We are preparing to shellac-prime all of the walls on a rental house due to nicotine odors. Is it best to apply this product with a roller or airless sprayer?

  • Our main concern is whether it is safe to use a sprayer, due to potential sparks causing a fire.
    – RET
    May 6, 2012 at 4:10
  • In my opinion the only sure solution is the shellac. I have never sprayed it but i can tell you even when rolling it on the fumes can be overwhelming. If you do spray, use a respirator and turn off all pilot lights and or combustion units. Open the windows, put a fan in one blowing out. Also, i would give it at least two coats.
    – Alaska Man
    Oct 28, 2020 at 19:34

2 Answers 2


Shellac/alcohol based primers like Bulls Eye work great for sealing stains and odors in many applications, however they do put out a lot of alcohol fumes. Spraying increases the amount of volatile gases in the air and should only be used in a very well ventilated area and with proper protective respirators. You can actually get very intoxicated, legally drunk from hours of exposure. There is always a risk of fire or explosion if a large concentration of alcohol fumes are exposed to an open flame or hot spark, so be very careful.

I have dealt with the identical problem of neutralizing smoking odors in an apartment. I believe you will have equal success using a good latex/water based primer. A water based primer is easier and safer to use, and I'm sure you will see good results. Because to the large areas you need to seal, I'd recommend avoiding shellac and go with latex.

  • Thank You, Shirlock Homes. I have been told by employees at paint stores that shellac works best, but if the latex does the trick, I will consider using it as you suggested. The interior walls release an old nicotine odor throughout the house, so we definitely need to 'bury' the smell.
    – RET
    May 10, 2012 at 17:42

Water-based primers just don't always do the trick, but when using a Shellac based primer such as Rustoleum BIN primer, I suggest rolling it on. I sprayed a full interior the other day (which I regret 100%). It was awful, and I was extremely intoxicated for longer than just that day due to the fumes. My boss sent me in with this product and had no knowledge of the Shellac base. I guess I was over trusting. It is an unsafe to spray this product without extreme ventilation and proper respiratory gear. All I was wearing was a NIOSH N95 respirator and consequently breathed a lot of it in. As well, the filters on the respirator are permanently saturated with ethanol.

  • 1
    Very nice answer. +1
    – ShoeMaker
    Apr 17, 2013 at 11:10
  • Good answer from personal experience. I edited this question. I assumed you met intoxicated due to fumes. Please correct if I was wrong. Apr 17, 2013 at 12:36

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