Best Paint To Cover Cigarette Smoke

If you are a smoker, or have just moved into a home that was once lived in by smokers, you might find that the walls have been stained by nicotine. Whilst this might come as a bit of an issue, it is actually really easy to remove.

A good clean and a bit of elbow grease will always work, but it can be timely and if not dried properly can create the best environment for mold and mildew to form. Whilst not good for a person’s health, it can also be tricky to remove.

If you find that you are dealing with nicotine stains, there is an easier way to remove them – though a pre-clean suits most painting situations anyway. Even though the nicotine has seeped through the existing paint or wallpaper, you can use a primer or special paint to cover them up.

Whilst it might sound time consuming to search high and low for the best paint to remove the nicotine stains – fear not, we have already done the hard work for you. Below you will find a list of the best primers and paints to remove difficult stains such as nicotine, as well as a buyer’s guide. 

So, what are you waiting for? Get rid of those nicotine stains today!


ZINSSER 1 qt 02004 White, Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Water-Based Stain Blocking Primer/Sealer

The 1-2-3 by Zinsser is an all-purpose primer that can be used both for the exterior and interior of a home. It is also a primer that is said to work on items of furniture that have not been prepped with sandpaper, so this could be a good choice of primer if you want it for more than one purpose.

The can says it only takes one coat to achieve great results, though in reality it took two coats to cover the stains entirely. If you have a darker stain, then you may find it will take around three coats of primer to achieve the bright white wall that you are after. 

Having said that, if you clean and prep the wall first to make the stains barely visible, then it will likely only take one coat, as well as help to stop the stains from showing through. 

Also, whilst it can take more than one coat to remove the stain, if you plan to then paint over it with a different color, the one coat will cover it enough as well as seal it in. 

The finish itself is bright and white, and after a few days it still has not discolored which is great. It also only takes around 40 minutes to dry, so it is relatively quick when it comes to paint and primer.

This means that once this time has elapsed, it is ready to add the topcoat, though some people decide not to because they really like the finish it gives.

The stain-blocking feature of the primer can be used alongside a latex or oil topcoat making it versatile and accessible to the mass market. 


  • No prep – can be used on other paint and wood
  • Versatile – works with latex and oil topcoats
  • Stain blocking – seals in stains to stop them from seeping through


  • Takes a few layers – a one coat paint that may take more than one coat to cover the stains

This item is also available to buy from Home Depot


Rust-Oleum 3554 Zinsser High Hide Cover Stain Primer and Sealer, White 32 Fl Oz (Pack of 1)

Another Zinsser product, this primer and sealant is suitable for a number of different surfaces, from drywall and plaster, to metal, concrete, and wood.

If you find that cigarette stains have found its way onto other areas of the home, then this is a great paint to banish the yellow and brown colors for good.

The oil-based primer can work on both smoke, fire and water damage, with each coat drying in about roughly 35 minutes. Even so, it is best to wait around two hours to make sure it is completely dry before reapplying a second coat.

Comparing this to the 1-2-3 primer, it covers dark stains very well with little trouble, if any at all. Whilst that is great, it does have a strong smell to it, so may not be suitable for those who have a particularly sensitive nose. 

Because of the thickness, we found it was best to leave the first coat to dry for a whole day, rather than the recommended two hours, but if you are not in a rush then it is fine.

Also, due to it being an oil-based primer, it can be a little annoying on the paint brushes, so keep that in mind for post-painting. 


  • Covers dark stains – no need to lighten stains beforehand
  • Multi-purpose – can be used on a number of items from drywall to metal
  • Dries quickly – 35 minutes to two hours


  • Strong smell – may not be suitable for a sensitive nose
  • Oil-based – a messy cleanup for the paint brushes


FIBERLOCK Ultra Recon Smoke Odor Sealer Universal Premium Restoration Stain Blocking Primer/Sealer - 3092 - 5 Gallon, White

If you particularly want to remove the odor of smoking, as well as the stains, then the Fiberlock Ultra Recon is a great primer to use. It not only covers the stains and seals them in, but it also helps to eliminate the bad odors that are left behind.

