Best primer to block cigarette smoke smell?

11 Replies

What’s the best type of Kilz primer (or other primer) to use on a bedroom’s walls and ceiling to permanently eliminate or cover up a smoky cigarette smell from someone who smoked in a bedroom?

I know some of the smell could also be in the carpet and pad (which is being REPLACED), so should the concrete subfloor under the pad also get coated in the same odor-blocking primer?

I’m curious on the general consensus.


Lara Fobian, Investor and Realtor

I'm going through the same situation. I just had the duct work and furnace cleaned today. The smoke is so bad that I'm giving the appliances away. B-I-N primer is the best. The painters I have talked to say that if you clean with ammonia and use the B-I-N that should take care of it. In my house when the walls are sprayed with ammonia the brown tar and nicotine run down the wall. Pretty nasty. I'm also going to use a carbon furnace filter. B-I-N recommends not to use TSP unless it's the non-detergent type as they will not guarantee the primer will stick properly and ammonia will be fine. I've used TSP for 30 years and never had a problem with any other primer or paint but never used B-I-N for smoke. I also purchased an OZONE Generator and it seems to help.

@Lara Fobian I've had good results scrubbing with a mild solution of Simple Green then latex Kilz. I did two coats of latex Kilz, maybe with oil you can do one. Like someone mentioned, the greasy brown nicotine was already dripping down the wall, when I applied simple green it was left night and day. Luckily the wall had eggshell finish already and it was easy to scrub. I would smell test the slab after pulling the flooring back. If you smell smoke, go ahead and paint before flooring goes down. You don't want to replace the floor only to smell smoke down the road.

My painter recommends Zinsser BIN shellac based primer. It is VERY loud. I had to wear a respirator to stand it.

@Lara Fobian You will likely be okay with latex kilz. Original is better and BIN is what is used on burned property to seal in the smoke smell. Wash first because you want to paint the wall, not the nicotine on the wall. You may have issues with residue in the hvac coils or vents.
@Lara Fobian I’ve used exterior paint on interior walls to seal the smoke and smell to the plaster or wall board. You can get messed up exterior paint at any paint store and see if it works for you. Good low cost option.

After cleaning I cast another vote for Zinnser BIN, it is expensive but it is the best primer for covering smells I have found. It is a shellac based primer and has a strong odor so must use respirator and have ventilation running through the house to be safe.

The bad thing about smoke is it gets in everything, literally. The appliances will stink, the light fixtures will stink when they are turned on and heat up, any residue in the vents will stink the house up. You may want to hire a company or rent a heavy duty ozone machine to run through the house for a few days also. The effect from that can be harmful also so don't go in the unit while a ozone machine is running.

@Lara Fobian we just finished a room this summer that was saturated in cig smoke, guy was a musician and this was his studio room. We washed with simple green and primed with latex kilz, two coats of regular interior paint. We added a vanilla smell to the last coat. You can get different smells if vanilla is not your thing.  Worked great.

Hey, I just moved into my first house hack after going through all this. My home was HEAVILY smoked in previously. Scrubbed everything with TSP - make sure to wipe off after water rinse. Clean rags with TSP in a bucket and repeat for what seems like a gross eternity. Kilz original 2 coats on dark wood paneling (probably unnecessary but I wasn't sure how much the color would bleed through. 1 to 2 coats of paint. $70 ozone machine from Amazon. Odebon deodorizer to mop subfloor with. Replaced all carpet and ceiling tiles. Left a couple small areas of 12" ceiling tiles (didn't paint or anything) and they don't smell. Replaced all carpet. New furnace filter with furnace scent block. Smells like a new construction house, never would know it was smoked in.

Hope this helps! It works!

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