Beginner’s Guide: 5 Effective Methods to Remove Nicotine from Prints

Nicotine stains are problematic for every collector and artist. From time to time, nicotine stains get control over the whole print and make it yellowish. We also understand the importance of preserving the beauty of these artworks and that’s why we have created a complete solution for this problem that can be done within the boundaries of home.

This blog aims to provide a complete guide on how to remove nicotine from a print and as well from a photo print. This blog also contains a variety of gentle cleaning methods to restore your prints to their original glow. Let’s jump right in!

There are the following ways to remove nicotine stains from a print:

  1. Gentle dusting with a soft cloth
  2. Using a soap and water solution
  3. Using a vinegar solution
  4. Using the oxalic acid solution
  5. Using Isopropyl alcohol

Table of Contents

All the above methods are safe for art prints but to ensure the quality of the painting, you are advised to test each method on a small part first to know the reaction of the solution over the art print. Dusting, soap, and vinegar are safe products for the prints but you need to be precautions while dealing with isopropyl alcohol for cleaning.

Before removing nicotine stains, you also have to know what these stains actually do with art prints and picture frames. Well, nicotine stains cause discoloration of the original color of the art prints and make the paintings look yellowish and even photo prints also get dull by consistently coming in contact with nicotine.

You may want to read: How to remove nicotine off oil paintings?

1. Gentle Dusting With Soft Cloth

To ensure this method is effective, analyze the nicotine stains first. stains of ash and dirt are also caused by nicotine that can be made if someone mistakenly dropped the cigarette ash above the print. For dusting, you gonna need a soft cloth piece or a damp microfiber cloth piece. Avoid hard cloth pieces such as nylon.

Dish soap can be used as a complement to remove tougher stains from the art print. In the case of acrylic and watercolor art prints, unvarnished prints must not be cleaned with dish soap because they are not completely water-resistant.

Effectiveness: 5 Out of 10

Note: Dusting method is only recommended for removing loose dirt and debrit out of the print's surface.

2. Using Soap and Water Solutions

A laundry stain-removing bar is the best option for removing nicotine stains from prints. A regular laundry bar can also be effective but you don’t need to rub the bar against the print’s surface. Another thing you need is fresh and clean water.


  • Soap or laundry bar
  • Clean water
  • Microfiber cloth


The method is just simple. Use a knife to peel off some of the soap or bar. Put some parts in a bowl, add a little amount of water, and make a solution of water and laundry bar. The solution must contain enough amount of soap so it can work well. After preparing an answer, you have to dip the microfiber cloth into it and start cleaning the surface of the print. Don’t apply too much pressure and always test the solution on a small area of the print to see the results.

Effectiveness: 7 Out of 10

3. Using Vinegar Solution

White vinegar is a perfect cleaning agent to remove the nicotine stains from a print but there you need to be a little worried about the surface because the surface of the print does not have enough thickness like canvas. I recommend using the vinegar solution on a small part first to ensure the safety of your artwork.


  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • container
  • Clean cloth piece


Take a clean jar or any container in which you can put white vinegar and water in equal amounts. Now, analyze the print to check the nicotine stains. Drip some drops of the solution onto a clean cloth piece and start cleaning stains. It is best to check the effects of the solution before you start cleaning.

Effectiveness: 7 Out of 10

4. Using a soft plastic eraser

There is no wonder that a plastic eraser contains cleaning properties that are used to remove the marks of a lead pencil but the same cleaning property can be used here as well to remove nicotine from a print.

To start with the procedure, first look at the areas of nicotine stains, surface dust, and discoloration. To analyze the print properly, use a flashlight to find the spots of nicotine. Use a soft cleaning eraser to remove the surface dust by lightly rubbing it through all the areas of the surface. You can dip the whole print inside the water solution to remove excessive stains as well. At last, let the print dry.

Effectiveness: 6 Out of 10

5. Using Isopropyl Alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol can be effective for stains, especially nicotine and cigarette smoke stains. Its strength is also so much that prints cannot hold their original form if you use it without diluting it. You can add water to reduce the power of the alcohol.

Note: Isopropyl alcohol is toxic to inhale so make sure to use it in a well ventilatted area and wear a face mask for protection. 


  • Water
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • clean cloth piece


Dilute the alcohol and then apply some drops on a clean cloth piece. Now, gently blot the stained area with a cloth piece. Avoid rubbing the print surface with bare hands. The procedure can be repeated again until you get desired results.

Effectiveness: 8 Out of 10

How the nicotine stains look like

How to remove nicotine stains from a print - How the nicotine stains look like?
Nicotine stains | Image Credit: Pixabay | Licensed Under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Nicotine stains are just yellowish and brown discolorations that appear on the surface of prints. They are even noticeable and the amount of these stains depends upon several factors such as the amount of tobacco or smoke, ventilation, and also the cleanliness.

You may have noticed that art galleries store their paintings in a special room that is away from all the other rooms in which people are not allowed to enter. In this way, they can keep their prints and paintings away from dust, sunlight, nicotine, and cigarette smoke. This is also not a good practice to smoke or let anyone smoke in front of your artwork.

You may want to read: How to clean an oil painting from cigarette smoke?

How to save prints from nicotine?

No wonder nicotine stains are like a disease for prints and paintings. Most beginners don’t come to know the reasons behind the discoloration of their artworks. So, they suffered a lot in finding the reasons. To reduce all the tensions, we have come up with 5 easy ways to save your prints from nicotine stains in advance. Go through these ways and try to implement them if you want to get rid of these stubborn stains in the future as well.

  1. Practice a clean and ventilated workplace to reduce the risk of contamination.
  2. Place an exhaust fan inside your studio or near the place where your prints have been displayed to filter the air and remove any traces of smoke.
  3. Don’t allow the sunlight to hit the print directly because that can cause discolorations as well.
  4. Use a no-smoking sign to keep people from smoking inside your studio or area where prints have been displayed.
  5. Varnish your art print to apply a protective layer from nicotine stains.


My print is very dark, is this because of nicotine stains?

If the print was much lighter before and now it is darker then it must be because of cigarette smoke. It is also very common that the print will turn darker due to constant cigarette smoke.

Can a varnished print become darker or yellowish due to nicotine smoke?

Yes, a varnished print can also become darker or yellowish but the plus point is that you would not have to worry about a lower surface. The yellowish or darker surface can be removed and re-varnished.

Final Words

In conclusion, nicotine stains can be removed by using a variety of methods but it is also important to implement some methods in advance to save your art prints from these stains. There are several effective methods to remove nicotine stains from a print. Gentle dusting with a soft cloth piece, using a water and soap solution, vinegar solution, soft plastic eraser, and isopropyl alcohol all are the various options for the removal of nicotine stains but it is recommended to use laundry bar and water solution for effective results.

To prevent nicotine stains in the future, maintain a clean work area, utilize an exhaust fan, avoid direct sunlight, and also applying a protective layer of varnish. By all the given methods, we ensure the safety of prints from stubborn nicotine stains. Thanks!

Read More:

Leave a Reply