I am just in the process of buying an old property, previously lived in by heavy smokers.

What is the best way to clean and prime walls to prevent nicotine stain recurrence in a solid brick Victorian property?

I am concerned that the normally recommended primers might impair the ability of the walls to 'breathe' and cause problems with damp.


Ummm. Primer might be the least of your concerns. I have flipped a few houses in my life and many have had heavy smokers and/or animals. If you remove all soft surfaces - carpet, curtains, anything that can retain the smoke smell - then you can try to prime it if the odor isn't insane. So after everything is out let it air out a day or two or longer.

If the smell is coming from the walls then you can try to prime and paint but it might be a total waste of time and money. I have had to redrywall the living room areas of more than a few homes. There is a good chance the insulation is soaked with the smoke smell too so that may need to be replaced - and another reason why painting hardly ever helps the extreme cases.

  • And we are always nice flippers. I would feel guilty if I painted the walls (which may hold the smell in temporarily or mask it) and then have scented candles going during the open house. Just did an open house last weekend that smelled like a kennel and they had at least 20 candles. I asked the real estate agent about the dog and pee smell and he says he doesn't notice it... then why the candles... it had beautiful red oak hardwood done well everywhere. Would have thrown it all out and taken out the subfloors... – DMoore Sep 27 '13 at 18:07

Wash and rinse walls, ceilings.

Pigmented shellac. Alcohol based. You will need organic respirators if you spray it ( and turning off pilot lights during spray). Its what fire cleanup pros use.


I personally feel that a quality primer and two coasts of paint can seal in the smoke smell. It may still be an issue on the vast amount of flooring, however, even if you replace the carpet and padding. Tearing up the carpet and padding and painting the subfloor is an extreme option, but may be necessary before re-carpeting.

Also, don't underestimate the power of moving air. If you hang the smelliest of fabric out in the wind, Mother Nature has a magnificent cleaning power. The same holds for your home. Tear out the carpet, open up everything and fire up those fans before you do anything.

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