Paints & Coatings Resource Center

Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

March, 2004

Removing Cigarette Smoke Before Painting Room

Q. I am converting an old smoke room in a residential home into a bedroom. The room is half painted concrete block and half plaster. The room smells like smoke even though it has not been used in close to a year. What is the best way to remove the smoke odor? Thanks!

A. You don't say if there is any paint on either surface, if this is the case be sure to clean all surfaces well prior to applying any paint. A solution of warm water and TSP (tri sodium phosphate) will work well. You might consider using a scrub brush to ensure that you get into the open pores of the block. Be certain to allow plenty of time for the walls to dry well, open all the windows and use a fan as to create good ventilation.

By cleaning and scrubbing the surfaces, you will not only prepare them for paint, you will remove any residual tar and nicotine that is left on the surface, this may be the cause for the lingering odor.

If the surfaces are uncoated, then clean the block wall with the TSP/water solution and allow to dry. Seal the block with a high quality concrete interior moisture blocker. Seal the plaster wall with a shellac based primer/sealer. By using the shellac sealer product you will lock in the tar and nicotine and give a good surface in which to paint.

After you have prepared the surfaces well, then paint with a high quality latex base acrylic enamel in the desired color and sheen. Check with your local paint center for recommendations on products to use.

You may consider adding a teaspoon or two of vanilla or lemon extract to help freshen up the room during painting.

Please be aware that coatings and solvents are chemicals and therefore you should always pay attention to proper handling procedures and be prepared to wear protective clothing, such as respirators, gloves, coveralls, etc. For further information on the health and safety requirements for the coatings and solvents you wish to use we strongly advised you to contact your local coating supplier. If possible, go the extra step and look for this information on the website of the product vendor.


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