How to Remove a Nicotine Smell From Plastic

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It's not easy to eliminate the smell of nicotine. Cigar smoke consists of at least 4,000 different chemical components, and every one of those will interact in a different way with every surface it touches. Some will be absorbed by porous surfaces, some will transform into a gummy film and most of them will make your house smell like a bad nightclub and your mouth taste like an ashtray. Because of the chemical complexity of tobacco smoke, every different kind of surface will require a different kind of technique if you want to clean nicotine stains. There are cleaning techniques you can use to remove a nicotine smell from plastic.

Things You'll Need

  • A mixing bowl
  • White vinegar
  • A cleaning rag
  • Cheap vodka (or rubbing alcohol)
  • A large plastic bag
  • Some chunks of coal, a cup of kitty litter or a bag of cedar shavings

Getting Started

  • Make a cleaning solution out of equal parts vinegar and water. Most soaps and detergents will not be able to touch the nicotine residue, and will do nothing to eliminate the smell of nicotine. However,a light organic solvent like vinegar will soften the gummy, yellow, nasty looking and nasty smelling coat. (A stronger organic solvent, like acetone, would have the undesirable side-effect of softening the surface of the plastic, too.)

  • Wipe the gummy residue out of the surface. Rub as vigorously as possible without damaging it, rinse and dry. Don't worry about the vinegary smell, even if it seems overwhelming at the moment. It will promptly fade away. This step will clean nicotine stains on plastic surfaces, and might be enough to get rid of the tobacco smell too. Then again, the smell of tobacco can be very persistent. If the smell persist after the smell of vinegar has washed away, it may be time to take more extreme measures.

  • Soak the item in a vodka and water solution. For some reason, vodka has gained a well deserved reputation for being a good overall odor-killer, but you can substitute for rubbing alcohol if cheap vodka is unavailable. For best results make a 1:3 to 1:10 solution and allow to soak overnight. This should get rid of the nicotine residue that has worked its way into the pores of the material. This will probably be enough to get rid of the tobacco smell, too, but don't despair if it is still there. You can take some more drastic measures in order to eliminate the smell of nicotine.

  • Place the item in a plastic bag. Place an odor-absorbing substance in the bag with the item. There is a wide choice of materials that will do the trick, amongst them kitty litter, charcoal, baking soda and cedar shavings. Put the bag in a dry and cool place, and wait for a couple of days.

Tips & Warnings

  • Vinegar can also be used to eliminate the tobacco smell in your home. A bowl or dish of white vinegar left out in a smoky-smelling room will do wonders. It will not be instantly noticeable, but after 12 to 24 hours the vinegar will have absorbed the odors.
  • Sooner or later, someone will recommend you to use an ozone generator to get rid of the tobacco smell and clean nicotine stains. It will work, but it will also make plastics and rubbers brittle. Use at your own risk.

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