How to Remove Nicotine From a Popcorn Ceiling

Nicotine stains develop on the popcorn ceilings of homes in which you or a loved one smoke cigarettes or cigars. The smoke rises to the ceiling and develops a yellowish, smelly stain. These unattractive stains also develop on the walls. Although time-consuming and messy, removing nicotine from popcorn ceilings is necessary for anyone wishing to paint or remove the ashtray odor and unsightly yellowing from his or her home.

Using a Commercial-Grade Cleaner

Step 1

Open all windows--and doors if possible--within the work area to ventilate the room and carry the harmful fumes out.

Step 2

Remove everything from the room, including curtains and drapes, furniture, knick-knacks and other decorative items. Cover the floor with plastic dropcloths to protect the carpet, tile or wood material from falling drops of cleaning solution.

Step 3

Mix powdered trisodium phosphate (TSP) in a plastic bucket according to package label directions. A common mixing formula for powdered TSP is 1 cup TSP powder to 5 cups water.

Step 4

Set the tall ladder on the floor, under the area where the nicotine staining begins on the popcorn ceiling.

Step 5

Dip a large sponge into the TSP solution, and wring out the excess. Climb the ladder and scrub the popcorn ceiling with the TSP-dampened sponge until the nicotine stain is gone. Continue scrubbing the entire popcorn ceiling until the job is completed.

Step 6

Sit oscillating fans--pointed toward the popcorn ceiling--around the room so the ceiling dries faster.

Using Household Cleaners

Step 1

Repeat Steps 1, 2, and 3 from Section 1.

Step 2

Pour equal amounts of common household ammonia and vinegar into a deep-sided bowl. Add 3 tsp. of mild dish detergent to the bowl, and slowly mix with a wooden spoon.

Step 3

Dip a clean sponge into the ammonia/vinegar solution and wring the excess out. Climb the ladder, and scrub the nicotine stains from the popcorn ceiling until all are removed.


Rachel Turner

Rachel Turner has been writing professionally since 2000, focusing on gardening and home improvement topics. Her articles have appeared online at SlowTravel and in publications such as the "Arkansas Gardeners," "One Step Ahead" and "Writers Now." Turner holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Arkansas State University.