How to Remove Nicotine Cigarette Stains From Carpet

How to Remove Nicotine Cigarette Stains from Carpet

The Spruce / Michela Buttignol

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 - 2 hrs
  • Total Time: 12 hrs - 1 day
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10 to 25

With each puff of traditional cigarettes or cigars or e-cigarettes, ultrafine particles, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and nicotine are released with each exhale . Those particles land on the carpet and upholstery, leaving yellow stains and lingering, strong odors. Often referred to as thirdhand smoke, the stains and odors can cause health issues as others come in contact with the pollutants trapped in the fibers.

The stains and odor cannot be removed by simply increasing the air circulation in the room. Learn how to remove nicotine stains from carpet.

 Stain Type Smoke, nicotine
 Detergent Type Glycerin, dishwashing liquid, distilled white vinegar
 Water Temperature Warm water

Before You Begin

If the nicotine stains are on an area rug on a hardwood floor, clean the rug outdoors in a driveway or on a patio. If this isn't possible, move the rug to a tarp or washable floor before treating the stains. If the wood floor beneath the rug becomes wet during cleaning, remove the rug completely to allow the floor to dry or dark stains may appear.

Removing visible stains will not remove all of the pollutants or the odor of cigarette smoke. 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.

While the solutions recommended for carpet can often be used to clean upholstery, before cleaning any furniture, always follow the manufacturer's care label. This tag can be found under the sofa cushions or fabric skirt with letter codes that indicate how to clean the furniture.

If the carpet has been exposed to years of nicotine exposure, the only way to remove the odor completely is to remove the carpet and padding underneath.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 to 2 white cloth or paper towels
  • 1 vacuum
  • 1 set measuring cups and spoons
  • 1 small bowl
  • 1 bucket
  • 1 glass jar with lid


  • 1 bottle glycerin
  • 1 bottle dishwashing liquid
  • 1 bottle distilled white vinegar
  • 1 label


Tools needed to remove nicotine stains from carpet

The Spruce / Sarah Crowley

How to Remove Nicotine Stains From Carpet

This cleaning solution can be used on carpet made from synthetic fibers or natural and synthetic blended fibers.

  1. Mix the Cleaning Solution

    • Combine 1 tablespoon glycerin, 1 tablespoon dishwashing liquid, 1/2 cup water, and 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar in a bowl. Mix well.
    • If you are attempting to clean an entire room of carpet, you will need to mix a much larger batch of the cleaning solution.
    • The cleaning solution can be kept in a tightly closed jar to treat other stains. Be sure to label the jar clearly.


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

    Mixing a cleaning solution to remove nicotine stains from carpet

    The Spruce / Sarah Crowley

  2. Blot the Stain

    • Dip a clean white microfiber cloth or paper towel in the solution and wring until it is not dripping.
    • Work from the outside edges of the stain toward the center to prevent it from growing larger.
    • Keep moving to a clean area of the cloth as the stain is removed.
    • Keep blotting until no more stain is transferred to the cloth.
    Blotting the stained area with a cleaning solution

    The Spruce / Sarah Crowley

  3. Rinse the Carpet

    • Dip a clean microfiber cloth in plain water and wring until the cloth is not dripping.
    • Wipe the freshly cleaned area to remove any soapy residue. Keep blotting and rinsing out the cloth until no more soap is transferred.
    Rinsing the carpet with a cloth dipped in plain water

    The Spruce / Sarah Crowley

  4. Air Dry and Vacuum

    • Allow the carpet to air-dry away from direct heat.
    • Block off the freshly cleaned area to prevent foot traffic while the carpet is damp.
    • When the carpet is dry, vacuum well to lift the fibers.
    Letting the carpet air dry before vacuuming

    The Spruce / Sarah Crowley

Additional Tips for Handling Nicotine Stains

Cigarettes and cigars can also be dropped leaving a burn mark. Try these tips to remove a burn from carpet and upholstery:

  • Use some very small scissors to trim away burned carpet fibers.
  • Dab the area with distilled white vinegar to remove scorch marks and odor.
  • On upholstery, rub the area gently with an emery board. If the burn is deep, it is permanent.

To help prevent nicotine stains and odors:

  • As soon as possible, empty all ashtrays and dispose of the trash bags in an outside trashcan.
  • Open as many windows as possible and turn on circulating fans to help bring in the fresh air.
  • Pour some distilled white vinegar into small bowls or cups and place them in the affected rooms.
  • Toss any washable curtains, small rugs, pillows, and throw blankets from the room in the washer.
  • Sprinkle plain, dry baking soda on carpets and area rugs. Allow the baking soda to remain on the carpet for at least an hour (overnight is better) and then vacuum. Be sure to toss the vacuum bags away after cleaning or empty the vacuum cup.
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Czogala, J., Goniewicz, M. L., Fidelus, B., Zielinska-Danch, W., Travers, M. J., & Sobczak, A. (2013). Secondhand Exposure to Vapors From Electronic Cigarettes. In Nicotine & Tobacco Research (Vol. 16, Issue 6, pp. 655–662). Oxford University Press (OUP).

  2. Kuschner, W., Reddy, Mehrotra, N., Paintal, Reddy, S., & Mehrotra, N. (2011). Electronic cigarettes and thirdhand tobacco smoke: two emerging health care challenges for the primary care provider. In International Journal of General Medicine (p. 115). Informa UK Limited.