Remove cigarette residue from walls...

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Janice N.

What measures should be taken to clean the walls of cigarette smoke residue? Thank you for your help.



Thank you for your Ask Jane question &#8211; and welcome to the Be Jane community!
In response to your question on how to get cigarette residue off of the walls, we need to ask if it is just for the appearance or also to get rid of an odor. If it is for both you will also have to take care of both the ceiling and the carpet. We recommend you have the carpets cleaned. Should you choose to do it yourself, we've found adding Oxy Clean in with the soap gets rid of the smell really well.
As for cleaning the walls, if they are covered in wallpaper, then you will be able to clean them with a store bought cleaner like 409. Though if your walls are painted, we are sorry to tell you they'll need to be repainted. While cleaners can get rid of the residue they also tend to mottle the paint making them look faded.
From this point on you will want to put on a pair of gloves, keep on protective eyewear and cover you hair. The last thing you need is wall colored highlights! Also make sure to protect your floors against spills and drips by covering them with a drop cloth. (Plastic drop cloths are less expensive and work very well except they tend to tear. The ideal way would be to use plastic on the bottom and cloth on top of them.)
If, after what you've read, you have decided you need to repaint, here's what we recommend you do:
<li>Begin by using a TSP (trisodium phosphate) solution to clean it. This is a cleaner that will take off the cigarette residue and de-gloss the paint. If you leave out this step you may find that the next coat of paint may begin to peel. One thing we can't say enough is to make sure that you rinse it off very well! The oddest part about TSP is while it helps the paint adhere, if it leaves a residue, the paint will not stay on. If you think you escaped this by buying the one that says "No rinsing!" &#8211; rinse it anyway.</li>
<li>Once the walls have had a chance to dry we recommend that you apply a full coat of a sealing primer to seal in any possible odors that remain. We suggest you use Kilz or Bullseye. Follow the instructions on the can as to waiting time in between coats. If your new color is darker color than your previous one, we recommend that you have the primer tinted with the same pigment as your final coat to cause faster coverage. (Make sure you have adequate ventilation as primers and paints can create harmful fumes.)</li>
<li>Once the primer is dry apply your first coat of paint.</li>
<li>Wait until the first coat is dry and apply a second coat, if necessary.</li>
We recommend that you prime and paint the ceilings at the same time as they are very often damaged from cigarette smoke. While we recommend using TSP for the walls, we find it very difficult to use on ceilings. You may just want to use a soap and water solution to rinse them off as long as they are flat and not popcorn ceilings. If they are popcorn ceilings, start with priming them.
We hope this helps! Let us know how it turns out.
If you have any further questions, feel free to contact us at any time. We're here for you!

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