Just like with the Zinsser Rust-Oleum primer, the Fiberlock primer can be used on multiple surfaces such as concrete, wallboard, wood and masonry, etc. 

The primer itself is water-soluble and safe to use. We found it really easy to apply using three different methods: a paintbrush, a roller and through spray equipment.

Each one gave the desired effect without any patchy areas, though as a paint novice, using a brush or roller was the best way to achieve an even white wall.  

It took around two coats to feel satisfied on heavier stained areas, but one coat seemed to be sufficient. Also, full drying time was only two hours which is expected with most primers. 


  • Odor busting – has the ability to remove smoke odor
  • Water-soluble – is a safe option to have in the home
  • Sealant – easily removes even the darkest of stains


  • Two coats – if you are after a one coat primer, this is not it

This item is also available to buy from First Place Supply


KILZ Restoration Primer, Interior, 5 Gallon

Kilz Max is the type of primer that you are likely to use for a lot of things, from priming stained walls to painting the outside walls – it can cover most things, including glass. In fact, it is said to perform like shellac and oil-based products. 

Because of this, it has a built-in odor and stain blocker, perfect to cover up the effects of a smoker. It can easily remove and get rid of any long lasting stains a few cigarettes may have caused in the home. 

It can form a wonderful protective seal to allow for paint application, or if you want a pure white surface, then the Kilz Max primer will do the job.

Unlike the standard two-hour wait, this primer can be re-coated within an hour and yes, it is true. After fully drying after about 30 minutes, it was worth waiting the extra half an hour to add the second coat. It provided a beautiful white finish to the wall. 

Due to it being water-based it is also really easy to clean up if you make any accidental drips, or if the paint manages to get on your skin. This makes it both safe and easy to use. 

The only downside is the smell. If you plan to use this in a bedroom, give yourself a couple of nights to sleep in a different room whilst you air out the space to remove the ‘chemical’ odor. 


  • Fast drying – can do a second coat within an hour
  • Odor and stain blocking – will remove stains and odors
  • Multi-purpose – can be used on a number of different surfaces from walls and concrete, to glass and wood
  • Water-based – safe and easy to wash away off skin


  • Strong smell – you may need a couple of days for the room to air

This item is also available to buy from Home Depot and Lowes


Zinnser 03688 Covers Up Stain Sealing Ceiling Paint, White

If you want to remove stains from smaller areas, then a primer spray will be a good option. It is easy and targeted, and can be used on ceilings and walls quickly.

We tried using the Zinnser Paint and Primer spray on an old yellow stain on the ceiling, and after just one coat it was completely covered. Due to it being both a paint and primer, it covered up stains really well.

It is said to also work well on browny-yellow water stains too, which do look quite similar to cigarette smoke stains. 

Whilst a spray is a great option, do keep in mind that it may cause tiny droplets and splatters on other areas, so it is worth using an old towel or rag to protect surfaces just in case. This is just the nature of spray cans and not the product itself.

Also, if your ceiling is looking a little off-white after years of not getting a paint update, then the bright white paint will look really noticeable, even on an already white wall. This might make you want to repaint the entire wall white again, so do keep this in mind. 


  • One coat – covers stains in one coat due to it being a paint and primer in one
  • Targeted – great for small stains
  • Spray can – really easy to use – does not require a paintbrush


  • Messy – the spray may leave ‘paint dust’ on other items and flooring
  • Off-white – if your wall or ceiling is off-white after years of not being repainted, a new white painted area will show up

Buyer’s Guide

When it comes to painting over cigarette stains in the home, it can be difficult to know what to look for. Whilst it is recommended to clean the stains first, you actually do not need to if you find a good primer to seal them in first. 

Leaving the stains and just applying regular paint will not sort out the issue. Unfortunately, the stains will eventually seep back through leaving you back at square one. To avoid this problem, always use a stain-blocking primer or specialized paint.

To make it easier for you, here are some things to look for when choosing the right primer or paint to stop stains from ruining the walls in your home. 

