The more frequently smokers puff indoors, the greater the chance of a yellowy residue on just about everything in the room, including the walls and windows. If a nicotine-infused film coats the windows in your home or car, use a vinegar and water solution to remove it. Vinegar also helps get rid of odors, so it's an excellent product to add to your stash of cleaning supplies.
Why Smoke Residue Sticks
Tobacco smoke emits nicotine, tar, and all sorts of chemicals that float through the air as gases and microscopic vapor droplets. Some of the chemicals are a bit oily or waxy, sticking to virtually anything they reach, including dust particles on furniture, floors, ceilings, and carpets.
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Together, the substances in cigarette or cigar smoke create a slightly oily residue, sometimes called thirdhand smoke, that stays behind long after the actual smoke clears. This is why items from the home of a longtime chain smoker often look slightly yellowed and reek of cigarettes. Tar is one of the main sticky substances in tobacco smoke, and it plays a key role in creating discolorations often called nicotine stains. In many cases, the yellow film or stain can be removed by simply washing it off, but this isn't always easy to do if it's on upholstery or curtains, for instance.
If you invite smokers to your home, it's better for indoor air quality as well as the health of people and pets living in your home if smoking isn't allowed indoors. It may take years of indoor smoking to actually create a noticeable nicotine and tar buildup, but those toxins are present long before they cause visible discoloration.
Use a Simple Vinegar Spray
A homemade vinegar spray is the best way to remove nicotine and tar buildup from smooth, nonporous surfaces, such as windows, mirrors, and laminate countertops. Wash the windows first with a squirt of dish soap added to a bucket of warm water. Use a lint-free cloth dipped in the bucket and then wrung out to wipe down the windows. This initial wash helps remove dust and dirt, which also makes it easier to see the smoke-related film on the window.
Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle and then lightly spray the window starting at the top. Wipe from side to side, starting at the top and working your way down with a clean, lint-free cloth. Wipe up any drips that get onto the window frames or the wall. As long as your walls and window frames are washable and can't be harmed by the vinegar, the same solution can be used to remove their smoke-related stains and films. If you are unsure, test the vinegar in an inconspicuous area first.
Use your homemade vinegar spray on any vinegar-safe surface to remove nicotine film. The spray also helps deodorize upholstered furniture, clothing, rugs, carpets, and anything else that smells like smoke. If you are spraying it on fabrics or upholstery, keep the spray to a light mist rather than saturating the material. Repeat as needed once the fabric dries. Do not use vinegar on substances like limestone or unsealed grout, as it may harm the material.