3 Ways on how to clean nicotine off oil paintings- Beginner’s Guide

If you are a smoker or anyone among your family or friends, you know how nicotine stains can harm artwork and even wall paint. These tough nicotine stains can permanently damage the oil paintings if you do not deal with them quickly and efficiently.

Table of Contents

In this blog post, Painting Fox will discover some step-by-step instructions on how to clean nicotine off oil paintings and you will also get to know the importance of cleaning the oil paintings on time. Whether you are an artist or an art collector, you should know how to clean nicotine off oil paintings because nicotine is the main reason for damaging oil paintings. Let’s get started!

To clean nicotine off an oil painting, make a solution by mixing a little amount of water and vinegar and put the mixture in a spray bottle. Spray nicotine solution and wipe it off by applying a little pressure. If nicotine stains are stubborn then add some amount of dish soap inside the mixture and try again. 

As oil painting takes a long time to dry and sometimes already-dried oil paintings can also contain some parts that are not completely dried. So, there is a need to be careful before cleaning the oil painting with any liquid or even with water. However, using a soft cloth piece with a little amount of pressure can be used but applying so much pressure should be avoided.

Oil paint can also react with harsh chemicals during the cleaning process. For example, rubbing alcohol is a good cleaning agent but for wet and nearly wet oil paintings, the alcohol can react with the paint to cause cracks. There can be various ways to clean nicotine off oil paintings with household items, using white vinegar is the most effective as well as the safest way to clean the oil paintings.

Methods to clean nicotine off oil painting

There are various methods to clean nicotine off oil paintings but maintaining the quality of the painting is the most important thing. To keep in mind the quality of oil paintings, I have enlisted the 3 best methods to clean nicotine off oil paintings.

  1. Using vinegar solution
  2. Using rubbing alcohol
  3. Using a stain remover

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One- Using Vinegar Solution

Amazon Brand - Happy Belly Distilled Vinegar, 128 Ounce*
Amazon Brand - Happy Belly Distilled Vinegar, 128 Ounce
 Price: $ 11.97 ($ 0.09 / Ounce)
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Price incl. VAT., Excl. Shipping

Vinegar is an effective stain remover and is often used for cleaning household items. It contains some acidity because the PH level of white vinegar is 2.4 and that is the main reason it works as a cleaning agent.

Note: Before using vinegar solution, make sure that the oil paint is dried enough to bear the acidity of vinegar solution. 

Materials Required:

  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • Sprayer
  • Cloth piece
  • Dishsoap (optional)


  • Vinegar 50%
  • Water 50%


Mix white vinegar and water into equal quantities and add them to a spray bottle to shower on the oil painting. Use a clean cloth piece to remove the nicotine. Remember to test the solution on the edges of the painting.

Two- Using Rubbing Alcohol

Isopropyl Alcohol 99% (IPA) Made in USA - USP-NF Grade - 99 Percent Concentrated Rubbing Alcohol (1 Liter)*
Isopropyl Alcohol 99% (IPA) Made in USA - USP-NF Grade - 99 Percent Concentrated Rubbing Alcohol (1 Liter)
 Price: $ 14.99 ($ 0.44 / Fl Oz)
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Rubbing alcohol is the most widely available cleaning agent. It is also known as the surgical spirit that is denatured and undrinkable. The most common use of rubbing alcohol is in first aid.

Materials Required:

  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Clean cloth


Use only a small quantity of rubbing alcohol on the stained area. You can use a clean cloth piece and a brush to gently clean the nicotine stains.

Three- Using a Stain Remover

Stain removers are dedicated liquids or sprays that are specially made to remove any kind of stains from any surface but here we have chosen the most favorable stain remover that can be used to clean nicotine stains easily from oil paintings. As the product is specially built to remove oil painting stains, so there are minimal chances of damage risks.

Nicotine Stain Remover

How to remove nicotine off oil paintings.

Winsor & Newton Artists’ Oil Picture Cleaner 2.5 oz

  • Remove dust, dirt, smoke, & nicotine
  • Provide Noticeable differences
  • Contains Pine scent
  • 100% safe

Winsor & Newton Artists’ Oil Picture Cleaner 2.5 oz is the chosen product to remove the nicotine stains from oil paintings. It comes in a 75 ml bottle with the labeling of Winsor & Newton. It can be used to remove dust, stains, dirt, nicotine, and all kind of possible stains that can cause oil paintings to become dull. At the time of review, the Winsor & Newton Artists’ Oil Picture Cleaner had a total of 4.3-star ratings out of 5 and the total counted ratings were 70. Most of the users have found this item useful to remove cigarette smoke and nicotine stains out of the way. It also works to brighten the oil painting like new and enhance the visibility.


Brand: Winsor & Newton | Item Form: Liquid | Scent: Pine | Volume: 2.5 Ounces | Ratings: 4.3 out of 5

Price at the time of publishing: 13.99$

Our Rating: 4.5 Star Out Of 5


  • Value For Money
  • 100% safe
  • Effective against Nicotine Stains


  • Time-consuming

Required Things:

  • Winsor & Newton Artists’ Oil Picture Cleaner 2.5 oz
  • Clean cloth Piece


Always start from the corner of the oil painting and apply only a half drop to check the results of the picture cleaner. If everything goes well then slightly increase the quantity and try to clean the nicotine stains.

Which products can cause nicotine stains?

Below are the following products that are really common among the public and most of the stains of paintings are caused by using them. Here is a list of them:

  • Cigarette
  • Cigar
  • Chewing Tobacco
  • Snuff
  • Nicotine Gum
  • Nicotine Patches

Cigarettes and cigars are the two most common reasons behind the nicotine stains in oil paintings. In this blog, we have given all the methods on the basis of nicotine stains but if you want to learn about the methods to remove cigarette smoke then check the perforated below.

Read: How to clean an oil painting from cigarette smoke?

Smoke contains tar that leaves some quantity of stains on the painting surfaces. The excess quantity of tar is also a major cause of lung cancer as well. Improper use of other nicotine products such as snuff, and nicotine gum is also a cause of nicotine stains. You should have to practice a smoke-free environment in the studio and also don’t let anyone smoke.

Can you paint over the nicotine?

Painting over nicotine can be possible and even oil painting over nicotine stains is also possible but there is a need to properly prepare the surface before painting. Clean the surface first with a stain-removing liquid then apply a primer. Stain-blocking primer can be the most suitable option for this purpose. If you want to paint over the wall, use stain-blocking primer but if you want to paint over the canvas, use gesso as a primer. Now, the surface is ready to get painted with oil paint or wall paint.

Note: The above information is for both canvas and walls. 


Is oil paint nicotine resistant?

No, oil paint is not nicotine resistant. In fact, there is a need to be careful while handling oil paints. If the oil paint is wet and it comes in contact with smoke or ash then it will become dull after drying.

What do nicotine stains look like

It depends upon the type of product that caused stains. In the case of cigarette smoke, tar is responsible to make the paintings dull. It will look like dirt but wiping the stain with a cloth piece will not be enough.

Final Words

Cigarette smoke is the major cause of nicotine stains but some other products such as cigars, snuff, chewing tobacco, etc are also the major reasons for these types of stains. Removing stains from oil paintings is an easy but risky task because most beginners don’t get to know about the terms and conditions. We have clearly mentioned that the oil painting must have to be enough dried to hold the stain removers. Vinegar is the most preferable cleaning agent that can be used by mixing equal amounts of water and white vinegar. At last, remember to be careful while handling oil paintings and apply a little pressure on the surface.

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