Best Paint to Cover Cigarette Smoke


When you use a primer or paint, it makes sense to prep the area first. If you are dealing with a stain, then you are likely going to want to clean the stains away as much as you can. Most stain removing primers do not need any special preparation when used on the walls.

There are even primers used for stains that do not need any sandpaper to prep wood for example, and this means that the time for dealing with the situation is shortened so you can get the job done quickly.

Look for a primer that does not need anything done to the surface before you apply the product. Cleaning the walls may attract mold if not dried properly, so it is worth getting a primer that allows you to go straight to the job. 


It is not unusual to have to apply more than one coat, so even if it promises to cover a stain in one coat, always assume that you will be applying at the very least two coats.

The stain color matters too, because if it is a darker stain, you may find that it will take a few coats to achieve a nice bright white finish. There are primers out there that do focus on darker stains and colors, so this will be best in that situation.

Odor And Stain Blocker

Most primers suitable for stains also include a stain and odor-blocker. This is a promise to help seal in the stain to stop it seeping through the paint in the future. It also helps to remove any odor associated with the stain, such as if it is from cigarette smoke.

As you are probably aware, cigarettes can make everything smell, so removing the scent, even after a few years, can take its time. A blocker that can remove the odor is a good choice to make if this is an issue for you. 

Drying Time

Most primers will take 30 to 35 minutes to fully dry, with an expected time of around two hours until you should apply a second coat at the earliest. There are even some products that allow you to recoat the wall after an hour.

Water-based primers are the best option if you are wanting to get the job done quickly, especially if you want the added bonus of also being able to clean up any accidental spills fast and easily. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Happens To A Wall If You Paint Over Nicotine?

The nicotine itself can affect general paint if it is left untreated. With normal paint you should clean and remove as much of the nicotine as possible before you paint over it. If you do not, the nicotine will bleed into the new paint and show through.

If you use a specialized paint, you will not have this problem. The paint or primer has been specially designed to be able to paint over nicotine without it seeping through. 

Do keep in mind that it is always best to clean down the walls before you paint anyway, such as using a vacuum to remove any debris, or using a simple solution to remove any difficult stains. 

How Can I Remove Nicotine Stains?

If you plan on removing nicotine stains before you paint, then there is a way to do it using natural ingredients that you can find in your own kitchen cupboard. 

Mix a gallon of hot water with half a cup of baking soda and three tablespoons of dish soap into a bowl. Saturate a rag with the solution and wring it so it becomes damp, not wet. Once you are satisfied with the dampness of the material, scrub the wall with the rag and keep dipping it into the solution to apply more.

Always make sure you wipe down the walls with a dry rag and if possible either use a dehumidifier to remove the excess moisture, or open the windows to let it air dry. 

Never let the walls stay wet or damp, as this can produce mold and mildew to the walls which is a whole other problem entirely! 

Does Vinegar Help To Remove Nicotine Stains?

Using white vinegar is a great way to remove most of the stains before you paint the walls because the acetic acid can help to break down the worst of the stain. It can also help to remove the stale smell of the nicotine as well.

Does Cigarette Smoke Ruin The Walls And Furniture Of A House?

In short: yes. The chemicals inside the tobacco build up onto surfaces over time and leave a ‘third hand’ residue of smoke on the walls, carpets, furniture, doors, ceilings, etc. This residue stays there even after the smoke has gone. 

What Color Is Cigarette Smoke On A Wall?

When nicotine stains a wall, it changes it to a brownish yellow color, especially when it comes to the ceiling as the smoke from the cigarette blows upwards. Whilst it might not look like much of an issue, this ‘third hand’ smoke can cause serious health issues, a little like how secondhand smoke can. 

What Is The Best Cleaner To Remove Nicotine Stains From A Wall?

If you are after something that is chemical-free, then the best way to remove it is by using white vinegar and water as a half-half mix. As well as removing the worst of the stains, it can help to neutralize the odor too. 

Can You Paint Over Cigarette Smoke Stains On A Wall?

Whilst it is not recommended to paint directly over nicotine stains due to them seeping back through the paint, if you prime first, it should seal the stains in. You can buy specialty primer that blocks stains to do the job, but it is always worth giving the walls a clean first anyway 

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