How to Remove Nicotine Cigarette Stains and Odor

How to Remove Nicotine and Cigarette Stains From Clothing

The Spruce / Hilary Allison 

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 hrs
  • Total Time: 12 hrs - 1 day
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10 to 25

Smoking can leave lingering yellow stains and strong odors in clothes, carpets, and upholstery. Unfortunately, removing nicotine stains is difficult. Before you think about removing the stains, wash or dry clean any garments that you don’t wear on a regular basis. Then store them in cloth (not plastic) hanging bags. That will help protect them from the nicotine that settles on the fabric and causes yellow streaks and stains. Do not put nicotine-stained clothing in the dryer as the heat can permanently set in the stain.

The process for removing nicotine stains will depend on the type of fabric, but luckily, it can be done with a lot of care, patience, and household products you most likely have on hand.

 Stain type Smoke 
 Detergent type Heavy-duty
 Water temperature Varies depending on the type of fabric
 Cycle type Varies depending on the type of fabric

Before You Begin

If the garment is dry clean only, point out and identify the stain to your professional cleaner. If you are using a home dry cleaning kit, be sure to treat the stain with the provided stain remover before putting the garment in the dryer bag. But know that you will have much better luck with a professional cleaner in removing the stains.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Removing Nicotine Stains From Cotton or Linen Clothes

  • Small bucket
  • Large sink
  • Sponge

Removing Nicotine Stains From Polyester, Rayon, Acrylic, or Nylon Clothes

  • Large jar with lid
  • Sponge
  • Cotton pad or white cloth
  • Eye dropper (optional)

Removing Nicotine Stains From Carpet and Upholstery

  • Large jar with lid
  • White cloth or paper towel

Materials

Removing Nicotine Stains From Cotton or Linen Clothes

  • Heavy-duty laundry detergent
  • Rubbing alcohol

Removing Nicotine Stains From Polyester, Rayon, Acrylic, or Nylon Clothes

  • Glycerin
  • Liquid dishwashing detergent
  • Distilled white vinegar

Removing Nicotine Stains From Carpet and Upholstery

  • Glycerin
  • Liquid dishwashing detergent
  • Distilled white vinegar

Instructions

How to Remove Nicotine Stains From Cotton or Linen Clothes

  1. Mix a Soaking Solution

    Combine 1 quart of warm water and 1/2 teaspoon of heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent (Tide or Persil). Soak the nicotine-stained clothing in the mixture for 15 minutes before ringing out the excess water.

    laundering cotton garments with nicotine stain or odor

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  2. Treat the Stain

    Sponge the stained area with rubbing alcohol until the stain is removed, and wash as usual following the fabric care label.

  3. Check the Stained Area

    Before tossing the garment in the dryer, check the stained area. If you can still see the stain, do not dry the clothing as putting it in the dryer can permanently set the stain in. Repeat soaking and treating the stain steps.

How to Remove Nicotine Stains From Polyester, Rayon, Acrylic, or Nylon Clothes 

  1. Make Cleaner

    • Make a wet spot cleaner by combining 1 part glycerin, 1 part liquid dishwashing detergent, and 8 parts water in a large jar.
    • Label and keep tightly closed to prevent evaporation.
  2. Treat Stain

    • Dampen the stained area with a sponge, applying gentle strokes beginning at the center of the stain and working outward.
    • Apply a few drops of wet spot cleaner and a few drops of distilled white vinegar directly on top of the stain.
    • Cover the stain with a cotton pad or white cloth and allow the pad to set, picking up the stain.
    • Keep the stain moist until it disappears, then flush the area with water and wash as normal.

    Tip

    If you have already tried to remove the stains but they remained and then you dried the clothing in a dryer, the stains may be permanently set. You can still give these tips a try before tossing the clothes.

How to Whiten Nicotine-Stained Clothes

For any washable fabric that you need to whiten after treating for the stains, mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach (OxiClean, Clorox 2, Country Save Bleach, Purex 2 Color Safe Bleach are brand names) and cool water. Follow the package directions as to how much product per gallon of water. Completely submerge the garment and allow it to soak for at least eight hours. Check the color. If it is white enough, wash as usual. If it remains yellow, mix a fresh solution, and repeat. It may take several soakings to brighten it completely.

submerging a white nicotine stained garment

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska 

How to Remove Nicotine Stains From Carpet and Upholstery

If you have a regular smoker in the house, a film of nicotine and tar will settle over your carpet and upholstery. Regular cleaning of the entire surface of the carpet or furniture is the only way to lift the stains. Use a professional cleaning service or rent a carpet/upholstery cleaning machine at least twice per year.

Before cleaning any furniture, always follow the manufacturer's care label on cleaning upholstery. This tag can be found under the sofa cushions or fabric skirt with letter codes that indicate how to clean the furniture.

For an occasional tobacco stain from a guest, make the same spot cleaner used for polyester clothes.

  1. Mix the Cleaning Solution

    • Combine 1 part glycerin, 1 part white dishwashing detergent, and 8 parts water in a large jar.
    • Add 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar to help control odor and mix well before using to spot treat the stain.
    • Label and keep tightly closed to prevent evaporation, until ready to use.
    • Use a clean white cloth or paper towel to work from the outside edges of the stain toward the center.
    • Keep blotting until no stain is transferred to the cloth.
    • Allow to air dry away from direct heat. Repeat if necessary.

    Warning

    If cleaning a tobacco stain on upholstery, do not over-saturate the fabric. If the upholstery is silk or vintage, hire a professional.

    spot cleaning a rug stained with nicotine

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Additional Tips for Handling Nicotine Stains

An occasional accident happens where the carpet or upholstery gets burned by a cigarette or cigar. Follow these steps to take care of them.

For burn marks on the carpet:

  • Use some very small scissors to trim away burned fibers.
  • Dab the area with distilled white vinegar or remove scorch marks and odor.

For burn marks on upholstery:

  • Rub the area gently with an emery board. If the burn is deep, it is permanent.