How to Steam Clean Cigarette Smoke From Walls

It’s not always easy and time saving to clean your walls to rid themselves of the stinky burnt tobacco smoke. You have a range of cleaning options to choose from but steam cleaning is one of the best and easiest methods that can get the job done.

You might be thinking about other cleaning methods but you can rest assured that cleaning your walls with steam will not only remove the ugly looking smoke marks but also take out the disgusting tobacco smell from your apartment.

How To Steam Clean Cigarette Smoke From Walls

Although we will focus on discussing cleaning your walls from cigarette smoke by using steam cleaners, there are still some options you have to make your cleaning meet your different needs.

Choose cleaning materials

You can have multiple cleaning material options in this stage. There’s a range of products you can use with your steam machine water to hit that gunk hard or soft, depending on your needs.

You can use ammonia, white vinegar, chemicals – such as phosphate, and other specially formulated cleaning agents. The reason to mix these with regular water is to strengthen the steam.

Vinegar contains acid and that will help with the easy removal of hard stains or yellow smoke marks on the walls. Ammonia or phosphate on the other hand can help ease up the gunk to wipe them off easily.


After you go through your wall stains and decide which cleaning agents you want to go for, assemble all the equipment and cleaning chemicals. If you have oil based painting on your walls, it’s better to avoid any acidic chemicals and use simple water.

Oil paint doesn’t go well with acid-based substances such as harsh chemicals and vinegar. A little steam might not be so bad but it never hurts to be careful. You might overapply the steam and painting will break in no time. Try not to do that.

You’ll want to get some rag to wash up the water on the walls and floors after you’re done steaming. Also keep some dry clean clothes ready, preferably fibre cloths to clean water drops on the walls.


Start preparing by assembling everything and checking your steam machine. It’s not uncommon for your steam machine to have dirt residue if it’s not washed well after last usage or kept unused for a long time, letting it gather dirt inside.

Let the machine start and allow some steam to get out. You’ll likely see some brownish water drops coming off. It means the dirt is coming out and the machine is cleaning itself. After a minute, the steamer will be clean inside.

Remove smoke dirt and gunk

If you have a thick layer of smoke or gunk on the walls then it’s a good idea to remove some dirt manually. The top layer of stains and gunk will be softer than the bottom layer (the side attached to the walls).

You can use a scraper and slowly shave off the smoke residue. Don’t use anything harsh like a metal scrubber. You will risk damaging your walls in that way. Don’t push too hard on the walls and go slowly. The softer gunk resides will be removed.

If you have gunk in the corners of the windows or wall and floor contact points, it will likely be hard to use a scrubber at those places. A good idea is to use a clip to remove gunk in those hard to reach places.

Soften gunk

Now it’s time to do the major work. You’re done with removing excess gunk and ready to dive into the main game. Don’t worry. This is going to be the easiest of all these steps here.

Before loading the steam machine with water, you can add any chemicals if you need to. When you’re ready, start slowly steaming on the stains. Cover all of the wall area and corners with steam. It’s just a simple process.

Wipe with wet cloth

At this point, your floor will likely be wet from all the steam from the walls turned into water drops. Wipe the dirty water with a wet rug and remove any leftover gunk from the walls and corners.

Dry with a clean soft cloth

Now clean the walls with a dry clean cloth and remove all the steam and dirt residues. Since the stains are softened, they will come off easily.

Don’t use a wet cloth at this stage, it will not help, rather mess up the dirt from one corner of the wall to another. A clean, soft cloth will be best.

Paint (Optional)

At this stage, it is very unlikely to see any remaining stains or marks on the wall but if any still prevails, you can try applying some paint to the marks to cover them up. Try to use a non-stain penetrating paint so that no new mark can form on walls.

Clean the floor

You need to give your floors a final cleaning at this final stage. Remove any remaining paint particles and give the whole floor a wash or wipe off with a wet rug.

Check our article about Is it true that steam cleaning damage grout?

Final Thoughts

Steam cleaning your walls and repainting them will ensure the walls will stay void of any tobacco smells but if you use carpet on your floor, things will be different.

Carpeting holds the most tobacco smoke in an apartment. Even if you clean your walls and make any changes in your windows to allow more air circulation to get your carpet to be smelling nice, it will hardly ever work.

There’s no good alternative for a carpet wash at this stage. A good carpet wash will remove almost all the odor from them and as a bonus, remove any stain marks. However, it’s likely that some odor will take time to leave. You can use perfume spray on the carpet as a temporary solution until the tobacco odor is gone forever. It will take some time but eventually start smelling like a fresh carpet.

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