How to Clean a Black Smoke Stain Off of a Painted Wall

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Soot stains will come off with the right cleaner.
Soot stains will come off with the right cleaner. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Soot stains are dark, sticky and difficult to remove. They occur from cigarettes, candles, kitchen fires and hearth fires. However, with the proper tools, you can scrub off soot stains without damaging the painted walls beneath. The key is to use cleaners that are strong enough to remove the smoke stains without peeling or scrubbing off the paint. If the smoke damage is extensive, it is better to paint over the smoke stains with a primer and fresh paint to hide the stains and to also seal in any smoke odors.

Things You'll Need

  • Dry cleaning sponge
  • Rubber gloves
  • Razor blade
  • Household cleaner
  • Bucket
  • Sponge

Rub a dry cleaning sponge on the walls, starting at the top and working your way down. Do not wet the sponge; simply rub it on the walls. Wear rubber gloves as you work.

Cut off a layer of the dry cleaning sponge as it becomes clogged with soot. Use a sharp razor to cut the top layer off and to reveal a fresh layer. Continue working.

Wash the walls with a household cleaner or cleaner specially designed to remove smoke odors. Fill a bucket with the cleaner after mixing it with water according to the manufacturer's instructions. Wash 1-foot square sections of the wall at a time using a regular sponge.

Rinse the wall with plain water and a clean sponge to remove any cleaner residue. Let it air-dry thoroughly.

Tips & Warnings

  • Find a dry cleaning sponge at your local hardware, home supply or painting supply store.
  • Dry cleaning sponges are also called soot sponges or chemical sponges, although this name is a misnomer -- they do not have any chemical cleaners in them.
  • Vacuum the wall first if you have loose soot.
  • A shellac primer used before painting covers both smoke stains and odors.

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