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Evil Scotsman 05-07-2010 05:48 AM

Old house 3 smokers for YEARS how to prep
Inheriting a house built in the 60's, bought in the VERY early 70's, smokers for years. Nicotine stains on ceiling, as well as flaking paint, (inspector said not from water damage just from age) dirty walls. Hope do I go about prepping for paint. I realize I will need to scrape flaking paint, do I need to spackle where I scrape flakes? Do walls NEED to be scrubbed, (would be every inch of every wall in the whole house) or would something like KILLZ cover it well enough?


oldognewtrick 05-07-2010 05:53 AM

The finished paint job will only be as good as the prep. Most people don't do enough of the prep work and end up painting more often. Paint won't adhere to dirt or loose peeling surfaces.

Sounds like you have quite a nice project going on over there.

TxBuilder 05-07-2010 09:38 AM

With nicotine stains I would suggest a lite washing to see what you can get off. Then start normal prep. The issue I've found is that when I wen to scratch of the gloss the stains made it sticky. The paper would over grip and just sort of smudge. I wish you luck, when I was cleaning I would get headaches from the stale smoke smell returning.

Nestor_Kelebay 05-07-2010 12:14 PM

Scotsman: You've come to the right place. As a small landlord I've had to deal with the same situation you're dealing with to a greater or lesser degree, but I've dealt with it many times.

You can paint over the walls with an interior oil based primer, and that will seal in the smell of the nicotine, but if it were my house, I'd remove the stain and odor by cleaning so that it's removed, not just encapsulated.

I was the landlord to the greatest chain smoking couple who ever lived. She moved in when she was pregnant with her first boy, and by the time they moved out, he was 14 years old and a chain smoker too. I will try to post pictures later on tonight. (I spent the past 5 minutes retrieving them from my old CD files.) I expect there was more tobacco smoked in that apartment than there was in any normal smoker's house over a lifetime. I took pictures to both support my claim for cleaning/damages against the tenants, and the fact that I didn't think anyone would believe how badly smoke stained the walls were without pictures as proof.

If the house was built in the 1960's, it's probably drywall walls, but could still be plaster.

Here's what you do:

1. Use a garden sprayer or hand sprayer to spray water onto the walls and ceilings, and scrub the wet walls and ceilings with a brush fitted onto a handle. (Long handle for ceilings, short or no handle for walls). Every janitorial supply store will sell brushes with TAMPICO fibers. You want a tampico fiber brush because they're soft natural bristles that water sticks to. And, you want one with a threaded hole suitable for mounting on a painting pole. So, you spray water onto the ceiling, scrub with a tampico fiber brush on a painting pole, and that will dissolve MOST of the nicotine from the wall or ceilng. Leave the tampico fiber brush soaking in a pail of water when you're spraying to rinse the nicotine off the bristles.

Now, have a second person collecting that dirty water with a wet/dry vaccuum cleaner equipped with a "squeegee nozzle". Home Depot sells accessories for Rigid wet/dry shop style vaccuum cleaners, and one accessory you can buy for $14 is a squeegee nozzle for vaccuuming water off a floor. (But, you're going to be vaccuuming the water off ceilings and walls.) Keep a damp sponge handy because the rubber squeegee will occasionally leave black marks on the paint, which are easily wiped off.

2. After you get most of it off with clean water, the house will still smell of cigarette smoke because of the residual nicotine in the paint. You can easily remove this with bleach. I've found that straight bleach will remove the nicotine stain quickly without affecting the colour of the paint (and I can explain why if you're interested), but it's better to dilute the bleach with 10 parts water because:

1. if the diluted bleach drips into your eye while you're looking up to spray it on or scrub it, it's not as serious a situation as if undiluted bleach had dripped into your eye. You have plenty of time to rinse your eye out if it starts to bother you. Still, you might want to wear safety goggles when working with bleach, diluted or not.

2. the fumes that you have working with straight bleach can become very strong and can badly irritate your throat. You won't smell hardly anything with the bleach diluted with 10 parts water.

3. you'll find that with the bleach diluted 10:1, it will still get the paint equally clean, but it just won't happen as quickly. You put the diluted bleach on, scrub it with the tampico fiber brush, let it sit for a half minute, and the area will revert back to the original paint colour before your very eyes. Then, vaccuum off the spent bleach with the wet/dry vaccuum cleaner.

