5 Best Paints to Cover Cigarette Smoke (And Make Your Home Look And Smell Beautiful Again)

If you’ve just bought or otherwise come into a new home, congratulations!

That’s amazing. What a milestone, but as you probably are aware, you’re about to enter one of the most stressful aspects of modern life...preparing and then moving into a house.

With a certain amount of elbow grease, it’s all possible, but a persisting problem people encounter is the lingering scent and stain of cigarette smoke in the walls.

Tobacco isn’t just awful for our health, it signs its sickly yellow signature on everything around it.

Don’t panic, though. You’ve got plenty on your plate at the moment. We’re going to unburden you by reviewing five of the best paints for dealing with these ghostly remnants of nicotine.

These formulas are the best in the biz for tackling both the sight and smell of stains left by cigarette smoke.

Moving in Date Approaching Fast?

Get your overalls on! Here’s our top pick for speedy checkout, so you can get the job done immediately.

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OUR TOP PICK

Zinsser 00904 B-I-N Pigmented Shellac Primer-Sealer & Stain Killer, White, 1 Quart

Our number one paint is nothing short of miraculous. It’s Zinsser’s flagship stain vanishing magic potion.

It does everything you’d expect of those custard-thick heavy-duty primers, but without their viscosity.

Despite the excellent coverage B-I-N provides, it’s a very thin formula perfect for spraying.

It also levels out magnificently if you’re using a roller, so you won’t have any problems with excessive stippling, and what’s more, it’s the fastest curing paint on our list.

This stuff is workable within the hour!

What makes this primer so special is its shellac base. Shellac is produced by the lac bug, an insect native to India and Thailand.

It’s such an effective shield, it was used in electronics as an insulator to keep moisture out, so stains from cigarette smoke really don’t stand a chance.

It’s also one of the most effective substances for odor suppression, making it the perfect solution to a once smokey household.

If we’re being picky, there’s one aspect of this paint we’d change, and that’s the smell.

This stuff can stink pretty bad for up to two hours before it starts to slowly fade, but as soon as you lay down your top coat, thankfully, it locks the scent in.

Pros

  • Thin consistency, yet does the job of a thick formula.

  • Sprayable if you want a quicker job.

  • Levels out wonderfully so no streaks.

  • Reaches a working dry in under an hour so you can be back in the room quickly. 

  • Awesome odor suppression

  • Shellac base creates an opaque covering

Cons

  • Has a very pungent smell

EDITORS CHOICE

KILZ Restoration Maximum Stain and Odor Blocking Interior Latex Primer/Sealer, White, 1-gallon

Our number two pick is the ultimate healing and rejuvenation serum.

Consider it a spa day for your butter yellow walls.

Typically, more viscous oil paints are required for blocking stubborn stains.

But Kilz patented formula replicates the consistency of oil and shellac paints using a low odor, water base.

Dry to the touch in as little as 30 minutes, and attaining a working dry in just an hour.

You’ll really appreciate this formula if you want to get the job done efficiently, and it covers between 3000 and 4000 square feet per gallon.

This restorative paint potion physically seals in the old surface, blocking both stain and smell, but it’s not just capable of erasing the touch of tobacco smoke.

It’s capable of tackling even worse wall ailments such as water damage or layers of grease.

Kilz Restoration can even be used to eliminate animal odors too.

It’s not the cheapest paint in the world, but it’s one of the best mixtures for the job and won’t let you down.

You can use it on cement flooring, brick walls...pretty much anything, and it will annihilate those lingering smells.

Pros

  • Water-based

  • Completely seals in stains and odors so any lingering cigarette smell will be gone. 

  • Leaves great foundation for top-layer paints

  • Can cover a host of hard to stifle stains and scents

  • Can be used on loads of tough surfaces

  • Dries a brilliant white

  • A little goes a long way

Cons

  • A premium product that does the job so you'll find a price tag to match.

BEST VALUE

Zinsser 03504 Cover Stain Interior/Exterior Oil Primer Sealer, 1-Quart, White

Our third smoke stripper is another primer and sealer solution that works wonders on xanthous-tinged walls.

Oil-based, this viscous paint offers an unmatched opacity, coat for coat, making short work of smoke or water damage.

Despite 03504 being oil-based itself, it’s one of the best primers on the market for preparing walls already covered in difficult oil-based finishes.

A couple of coats of this Zinsser formula will give your top paint incredible adhesion.

It is known to separate after periods of inactive, the oil rising to the surface of the can.

But after a good stir, so reliable and heavy-duty is this primer, that you don’t even need to sand surfaces prior to application.

What’s more, Cover Stain is one of the easiest oil-based primers to sand once dry.

