How to Remove Smoke and Nicotine Stains from Wallpaper

Jeanne asked: Can I use bleach on wallpaper? We smoke in our bathroom. We have tried almost everything, but I have not used bleach to remove the stains. I need to know if the wallpaper would be okay. Or, what would work to get the yellow and smell off the wallpaper? Please help me. Thank you so much.

The yellow stains are a residue with oil and tar in it. Those are the components that are left behind from the nicotine in cigarettes. These two residues can be difficult to remove, but many have found success with the steps below. There are a variety of products to use. Do NOT mix them. If needed, work your way down the list until the stains are removed.

You Will Need:

  • Old cloths/sponges
  • Your cleaner of choice (only one of the following is needed):
    • Vinegar
    • LA’s Awesome (available at dollar stores)
    • Dry Cleaning Sponge
    • Krud Kutter (available at Lowe’s)

Steps to Remove the Nicotine from Wallpaper:

  1. Vinegar is a common cleaning product that has been effective in removing nicotine from a variety of surfaces.
  2. Fill a spray bottle with white vinegar. It can be diluted for light cleanings or used full strength for heavier duty cleanings.
  3. Spray the surface of the wallpaper with the vinegar.
  4. Wipe away with a clean cloth.
  5. For a water-free method, use a dry cleaning sponge. These are designed to remove a variety of stains and dirt, and are safe to use on wallpaper. Simply wipe them over the surface to remove the stains.
  6. Other commercial cleaners, including Awesome and Krud Kutter can be applied to the surface and wiped away with a clean cloth.
  7. When using multiple cleaning products, be sure to rinse the surface and dry it completely between cleanings to avoid mixing chemicals.
  8. Once the stains are removed, rinse the walls with clean water and dry with a soft cloth.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Do not allow moisture to sit on the wallpaper as it can cause damage to the surface.
  • It is best to test a small, hidden area first to ensure there are no adverse effects. If there is no damage to the color or paper, it should be safe to proceed with the rest of the wall.
  • Bleach is a harsh chemical that is not effective in removing smoke stains. It can damage the paper and cause discoloration. We do not recommend using it to clean smoke stains from wallpaper.
  • A less common cleaning solution is an automotive cleaner that is designed for cleaning tar. Again, test a small area to ensure only the stains are removed.


  1. I have found that with nicotine stains, a steamer is your best friend. You don’t need to put it directly on the wall. You can steam the bathroom: if it is a small room, wipe the walls and ceiling down with an old towel. I usually remove the hose from my steamer and let it fill the bathroom and use my magic mop on the ceiling; perfect every time. Remember to be gentle on walls afterwards as the steamer I use is actually for stripping wallpaper, but most bathroom wallpapers are made to withstand steam.

  2. Hi, I have a problem. Someone used acetone on my counter and cabinet door in my kitchen to remove nicotine stains, and it left a black film on them. How do I get that off? The stain has worn down, but not completely off yet.

  3. Krud Kutter eats wallpaper!!!! Do not use.

  4. I have contour wallpaper in my kitchen. It is sticky and discoloured through nicotine and cooking. What can I clean it with so I don’t have to re-wallpaper?

Leave a Comment