How to Remove Cigarette Smoke Residue from Glass


Rebecca asked: How do I clean cigarette smoke residue from glass? My new housemate is an  indoor smoker who doesn’t intend to alter his habits. How do I get rid of the smoke residue that has accumulated on his glass and mirrors after so many years? Also, is there anything that I can do to prevent more build-up?

When cigarette smoke is present in the air, all of the toxins and chemicals in the smoke land and stick to everything in sight. Glass can turn foggy and yellow. This discoloration is from the nicotine and tar in the cigarettes. Removing it is not difficult, but may take some time if the layer of build-up is thick. Here is a simple cleaning method that will remove the discoloration from the tar and smoke residue.

You Will Need:

  • White vinegar
  • Dish soap
  • Bucket
  • Spray bottle
  • Soft cloths
  • Water
  • Window or glass cleaner
  • Lint-free cloth

Steps to Remove the Smoke Residue:

  1. Begin by filling a bucket or sink with warm to hot water.
  2. Add two cups of white vinegar to the water. If the residue is bad, add more vinegar (or use only vinegar for the first cleaning), or mix a couple drops of dish soap into the water.
  3. If the mirrors can be removed from the wall and placed in the sink, it will be helpful to allow them to soak. If not, moisten a soft cloth with the mixture and wipe the surfaces.
  4. A spray bottle can also be filled with vinegar or vinegar and water. Simply spray the surfaces and wipe them with a soft cloth.
  5. Rinse the cloth frequently and continue cleaning until all of the residue is removed.
  6. Dry with a clean, soft cloth.
  7. Once the residue is removed, clean the glass with glass cleaner and wipe clean with a lint-free cloth. This will remove any streaks or smears that were made from the soapy water.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • One way to avoid future build-up is to purchase an air purifier. There are a variety of air purifiers available on the market. For additional information, see our guide How to Remove Dust from the Air which offers guidelines for selecting an air purifier.
  • Regular cleanings will also keep the build up away. Weekly cleanings with a light vinegar and water mixture will remove any tar or residue that has begun to collect on the surfaces.
  • Keep windows and doors open as much as possible to air out the house. This will help freshen the air and reduce the odors that can accumulate.



  1. Where does the soap come in? It’s in the list, but never mentioned in the process.

  2. Kathi
    It isn’t needed; diluted vinegar alone works just fine, but you can add a bit of dish soap to the vinegar mixture if desired. If the smoke residue is very oily, the dish soap will help to cut through the oil. In most cases, just the diluted vinegar or plain vinegar is enough.

  3. Alcohol.

  4. Step #2: SOAP

  5. I need help getting the nicotine smell off of a cookie jar I bought at a yard sale. I washed all the yellow tar off, but when you open the lid. It smells horrible!!! I’m afraid to even use it without getting everything tasting like a nasty cigarette. Please help!

  6. Melanie says:

    Try using either baking soda or white vinegar.
    To use baking soda, pour some into the cookie jar, put the lid on, and leave it there overnight. In the morning, dump out the baking soda and hopefully the smell will be gone. If not repeat the process until the smell is gone. Use a good amount of baking soda each time, not just a little.
    To use vinegar, mix equal parts vinegar and water. Pour the mixture into the jar. You don’t need to fill the entire jar with the mixture; just an inch or so should be fine. Put the lid on the jar and leave it overnight. If the smell is not gone in the morning, repeat the process as many times as needed until it is gone.
    Source: HowToCleanStuff – How to Remove Smoke Smell from Non-Washable Items

  7. Use the glass stove top cleaner with the slightly abrasive side of a sponge. Wet the sponge, pour cleaner on the sponge, and wipe. If it drys too soon, dampen the sponge. When done, allow it to dry and wipe it off with a kitchen towel. Impressive! You should be able to use it on anything. Just rewash it thoroughly after the initial cleaning of tar and nicotine.

Leave a Comment