How to clean an oil painting from cigarette smoke

If you have some oil paintings that have been exposed to cigarette smoke, you might be wondering how to restore them to their original state. Nicotine and Tar can cause discoloration of the oil paint on the surface of your precious oil paintings which are necessary to clean. But how to clean an oil painting from cigarette smoke and what products you can use to do so?

This blog aims to deliver the most effective practices on how to clean an oil painting from cigarette smoke without causing any further harm. Whether you are a professional or a beginner, these tips will help you to enjoy your artwork for years without any trouble from cigarette smoke. Let’s explore!

You can clean an oil painting from cigarette smoke with these three helpful tips:

  1. Use a brush and dishwashing liquid to clean the oil painting
  2. Use an oil painting cleaner to remove cigarette smoke particles
  3. Use vinegar to clean the stains
  4. Use rubbing alcohol to clean the smoke off the painting

Before applying these methods, make sure that your painting must be at least one year old. If it is one year old but no more than 2 years old, you have to be so much careful because thick paint takes ages to dry. So, cleaning in this situation can ruin it.

Table of Contents

1. Using a brush and dishwashing liquid

Soap can be a lifesaver without causing any harm to the surface. When water gets mixed with soap, a soapy mixture forms which can lift any stains from the fabric but this stain removal property can also be used to clean the surface of oil paintings. In addition, nicotine is water soluble, and oil paints are not soluble, so the soapy mixture will be able to lift only nicotine stains and you don’t need to worry.

Important to know!
Don’t apply this technique to a framed oil painting because water particles can go under the frame to cause future damage. Make sure to remove the wooden frame before you apply this technique.

Things to need:

  • A soft and clean paintbrush
  • Dishwashing liquid or soap
  • Water
How to clean an oil painting from cigarette smoke
Materials to need for cleaning oil paintings from cigarette smoke


  1. Clean all the dust from the surface by using a soft brush. Make sure to do this gently without applying so much pressure. Just give it a wipe. (Clean back also because it is also a part of your painting).
  2. Take a glass and pour 200 ml of water, then add a tablespoon of dishwashing liquid. Stir the mixture until bubbles form.
  3. Take a towel and lie it down in the work area. Put your painting down on the towel to avoid contact with water.
  4. Take a clean towel, mix it with the soapy mixture, and place it on the painting. gently rub the towel over the surface. (After this step, you will get the painting 90% cleaned)

2: Using an oil painting cleaner

Using a picture cleaner could be a wise decision in terms of results. Place your painting on a sturdy table at a place of good light intensity. Make sure your painting is dry enough to bare the cleaning process.

Oil painting cleaner contains protective ingredients which are enough to clear the whole surface without any damage.

Things to need:

  • Artist’s picture cleaner
  • Soft tissue paper
Winsor & Newton Artists' Picture Cleaner which can clean oil paintings from cigarette smoke.
Picture cleaner


  1. Gently wipe the whole painting with tissue paper. Make sure to apply a lower pressure to avoid any risk of damage.
  2. Take out some cleaning liquid.
  3. Apply the liquid on tissue paper and gently swipe the whole surface. It may contain some bubbles or the surface may become white but there is no need to worry.
  4. Waite for 10 minutes. Now, painting is smoke-free. Make sure to place it in a good place where it doesn’t come in contact with cigarette smoke or nicotine particles again.

3. Using Vinegar to clean smoke stains

Vinegar is a cleaning agent that can be used to restore the original appearance of the paintings. Take a cotton piece of tissue paper and apply some vinegar over it. Gently rub the cotton piece over the stains of nicotine or smoke.

4. Using rubbing Alcohol to clean smoke particles

Cleaning cigarette smoke is an easy job if you are using rubbing alcohol but only when your oil painting is dry enough. Take a small quantity over a cotton piece, and apply at the corner first to see if the liquid is taking the paint off or not. Surely it will not harm the paint if your painting is dry enough.

Now you can use it over the whole surface of the oil painting. It is a time-consuming procedure but definitely it is worth your time and money.

How to get the cigarette smell out of canvas painting?

To remove the cigarette smell, you can use baking soda to absorb the smell of the smoke particles. For this procedure, sprinkle a small quantity of baking soda over the surface of the oil painting. Leave it for a night to let the soda particles absorb the cigarette smoke.

Important to know!
Use this method only when the oil painting is completely dry and don’t add water to the baking soda.

Does smoke damage oil paintings?

Yes, smoke damage oil paintings because smoke particles contain nicotine that directly affects the original color of oil paintings. The discoloration of the painting makes it dull and old. Moreover, removal is also hard due to the sensitive nature of oil paintings.

You must protect your oil paintings from cigarette smoke by keeping them in a clean and dry environment where smoke particles cannot come in contact with the surface. It is also recommended to periodically clean the painting to take care of it for a long time. If the oil painting has been exposed to smoke, immediate action is mandatory to avoid additional damages.

Why cigarette smoke is harmful to oil painting?

Cigarette smoke is harmful to oil paintings due to the presence of volatile organic compounds which have a high vapor pressure. They crack and exude a steaky tarry deposit which in turn has a tendency to discolor the oil paint. This happens when the vapors come into contact with the oil painting surface. Because of this reason, most art exhibitions don’t allow smoking.

Title: Nicotine Removal From oil paintings

Credit: Habitate Woman LLC
Removing Smoke Particles from Old Paintings


After how much time, should I clean my painting?

Cleaning an oil painting after every second day is very harmful. Waite for at least one or two years before cleaning it again.

How I would know if my painting needs a cleaning?

Place your painting on an area of high light intensity. You must see dirt and color change which is a clear sign that your painting needs cleaning.

Will acetone clean oil painting?

Yes, Acetone will work but we don’t recommend it. It is flame able and even contains so many harmful ingredients.

Final Words

As humans need a bath to stay clean, an oil painting also needs cleaning but only once or twice a year. Every painting is showing the hard work of the artist behind its completion. Smoking should not be allowed at such places where it has been kept. Cleaning agents such as dish soap, vinegar, rubbing alcohol, etc can be used clean these smoke stains from the oil paintings.

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