Dilemma of the Month: June 2006 - KOMO 4 |

Dilemma of the Month: June 2006

Can you help us to solve this fellow viewer's household dilemma?

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This month's dilemma:

How do I remove cigarette smoke stains from painted walls (they have been there for several years)?

Submitted by Nancy in Pennsylvania


After trying many things for tobacco stained walls, someone suggested washing the walls with T.S.P. I found this in Walmart paint department. It worked!!!! No more stains!!!  Carol, B.C.

TSP-- I have used it for years. It will do the job. I used it to clean a kitchen before painting and the home owner decided not to have it painted after I cleaned it.  Richard, AR

We used a cleaner called Thunder Blast from a store called Dollar General (that's the only place we have found this cleaner). It works really well. Teresa, IA

I have used a mixture of 1/3 cup ammonia, 1 small squirt of Dawn dish liquid to 1 gallon of hot water for all my cleaning for years. It has removed grease, smoke, etc. from all my walls. Extremely economical, easy to mix and uses ingredients I always have on hand. Good Luck. Nancy, KY

To clean the cigerette stains off the wall, I have used the Mr. Clean Magic Sponge. It cleans everything. After cleaning walls paint with Kilz before painting. Claudia, FL

We had rented a house and there were cigarette smoke stains on the walls and windows. It was so bad that we could not look out and the walls looked brown. I found a product you can get anywhere (Wal-Mart, etc.)... it was not expensive and it is called "Grease Lighting." You can use it on anything... stove, sinks, bathtubs, etc. Jill, OH

My husband has painted several places that have been stained by cigarette smoke. The best thing to do is to just totally repaint. You will need to use a type of paint called "Kilz" first. This will not only cover up the stain, but also the smell...then proceed with your regular paint. This will have it looking as good as new. Lana

We moved into a house once and the walls were so yellow from the guy that livee there before. We used the "scrubbing bubbles" in the spray can and you could see the yellow running down the wall. Just spray and wipe them when you're done and rinse with hot water. Jessica, NY

I have had excellent luck using a mxture of warm water and white distilled vinegar. Also, setting a shallow bowl of the vinegar will remove odors in the air especially from stale cigarette smoke. Stacy

Formula 88. Spray it on full strength and wipe with clean damp cloth. Then repaint. Even if you don't reapint the stuff is really good for cleaning. Charlie, FL

Use a cleaner called Greased Lightning. I found it at Wal-Mart and it worked for me! Shannon, LA

Repaint the walls and smoke outside only. Drapery needs to be cleaned or replaced also. Scented candles will create a wonderful aroma in the house. Ron, TX

The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser does wonders at picking up stains. But for the odor that's bound to be there, too, try white vinegar diluted with warm water. It is an odor neutralizer--it may even remove the stains. You should definitely de-odorize the walls before painting. Nora, GA

Clean with a solution of TSP (tri-sodium phosphate)--a quite powerful detergent. Wear rubber gloves when working with this stuff. It is so strong that painters use it to soften latex paint, to make a fresh coat adhere better. You may need to re-paint after this cleaning--but at least the new paint will adhere well. Dennis, CA

Wash walls with TSP (tri sodium phosphate) available at any hardware or paint store. Rinse well with clean water and be sure to wear gloves as it will clean your walls and hands very well. I go over the area twice with the TSP and then rinse well with clean water and then use a clean cotten towel to dry. Good Luck. Phil

A solution of ammonia and spic-n-span. Use gloves. Use cloth or sponge to apply to walls (be careful of drips). Re-apply if necessary. Use a de-glossing solution which can be purchased at a hardware or paint store, follow directions. Then you should be able to re-paint without the stains showing through new paint. D.

I would suggest prime & paint. If that's out of the question, I'm sure you'll receive other suggestions. However, have you ever tried "Magic Eraser"? It truly is "A Good Thing" ;-) It does leave a film behind, but, it is easy to wipe away. Also, you could call or stop by a local Sherwin Williams or such place, they may have some other suggestions. Good Luck! J.

