How to steam clean cigarette stains on walls

How to Steam Clean Cigarette Smoke from Walls

Ever tried to clean cigarette smoke from your walls? If yes, then you already know how hard it is to remove the wood resin and nicotine once it cakes on. There are different ways of removing nicotine residue.

The most effective way of cleaning cigarette smoke from walls is using a steam cleaning machine. Another option is to use a cleaning solution made of baking soda, ammonia, vinegar and warm water. Both can remove the stains and odor if used the right way.

Can Steam Clean Cigarette Smoke?

You’ve just entered your new apartment. The last tenant left that yellowish residue on walls from smoking cigarettes and it’s time you arm yourself with a good steamer.

Why? Because the best way to remove cigarette smoke from walls is steam cleaning. Remember to use a steamer that works well for walls or above-the-floor areas.

How about nicotine and tar?

Steam at 212° F cuts through all sorts of dirt, grease, and grime. It’s no different with nicotine and caked smoke on the walls. A good steamer will blast through the smoke, loosen it and make it easier to wipe it off.

What’s even better is that it will deodorize walls and windows, leaving you with a fresh-smelling house. You can take things a notch higher by using scented water in your steam cleaner.

Research has shown that the tar-like residue that settles on windows, ceilings, and walls is dangerous to your health. It poses health risks even after you put out the cigarette.

How to Steam Clean Smoke Residue from Walls

You can use different methods to remove smoke from walls. It doesn’t matter the source of the smoke. Whether from a stove or smoking, there are a few effective ways of getting rid of it.

Here are the steps to clean cigarette smoke from walls:

1. Scrape of excess smoke

If you’re trying to remove a lot of smoke residue that’s stuck on the walls or ceiling, you’ll first need to scrape off the excess of it.

Use a paper clip to scrape as much resin as you can from the wall. If you can’t get a paper clip, try a bobby pin. It gets the job done for small areas.

Sweep away the smoke residue to avoid creating a mess on the floor when you start steaming. A few drops of moisture tend to escape the steamer when cleaning above the ground.

2. Loosen the caked-on smoke with a steamer

The high temperature and pressure of the steam from the applicator will break down smoke residue. This makes it easier to wipe it off the wall. 

Good handheld steam cleaners come with microfiber cloths for wiping the residue after running the steam mop across the wall.

3. Wipe with a microfiber cloth

The steamer blasts through the remaining nicotine stains and loosens them. Use a microfiber towel to wipe off the residue. Note that using any other type of cloth will smudge the soot all over your walls, creating a mess.

Note: Most good quality steam mops come with these towels. If yours are worn out, get replacements recommended by the manufacturer.

4. Clean the floor

Remember you scraped off smoke residue in step 1 above? It is possible your floor is full of soot particles. If it is not cleaned properly, it will remain with cigarette odor.

Mop the floor several times, and rinse with a scented cleaning solution. I would recommend you use a steam mop to get rid of any smoke stains on the floor.


Remember to clean the floor according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. For example, hardwood floors cannot be steam cleaned. If the floor is tiled, a steam cleaner will do a good job.

Steam Cleaner Alternative – Use Vinegar + Baking Soda + Ammonia

What do you do when you do not have a steam cleaner? You go for the alternative option.

Using ingredients available at home or local store, you can make a good cleaning solution that’ll get rid of cigarette smoke and odor from walls. Baking soda, ammonia, and vinegar are good cleaning agents.

Here’s how to clean nicotine residue with this solution:

  1. Add 1/4 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup ammonia, and 1/4 cup vinegar in a gallon of water.
  2. Mix well to make a consistent solution.
  3. Use a soft sponge to apply the solution to the walls down-up. Apply it to the ceiling too.
  4. Rinse off the solution with warm water.
  5. Dry up your walls using a microfiber towel.

This method will get rid of cigar and cigarette stains from walls.

Getting Rid of Cigarette Odor

Cigarette odor gets everywhere and it is really hard to get rid of. Make sure to clean your carpet to remove cigarette odor from your apartment for good.

Usually, the first time you clean may not get the job done. But, the second or third time of shampooing will get rid of cigarette smell and leave it smelling nice.

If the tobacco smoke odor is persistent, consider using an air purifier with a carbon filter. This will deodorize your indoor air and make things a little better.

A permanent solution may, however, lie in repainting your apartment. Doing so will get rid of the cigarette smoke that’s embedded inside walls and ceiling.

If you’re planning to paint the smoker’s wall, you’ll have to clean the nicotine residue first. If you can’t use a steamer, use an aggressive cleaning solution to get rid of the smoke. A good example is trisodium phosphate mixed and warm water.

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