrastinating because I'm sure that will be the most unpleasant task. I'm planning to paint it with an oil-based primer after I'm done to seal it.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 4:48PM
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Thanks for the tips!

This cleaning six time is what I want to avoid if at all possible, not because I'm lazy, this house is HUGE!!!

I've used a steam cleaner before to remove wall paper so I think I will give it a try.

My sister said she cleaned a trailer home that a smoker lived in with Greased Lightning for the cupboards and woodwork.

I used that TSP stuff on some basement walls one time.

I plan on using Kilz paint for EVERYTHING. Ir worked real good here in the cottage and I like how it goes on.


    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 5:11PM
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mdoats, latex Kilz will do a very good job of sealing. I don't think you will need oil primer.

I would give it a going over with a TSP solution first.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 2:46AM
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I find TSP works the best for such build-up. I mix it as the instructions say and then spray it on with an old window cleaner bottle. One scrubbing after sitting a few minutes and then a rinse works good for me

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 7:00PM
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Painting over old accumulated films on walls results in paint that is adhered to only that old film. Peeling paint, anyone? That old film must be removed before any painting. I usually wash with Murphy's Oil Soap and then rinse with plain water.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 7:49AM
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Thanks everyone for your advise.

I'm thinking for the woodwork I will use a steam cleaner, followup with a TSP bath, rinse, dry and if it is "clean enough" prime with Kilz and then paint with Kilz.

Unsure about the plaster walls and tile ceilings, will have to see once I get in there. At least two rooms have sheet rock ceilings.

I do plan on getting the film of grime off before I paint. I know it would be a disaster if I did not!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2007 at 8:58PM
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I've found Westleys Bleach White (used for cleaning whitewalls on cars) excellent for cleaning dirty moldings.
It worked instantly. Took off nicotine, grease, and didn't hurt the paint. It can be bought in large bulk almost anywhere that car cleaning products are sold. Probably not the cheapest, but worked so fast & easy, it was worth it !

    Bookmark   May 13, 2007 at 8:53AM
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The previous owner smoked only in 1 room which is now the bedroom of my tenant's apt.

5 yrs ago before tenant moved in I cleaned with TSP (a truly hellish job especially when you're trying to wash the ceiling and that **** is splashing all over your face and eyes and running down your arms---aaackkk!) Then I painted over with Kilz.

I was just down there (as my tenant is moving out) and damned if that room doesn't smell like cigarettes again!! (No its not from tenant smoking, he doesn't smoke- its the smell resurfacing and working its way thru the Kilz.

I'm really annoyed. Not sure what I'm going to do since there is the paint layer over the nicotine. I think the bottom layer is wallpaper so I think I will attempt to steam it off.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 11:52AM
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Hi Folks! Just thought I post an update on the cleaning process.

I've tried lots of products and lots of methods. For me, what works best is: Greased Lightning, lots of rinsing and wiping with paper towels.

Here's what I do. I have two buckets of HOT water, loads of dish cloths, sponge scrubbers--the kind with the nylon netting around them, two scrub brushes and lots of paper towels.

I "pre-wipe" the wall with a sponge and a spot (really a tiny bit) of Joy. I keep it so dry enough so it does not drip and make circles. It takes of the loose surface grime. I start at the bottom and work my way up--thanks to advice I gained on the cleaning forum.

Next, I use the Greased Lightning. Again I start at the bottom and work up--trying to keep the drips under control. I squirt it on the wall, scrub it with a scrub brush--vigorously! Doing an arms length patch.

After the scrub brush I use a cloth form the clean water and wipe the area just cleaned--I keep this water the clean water and never dip into it--unless I have a DAH moment!

Next, I wipe it down with the paper towel--gross!

Then, I do it again using the nylon covered sponge scrubbing the GL covered wall and wipe it down with a fresh cloth, depending on how bad it is says how many time I have to do this.

I noticed if I just let the water sit on there after the GL and wipe it with the clean cloth side ways and up and down, I always get more grime.

The paper towels seem to take off a lot of what the wet cloths loosen.

This process is slow but works great, you can see from the link what it looks like.

If you go to the more recent update of 6-14-07 you can see another room being done.

Hope this helps the next person with filth like I have.....


Here is a link that might be useful: Cleaning process

    Bookmark   June 16, 2007 at 7:39AM
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My home was previously owned by a heavy "cigar smoker" and as a result, my living room ceiling was a horrible yellowish color. This is what i did to get rid of the tar stains:

First i used a spray bottle with water and some bleach added.I sprayed each one of my ceiling tiles.I then used a sponge with a little bit of liquid soap (dish detergent)and scrubbed them individually.Then i wiped them down with an old rag.After that i primed each one and then painted them white.It took me three days to complete the entire ceiling, but it was well worth it! My ceilings are now bright white as opposed to the yellow nasty color it was before.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 9:49AM
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please...what is TSP?

    Bookmark   November 1, 2007 at 5:09PM
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Trisodium phosphate is TSP. There is the real tsp and a "fake" kind that is no wheres near as strong, you can get them at the hardware store.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2007 at 5:55PM
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Paint thinner also removes tobacco residue.

TSP is not available in some places since it contains phosphorous.

The replacements are mostly meta-silicates and are not nearly as effective as the real thing.

Savogran is one vendor of real TSP.

Keep it off anything you do not want to repaint.
It can damage wood floors (darken oak).
Wear rubber gloves and long sleeves.
TSP can burn skin.

You WILL need to rinse after using it or the new finsh can peel.

TSP can dull alkyd paint and strip latex paint.
Test first to see how the surface is going to respond.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2007 at 11:22PM
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Thanks for the information, and the warning.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2007 at 4:10PM
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I have some experience with this. Ammonia is a degreaser and leaves no residue. This makes it ideal for painting prep. I use the clear ammonia for paint prep and the sudsy for general clean up of soot . I cleaned my chain smoking mother in-laws house when she died of emphysema after having buried her chain smoking husband. I know this works.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2007 at 4:18PM
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My stove just blew up and we're having to get lots of black off the walls and cabnets. Do the hints that are on this site help for this kind of soot as well as tobaco smoke?

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 1:40AM
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Christopher Nelson Wallcovering and Painting

If you are going to use Kilz then you must use the original as this is the only one labeled for nicotine stains. I would use BIN as it has never let me down and IMO is a better product. With either adequate ventilation and a respirator are mandatory.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bin primer

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 5:14AM
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