All you need is a couple of large bottles of 409, some disposable gloves, a bucket of warm water (with a little dish soap), and some old t-shirts/rags. It's a messy job and the residue from the cigarette smoke will run down the walls so you may want to use something at the baseboard of the wall to catch the solution as it makes its way down the wall (optional but a good idea if you are cleaning walls in a carpeted room). That's all you need... oh yeah, the above and a little elbow grease and you're on your way to a brighter, fresher smelling room. Happy cleaning. Raymond, MI

My brother-in-law, an interior painter, told me the best way to remove cigarette stains was to mix about 1/2 cup bleach to one gallon water and wash the walls. I washed the walls twice and let them thoroughly dry before painting. It has been a year and I have had no problems with smoke stains seeping through my lighter color paint. Debbie, TX

I moved into a home where the former residents were heavy smokers, and lived here for better then 30 years. The white walls were dingy yellow, almost brownish at the ceilings. This prompted me to much research, and here was my solution: This is a 4 step process.

First, purchase TSP (Tri-Sodium-Phoshpate) or its equivilant product (available at most home centers, hardware stores, and paint outlets). Follow label directions and precautions carefully (especially the use of eye protection and rubber gloves). Wash the walls and ceilings to remove the tobacco stains. Complete removal if heavily stained may require 2 or 3 washings.

Second, rinse the walls/ceilings thoroughly with clean warm water to remove the residue & streaks. Again this step may require 2 or 3 rinsings. Allow the walls/ceilings to dry completely, preferably 2 or 3 days.

Third, apply a coat of a sealer such as BIN(tm), PRO-BLOCK(tm) or KILLZ(tm). Allow the sealer to dry completely, at least overnight. Please do not skip step 3, as you will be disapointed when the yellow tobacco stains seep thru your latex top/final coat.

Fourth, apply the top/final coat of quality interior latex paint of your choosing.

I know it is a lot of work, but tobacco stains are tough. Good luck. Slim

Buy some TSP and following the instructions on the container for mixing with water, and using protection so the solution does not touch skin or get in eyes, proceed to wash down those walls. This stuff works great, is reasonable in price but be careful and do not get it on your skin or in your eyes. Dianne, OR

I bought a house of a smoker and the walls probably hadn't been painted for 20 years. I did 2-3 coats of Kilz primer on all the walls (in the closets too) and the ceilings. If you can still see the yellowing coming through, do another coat. Then it took at least 2 coats of paint. It was a lot of work, but the combination did the trick. Kelly, IN

Wash the wall with strong amonia water, prime with Kilz primer and paint. Lori

For painted walls and ceilings, try a solution of 1 gallon of warm water, 1/2 cup plain ammonia, 1/4 cup white vinegar, and 1/4 cup washing soda (which can be found in the laundry additives area of supermarkets). Refresh this solution frequently while washing, and you won't need to rinse. Start at the bottom of a wall and work your way up. How you clean wallpaper will depend on the specific type of paper. Newer vinyl papers can be washed with water, but older papers may be more delicate.  Also you can use Kilz to block all stains, and repaint wall. Manya, OR

I had a entire room filled with smoke stains... and I had decided to put my kids in it! So, I picked up a gallon (or 2 in my case).. of Kilz oil-based, odorless paint. Put a coat on everything--walls, ceiling, windows, doors, etc. No more smells or stains! Then, a nice coat of paint! Lara

I moved into a house that absolutely was covered with tobacco stain. Soilex worked for me. Penny

Kilz is what you need. You can have pigment mixed in so you won't have to paint over it. It seals the stains and prevents them from bleeding through. Great for water stains as well. Patti, AL

When we were getting ready to sell my grandmother's house, we faced cigarette smoke stains that had been accumulating for some 30 years. Though a good strong citrus cleanser took a lot of the surface staining away, nothing we could do could lift the deepest stains, and when we tried painting over them, they seeped right through. The solution wound up being to paint over them with a coat or two of Kilz or BIN, which are paint primers designed for fire-damaged houses. They will stop the seepage and also do a lot to alleviate the cigarette smell. Yet another reason not to smoke... if it does that to house paint, imagine what it does to your lungs! Chandra, CA

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