If you've been renting a dwelling to someone who is a heavy cigarette smoker, you'll need to do more than simply apply a fresh coat of paint to the walls before a new tenant moves in. The tar from nicotine can seep through fresh paint and develop beads of yellow moisture. Also, dust and pet hair may have gotten trapped by the sticky residue on the walls.
There could also be smudges in the residue, which can create textures that could be difficult to paint over to achieve a smooth finish. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to keep these things from happening so your new tenants don't have to deal with the problem. Here's what they are.
Wash the walls with trisodium phosphate
Trisodium phosphate is a powerful cleaning agent that can remove stubborn nicotine stains. However, you'll first need to check with your municipality to see if there are any local regulations that have limited or banned the use of trisodium phosphate in your area. If there are no regulations, you can pick up some trisodium phosphate from any home improvement store. If trisodium phosphate is against regulations in your municipality, don't fret. Use a mixture of bleach and water instead or use household cleaning pads like Magic Eraser. If you choose to use a bleach solution, open the windows and wear a mask so you are not overcome by fumes.
Trisodium phosphate is toxic, so you'll need to handle it with care by using protective gear. Use a respiratory mask and wear protective glasses, gloves, and clothing that covers your entire body. Mix the cleaning agent with water and apply it carefully with a sponge. Work in circular motions while continually rinsing the sponge. Go back over the cleaned areas with a clean, wet sponge to remove the cleaning solution and any remaining tar. Check your progress regularly by wiping the walls with a white paper towel to see if any yellow residue remains from the nicotine.
Prepare the walls with an oil-based stain blocker
Now that you've cleaned as much of the residue as possible from the surface of the walls, you'll still need to prevent the nicotine that has embedded in the walls from seeping through. Nicotine is highly water-soluble, but it cannot easily bleed through oil. Now you may be wondering why you bothered with cleaning the walls. It's important to know that the amount of nicotine contained in the walls will largely depend on whether or not the oil-based stain blocker will be able to completely prevent the nicotine from seeping through, which is why you need to clean as much of the nicotine residue off as possible before applying an oil-based stain blocker.
Apply the stain blocker as you would paint, using brushes to cut into corners and along the edges of the floor and ceiling, then follow with a paint roller to fill in the large areas of the walls. Apply the product evenly and smooth out any drips and thick lines. Allow the stain blocker to dry completely, based on the manufacturer's directions, before applying a second coat. When the second coat is completely dry, the walls will be ready for painting.
The following day, inspect the walls and look for any evidence of the nicotine bleeding through, which will appear as small, yellowish-brown spots. If these are found, you'll need to repeat the process again. As you can tell, the process of covering nicotine-stained walls is a long and tedious one. Because of this, you may want to hire an interior painting service like Carvey Painting & Decorating Inc to do the job for you instead.
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