How to get nicotine off painted walls

Updated February 21, 2017

The walls surrounding a smoker can develop a yellowed layer of nicotine grime that discolours the paint. In rooms with a lot of moisture and condensation, such as bathrooms, this grime sometimes pools into small specks or streaks of dark yellow. Although you can usually remove mild to moderate nicotine stains from the walls, you may need to repaint the room in severe cases or when you are unable to remove the lingering odour of cigarettes.

Mix equal parts of warm water and white distilled vinegar in a bucket. Alternatively, use chlorine bleach diluted to the ratio provided on the product label.

Put on rubber gloves and dampen a non-abrasive sponge in the mixture. Scrub the top of the walls next to the ceiling. By beginning at the top, you can stop the grime from pooling in areas you've already scrubbed.

Wipe down the remainder of the walls with the solution.

Paint the walls with oil- or alcohol-based primer if stains or odours remain. Primer seals the odour and stop stains from bleeding through a fresh coat of paint.

Repaint the walls after the primer dries.


Use a mixture of hot water and trisodium phosphate (TSP) to clean the walls if you're unsatisfied with the results of vinegar or bleach.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • White distilled vinegar or chlorine bleach
  • Rubber gloves
  • Non-abrasive sponge
  • Primer
  • Paint
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