I recently had a call from a customer asking me if I knew “how to remove nicotine stains from walls”? The truth is I wasn’t really sure exactly what advice to give her. We decided that I would get back to her in a few days.
I began scouring the internet. I was able find a few products but wasn’t really satisfied with what I had discovered. So I decided to make my own cleaning solution using some of the research I had done , with my own twist. From what I was able to determine, removing nicotine stains was going to be a chore.
First Things First
The customer wanted to hire me to repaint her mothers house, who had recently had a stroke. She was unsure that her mother would be able to stay in the home due to her condition. The end goal was for me to freshen up the house in the event that it would have to be put up for sale.
So I set to work to find the best solution to remove the nicotine stains and prep the walls for painting . Ridding the home of the nicotine odor was also at the top of my clients list.
My first step was to visit the home and see what I was up against.
The house was a 1800 sq ft rancher and upon arrival I was not surprised to find heavy staining on the walls and ceiling.
I had been told that the owner of the home had smoked for 20 plus years in the home. This was fairly evident !! The staining from nicotine was particularly heavy on the walls in the eating area, living room and hallway but it was noticeable throughout the entire home.
The home also had popcorn ceilings
throughout the house excluding the
bathrooms. They were also nicotine
stained and were going to pose and bigger problem.
How to clean the ceilings ?
I knew that removing the stains from the ceilings was going to be impossible by scrubbing and removing the texture was not an option. I left the home and headed straight to my local paint store, I was looking for a stain blocker paint.
Firstly I was leaning towards using Zinsser Bulls eye 1-2-3 as I had used it in the past with some success. I talked with the owner of the paint store and he advised me that yes it will block the nicotine stains, but would not totally block the smell.
He explained that this was because it was latex based and is porous and the odor would bleed through.
The recommendation was to use Zinsser BIN Primer/Sealer because it was shellac based and would not only block the stain but cover the nicotine odor. He explained that the nicotine would actually be melted and absorbed because of the shellac base.
Next step clean the walls…
My next step was to find a cleaner to remove the nicotine stains from the drywall and other items that had been stained because of years of smoking in the home. I came across a site that recommended using a mixture of baking soda, ammonia and vinegar diluted with water.
I was set to start the job and the out line is below and was amazed at the results. My customer was blown away and could not believe the transformation, nor could her sister who had previously owned a house cleaning business.
Here is the nicotine stain remover recipe I came up with :
- 1/2 cup of baking soda
- 1/4 cup of ammonia
- 1/ 3 cup of vinegar
- 7 cups of warm water
- Next combine the ingredients in a 1 gallon plastic bucket and stir with a wooden spoon.
- Then pour the solution into a spray bottle for easier application.
- Start at the bottom of the wall working toward the ceiling.
I thought this made sense because the liquefied nicotine was running off the walls after applying the solution. It may choose not to spray it on , I did because it made sense to me.
- Next spray the homemade nicotine stain remover solution on liberally and use a slightly damp cloth to wipe nicotine residue off.
- Then rinse your cloth and repeat. I went through a lot of clothes in this process.
The walls in this home were very heavily stained with nicotine. After completing all the walls in the room I was working on, I wiped the walls with a damp cloth a second time. You could easily see nicotine was still left behind after the first go because I could see it on my cloth.
Time to Lose the Nicotine Stains and Smell
After I was satisfied with the results, I continued on to sealing the walls and ceilings with the Zinsser BIN primer sealer .
The first mistake I made was not totally following the directions on the BIN sealer can. Use breathing protection !! This stuff is potent. I quickly drove to the building supply store and bought a 1/2 face mask and Organic Vapor Cartridges. This helped immensely and I also used a fan opened all the widows and ventilated the room in which I was working.
The popcorn ceilings that I had not washed needed 2 coats of the primer sealer because one coat did not totally block the nicotine stains.
I then applied I good coat of good quality ceiling paint using a 12 mm roller intended for semi rough surfaces.
The walls were coated with the primer sealer once and were then painted with 2 coats of finish . I always use a good quality 10mm roller intended for semi smooth surfaces .
Things You Will Need to clean
- a lot of rags
- 1 -gallon bucket
- Baking soda
- White vinegar
What you will need to paint
- Drop cloth or plastic sheet
- step ladder
- bristle brush to cut in edges near ceiling and wall
- 12 mm roller for textured ceiling
- 10 mm roller for walls
- masking tape to mask baseboards ect.
- clean up rag for spills
The Zinsser BIN primer sealer is very thin , it can be applied by using a paint sprayer . If you choose to spray I recommend you would use a full face respirator and suit for protection. I used a roller and applied the sealer primer using very slight pressure. It takes a bit of getting used to be the application can be achieved with great results doing it this way.
- Wear rubber gloves when working with vinegar and ammonia and baking soda mixture. Use a 1/2 mask respirator and ventilate the room you are working in. If other people are in the house warn them that the smell of the Zinners primer sealer is over whelming.
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