Eliminating Cigarette Odor and Nicotine Residue

Greg Mrakich PaintingThis past year Greg Mrakich Painting LLC, Indiananapolis, Indiana; was hired for a complete house repaint (walls, ceilings and all wood work) that presented special problems. One of the homeowners who had lived in the house for over twenty five years was a  chain smoker.  All the painted surfaces were covered in smoke and nicotine residue, as were the floors and the carpets.  It was a given that the carpets were going to have to go, but what about everything else? The new owners wanted to make sure that there would be no lingering smells after I was done painting. I told them that, yes, this could be done, but that it would also be very labor intensive and would not be cheap. They said that they knew this going in, and I was award the job.

The first thing that had to happen was the removal of the carpets. The company that was going to install the new carpet came and took the old carpets away revealing a 50/50 split between finished flooring and plywood sheeting. This being done,  the real work could begin.

The walls, ceilings and all the woodwork needed to be cleaned with TSP to remove the residue from the roughly 182,000 cigarettes that were smoked in the house over the past 25 years. I wore rubber gloves and a respirator. This took a few days. Some rooms were worse than others, but all the rooms needed “a bath.”

So far so good. Walls look better, and the smell, while still there, was not nearly as bad. The next step was to prime everything with oil base Kilz. The oil base Kilz is a sealer, and creates a barrier and seals the odors in the walls, ceilings and woodwork. Once this had been done, it was paint as normal.

After the work was done and the paint had time to cure, I went back over to the house, and there was still a faint odor of cigarettes. I put my nose against the walls in a few rooms and noticed nothing. After a few minutes, I looked at the floors and a light went on. The floors needed to be sealed too. The plywood floor is a soft unfinished surface that was perfect for holding in odors. I primed the floors, and put a thin coat of varnish on the finished hardwood floors and that solved the lingering problem.

When painting a room or home of a smoker, you can not just paint.  The moisture of the paint and the chemicals that paint contain will activate the nicotine and smoke that is on the walls. Walls and ceilings must be cleaned, sealed with an oil based primer/sealer before painting. Also depending upon the severity of the smoke residue, soft surfaces such as drapes and carpets may need replacing if professional cleaning does not do the job.

Greg Mrakich Painting is an EPA lead-safe certified firm. For more information about Greg Mrakich and Greg Mrakich Painting, click here. Or, if you live in the metropolitan Indianapolis area and would like to contact me, click here.

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2 responses to “Eliminating Cigarette Odor and Nicotine Residue”

  1. Tricia Walt says:

    This is really helpful! I wish more painters were as well versed as this guy!
    I wish home inspectors had that kind of foresight and consiered what all might be involved in making a house a home and inhabitable by the standards of a new homeowner.


  2. editor says:

    Thank you for taking the time to comment on my latest post. What other topics would you like me to write about?