removing cigarette tar from walls


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Old 10-11-06, 12:37 PM
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removing cigarette tar from walls

My mother ( in her 90's) sits in one corner of her living room and smokes and watches television. During the yeasrs the tar has accumulated so much that it is starting torun down the wall. If I ever want to redo the wall, is the anything that will clean it, or would it just be easier to tear the drywall out and redo it? Thanx
 
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Old 10-11-06, 12:41 PM
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TSP (trisodium phosphate) is frequently recommended for washing down walls in preparation for painting. To prevent bleed through, walls will require a primer/sealer before painting.
 
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Old 10-11-06, 12:43 PM
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Mineral spirits. Keep in mind it will tear up the paint as well.
 
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Old 10-11-06, 09:18 PM
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I would be hesitant to use mineral spirits to wash down walls. It has solvent odor and there is a fire danger.
 
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Old 10-12-06, 12:52 AM
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Im kinda doubting that any cleaning would actually produce meaningful results. It may actually take longer to clean and seal the walls, than to replace. Im thinking that if the room is in that shape. Everything would have to be cleaned and sealed or replaced.

But if cleaning is the desired way to go. I would prep the wall and put serveral coats of kilz on there.
 
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Old 10-12-06, 06:44 AM
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Now that I've read the other replies, I think Docduck has the best suggestion - I'd just cover with a sealing primer and repaint.
 
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Old 10-12-06, 08:28 AM
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I've used a mixture of bleach (about a cup full), Tide(about a cup full) and hot water (rest of gallon) in a one-gallon sprayer to lightly mist the surface. After waiting less than a minute I use a old wet towel to wipe it off. Have to keep rinsing the towel out. Also have to be careful about water running down the wall and into electrical outlets, or onto a wood floor.

This works fine for me. Hope it helps you.
 
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Old 10-12-06, 08:32 AM
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It is doubtfull you would ever get the walls completely clean but it doesn't hurt to at least wash off some of it. It WILL need to be coated with a solvent based primer to keep the nicotine from bleeding thru the paint.
 
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Old 10-12-06, 12:21 PM
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Just a tip, i know we have mentioned this before but ill repeat:

i would avoid mixing anything with bleach except water. Some combinations can cause caustic gas.
 
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Old 10-12-06, 01:15 PM
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Removing greasy and oily substances is important before priming due to adhesion problems. The application of shellac based primer/sealer over affected areas assures that there will be no bleed through of stains. Most paint experts recommend washing walls that have grease or soap film with a product like TSP. Some recommend washing before and after sanding. For severe grease stains, such as around kitchen stoves, some recommend blotting stains with paint thinner or other solvent before washing, sealing, and painting.

In homes where there has been heavy smoking, all hard surfaces will need to be washed, sealed, and painted. The brown film clings to everything and the odor lingers. Woodwork, if painted, will require washing and sanding before repainting. Carpet and cushion and upholstered pieces usually have to be replaced because of odor if professional deep cleaning does not eliminate odor. Curtains and draperies can be washed or dry cleaned. Nicotine oils also enter vent/fan units which often have to be taken apart and cleaned. Duct work may have to be cleaned if cigarette odor pervades. Filters should be changed.
 
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Old 10-17-06, 10:33 PM
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I agree in principle, that you should not mix bleach with anything except water, unless you know what you are doing. Having said that, I cannot think of anything that you could mix bleach (sodium hypochlorite) with that would produce a "caustic gas".

I am not even sure what a "caustic gas" is, since most caustic solutions that the average homeowner comes in contact with are either drain cleaners (e.g. Drano), oven cleaners (e.g Easy-Off), or some type of toilet cleaner. These most often contain Sodium or Potassium Hydroxide. Most of these have very low vapor pressures, so a "gaseous state" is never really a concern (except with the oven cleaners and a "hot oven"). However, they will cause severe chemical burns, and result in blindness if they are in contact with the eyes.

But, you would not want to mix them with vinegar (diluted acetic acid) or any ammonia solutions. The guidance to mix with only water (or detergent), is a good "rule of thumb". Bottom line, if you are not sure what you are doing with chemicals, don't experiment in the home! Almost everyone knows how to safely mix laundry detergent and bleach.

In my opinion, the difficulty of removing smoking stains and odors, is grossly over stated. My experience is that most modern cleaners, e.g. Orange Fantastic, or even the original Windex with Ammonia, will do a more than adequate job of removing smoking tars. If re-painting, I think that priming helps (altho I am not personally a fan of KILZ), their are other stainblocking primers that work just as well, without the odors, and drying in your brush. I have never seen a situation where sanding was required. I would be hesitant to use flammables, such a paint thinner (mineral spirits) around kitchen stoves or anywhere where heat above normal is possible.

Just another opinion from someone with some "chemical", and smoking background.
 
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Old 10-15-08, 08:25 AM
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To remove surface stains use a Swiffer Wet cloth.

I am still at a loss in finding something to keep stains from bleeding thru Kilz and paint...
 
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Old 10-15-08, 02:05 PM
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If cigarette residue is a problem on walls, stains can bleed through and there can be adhesion problems with the paint. Most professionals wash down walls with TSP before priming/sealing to paint.
When priming/sealing over stains that can bleed through, it is best to use an oil-based sealer/primer to seal in the stains.
 
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Old 10-16-08, 03:36 AM
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I could have sworn I replied to tjaxlfatcat's post yesterday

If a stain bleeds thru oil base kilz, you need to use a pigmented shellac like zinnser's BIN.

TSP is a great cleaning agent but it must be rinsed well!!

btw - welcome to the forums tjaxlfatcat!
 
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Old 10-16-08, 10:18 AM
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Thanx for all the replies. I have just recently tried BIN and it seems to do the job.
 
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Old 10-16-08, 08:30 PM
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Please post back and the number of coats of BIN and what you did to prepare walls for paint over nicotine stains. Please, be very specfic in your details.

I ask you to do this because a chemical professor responded to your post. arkayassoc is an expert here in all chemicals and their interactions. Please heed his advice.

And, I agree with an old friend arckayassoc with everything he says, greasy, tarry residue and no mix of chemicals? Mr. Wizard has arrived and bailed me out chemically for a decade or so. Mr. Wizard is a success in our forums and a guiding light re: chemicals here.
 

Last edited by twelvepole; 10-16-08 at 08:49 PM.
 

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