Place linen bed sheets down on carpeted floors which could be damaged if bleach drips on them. You can buy old bed linens cheap from the Salvation Army or other thrift stores. Alternatively, just use old tarps or something. It's a good idea to have bed linens on the floor anyhow simply so that you won't be working on a wet slippery floor, as it's easy to slip and fall. There will be plenty of dripping from the ceiling. Also, if you go to any place that sells agricultural spraying supplies, they will be able to replace the nozzle on your garden sprayer with a tip that will allow you to change nozzles for a heavier or lighter spray. These nozzles typically cost about $1 each, so it's a good idea to have several of them for various kinds of spraying. I make a great deal of use of my two garden sprayers for cleaning, so I have a full set of about a dozen nozzles I can use on each of them to match the job requirements.

I have a special tool made for cleaning walls and ceilings called a Taski "Vertica" system, which is basically a squeegee that can be connected to a wet/dry vaccuum cleaner:

But, since you only need to do this once, I'd recommend that you borrow or buy a shop style wet/dry vaccuum cleaner and get a Rigid squeegee nozzle from Home Depot. All wet/dry shop style vaccuum cleaners use a 2 1/2 inch diameter hose, and the Rigid nozzle will fit that hose size. Sears also sells a similar squeegee nozzle that will also fit a 2 1/2 inch hose for their "Craftsman" line of wet/dry vaccuum cleaners. Both work equally well. Alternatively, you might be able to find a Janitorial Supply Store that rents the Taski Vertica system. It's about $200 to buy, so renting it shouldn't be that expensive.

Because you can spray a large area quickly, and the tampico fiber brush will typically be 10 inches wide while the wet/dry vaccuum nozzle will be about 12 inches wide, two people working together can easily do a room in a half day. Working by myself, I can do an entire apartment in 3 or 4 days, but that includes hallways, bathrooms, doors, etc.

After using the clean water then bleach to clean the walls, the walls will still have some residual bleach on them. I'd recommend you remove the residual bleach by the same method before repainting, if you intend to repaint. Just spray the water on, agitate with the tampico fiber brush, and vaccuum the soiled water off.

You can also use an Atlantic Bee Mop in areas which are hard to reach with the wet/dry nozzle.

Also, rinse any sponges you use with bleach out very well after you finish using them. Sponges are made of cellulose, and bleach will deteriorate cellulose if it's left on for too long. If you leave a sponge wet with bleach overnight, it'll be mush in the morning.

Hope this helps.

Nestor_Kelebay 05-07-2010 06:57 PM

OK, feast your eyes on filth.

This is a picture of the tenant's living room looking east. Before the tenant vacated, she asked me how I clean nicotine smoke off of walls and ceilings, and I explained how to do it, but that she could use a sponge mop to get most of the nicotine off if she didn't have a wet/dry vaccuum cleaner. You can see the tenant actually got a fair bit of the nicotine off before giving up. You can see where she quit trying to clean in the far right corner of the ceiling. The ceiling there was literally a light chocolate brown colour from all the tar/nicotine. You can also see where I started cleaning with just sponges on the opposite side of the ceiling in front of the wood paneled wall. I soon gave up with the sponges, and went with the spray/brush/vaccuum system.

Can you guess where the pictures were hung on the walls?

Not only could you see where pictures were hung on the walls by the outline in the nicotine/tar staining, you could see where furniture was located on the floor, even on the carpet. This photo shows where the tenants had a round stand. You can clearly see how the nicotine/tar has affected the colour of the surrounding carpet.
The wall around the electrical outlet was cleaned with dilute bleach, and you can see how some of it dripped down the wall to leave a streak in an otherwise nicotine/tar stained wall.

The living room and dining room in the suite were the worst. Generally, smoke staining is worst where the smoking takes place. Still, the smoke travels throughout the apartment or house and gets on everything.

oldognewtrick 05-07-2010 07:26 PM

Shazam, what were they running there a hookah?

Nestor_Kelebay 05-08-2010 12:12 PM

That was the worst smoke staining I've had the priviledge of cleaning up after a pigtenant moved out. There were two other pigtenants that came pretty close, tho.

It's no wonder cigarette smoking is a health hazard. Can you imagine what those tenant's lungs are like? Man, it's a wonder they can still breathe.

But, there's a silver lining on every rain cloud. If it wasn't for my having to face cleaning challanges like this one, I wouldn't know how to approach a problem like this. But, once you put away the sponges and rags, and start using much larger tools like garden sprayers and 10 inch wide scrub brushes, you do just as good a job, but the work gets done a lot faster. Even doing an apartment with sponges and rags would be like cleaning an auditorium floor with a tooth brush.

That's why I say... I do a lot of renovating, but the one thing I do more than anything else is cleaning. And, just like everything else, there is a learning curve for cleaning too.

AJBiddle 12-04-2012 06:29 PM

Ok so how did you clean out the carpet?

Has anyone tried TSP (trisodiumphosphate), Vinegar washing, and Vamoose?

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