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Smoking: It Can Stain Your Life

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 26 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Smoking Cigarette Stains Nicotine Stains

If you smoke or someone smokes in your family, you may find that aside from the threat to your health, nicotine can be a serious threat to your home and appearance too, through a range of nasty yellow stains which can be difficult to remove, particularly if neglected for a period of time.

Nicotine is a toxic substance found in the 'nightshade' family of plants, the most popular of which is tobacco. It is a powerful nerve poison and is used in many insecticides. In its natural form, it is an oily liquid but it combines readily with water and also easily penetrates the skin. Once inhaled, it directly enters the bloodstream and has both a stimulant and depressant effect, affecting the heart and blood pressure and producing addictive properties similar to heroine and cocaine.

Teeth and Lips

One of the most obvious symptoms of smoking is stained teeth and lips. These come in the form of sticky tar deposits, brown teeth and yellow lips, red inflammation of the gums and chronic bad breath. This is because smoking reduces blood flow and saliva to the mouth and raises the mouth's temperature, damaging and killing important oral tissue cells.

Unfortunately, the only sure-fire way of treating these stains is to drastically reduce your smoking or quit altogether. However, good dental hygiene (brushing and flossing regularly) will help in removing stains, as well as the use of a simple whitening treatment or toothpaste. Rinse your mouth regularly to flush away as much nicotine as possible. For lips, again the best solution is to cut down on, or quit the habit. Otherwise, make sure you drink several glasses of water a day to flush toxins away and apply Vaseline to your lips regularly. You can also use lemon juice on the lips daily, which will help to lighten the stain over time. (NOTE: never use lemon juice on teeth as the Vitamin C will strip the teeth of calcium and damage it permanently.)


For nicotine stains on your fingers, rub them vigorously with lemon juice before washing with soap and water. If the stain is persistent, you may need to scrub gently with a pumice stone, after applying the lemon juice. Don't forget to follow with hand cream.


If you have a build-up of nicotine stains on hair, you will need to use a purifying shampoo, such as a 'build-up remover' or 'purifying cleanser'. A professional salon will be able to advise you. Apply the shampoo to stained areas, leave for at least 3 minutes and then rinse thoroughly. You may have to repeat this process several times to completely remove the stains.


If smoking occurs in the house, then all curtains will have to be regularly washed or dry-cleaned in order to keep them fresh and free from nicotine stains. Otherwise, there will be an inevitable build-up of nicotine, particularly along the pleats at the top and once the nicotine stains set, it will be very difficult to restore the curtains to their original colours. If stopping smoking is not an option, then choose dark-coloured fabrics for the curtains as this will help to disguise any staining. However, you will still need to clean the curtains regularly to keep them smelling fresh.


As nicotine stains are water-soluble, it is best to avoid water-based paints and coatings in areas where smoking is likely to occur. Water-based primers, even stain-blocking primers, are restricted in what they can do to cover nicotine stains. If you are looking to cover a stain, in particular, then water-based paints are completely ineffective as they rewet the surface and cause the nicotine to bleed through. It is best to use an oil-based paint or primer to cover nicotine or to protect walls in areas of heavy smoking.

If the wall is covered in washable paint, then nicotine stains can be treated quite effectively with sugar soap and water; the same goes for washable wall papers. With non-washable wall papers, there is little you can do other than declare the area a smoke-free zone or being resigned to having unpleasantly yellowing walls.

No matter how effective a stain removing solution is, overall, nicotine staining will mean that you need to do thorough cleaning much more often. Perhaps this is yet one more incentive to end this addiction.

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