Our one caveat is that because it’s so thick, this paint really doesn’t atomize all that well, so it’s not particularly suitable for spraying.

Even with a roller, you need to be quite delicate with this stuff as its viscosity can cause some prominent stippling.

Pros

Cons

  • Not suitable for spraying
  • Mix separates when idle

RUNNER UP

Prestige Paints Interior Paint and Primer in One, Comparable Match of Behr* Intercoastal Gray*, Satin, 1 Gallon

Our penultimate option for you is a primer and top paint all in one.

That extra layer of defense a dual function paint provides will help to keep cigarette smells at bay and that milky yellow stain from resurfacing.

It’s acrylic water-based paint, but it’s been specially formulated to reduce VOCs, so you can paint your home safely.

Acrylic-based paints are also easy to clean off your skin and painting gear.

Just use hot soap and water and everything’s good as new.

Prestige Paint’s Interior Paint is incredibly smooth and thick, with a consistency reminiscent of warm butter, which means it’s going to get great coverage with a solid opacity over any cigarette smoke stains.

Pair it with one of our top three primers, and it will be as if nobody ever lit a single cigarette in the room.

Two-in-one formulas can be a little too thick to work with straight out of the can, and this stuff’s no exception, but it can work in your favor.

When covering stains, the thicker the better.

If you do want a thinner, more workable viscosity, simply give it a good stir.

Prestige Paints isn’t a massively reputable company, but they’re on their way up.

Right now they sell some of the best value for money paint around, matching the quality of renowned and pricey brands.

Pros

  • Two-in-one solution gives you an extra line of defense

  • Very thick, but can be thinned via stirring

  • Low VOCs

  • Sensationally smooth finish

  • Easy to clean off gear and skin

  • Accurate colors

Cons

  • Touch dry takes an hour.
  • Working dry takes four hours

RUNNER UP

Jolie Paint - Premier Chalk Finish Paint - Matte Finish Paint for Furniture, cabinets, Floors, Walls, Home Decor and Accessories - Water-Based, Non-Toxic - Rose Quartz - 32 oz (Quart)

Our final smoke suppressor is completely water-based and, but for a very small amount of VOCs, is completely non-toxic.

It’s also the first chalk paint on our list. Chalk paint is lovely and thick and provides a nice lightly textured finish.

Another fantastic thing about Jolie chalk paint is that it’s odor-free and requires little to no prep.

Meaning you won’t have to sand your primer before application, and the more primer you have between the stain and the room, the better.

Much like some of our other picks, this is quite an expensive paint, so it may not be a realistic option for large rooms or a whole house.

But it’s perfect for use in those problem areas where an old occupant used to smoke.

This may be the last pick on our list, but what it has that the others don’t is a massive repertoire of colors to choose from

So no matter what you’re envisioning for your new home, Jolie Paints can facilitate it.

Pros

  • Non-toxic and low VOCs
  • Washes off with soap and water

  • Odorless formula

  • Nice and thick

  • Available in a ton of awesome colors

  • Requires no sanding or priming (although we highly recommend two layers of prime to fight smoke stains)

Cons

  • Comes with a premium price tag.

Buyer’s Guide

Paint seems simple, doesn’t it? But that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s chemistry, each solution made up of differing and diverse ingredients that mingle and merge with one another in a myriad of surprising ways.

So, to help you find the right concoction for your smoky problem, let’s discuss some of the qualities you should be looking for in paint.

Budget

It’s always good to shop around for a bargain, but when it comes to paint, you need to be careful. Cheaper formulas tend to be too thin, requiring up to four or five coats to cover another underlying shade.

By the time you’ve finished your whole room, you’re likely to have spent almost as much on multiple cheap cans as you would have on one or two quality mixes.

If you’re trying to conquer a wall that looks like it’s smoked sixty a day for the past forty years, cheap paint just won’t cut it. We’d recommend setting aside around $40 per quart of paint.

Preparation

Before you start slingin’ paint, it’s important that you prepare the problem surface to ensure maximum adhesion. You can do this by scrubbing down with a strong cleaning agent.

The goal is to reduce the strength of the stain, remove any other problems such as mold or mildew, and diffuse some of the residual odor.

Base

Paints and primers are usually water or oil-based.

Both can be effective in covering cigarette smoke stains, but there are variants in each type of base that are more suited to the task than others

Water-Based

Water-based paints are almost always mixed using latex binders, but there are a few different kinds of latex binders to choose from. There’s styrene acrylic, often used as a primer on masonry due to its resistance to chalking and alkali burns.

You can also find vinyl acrylic paints (PVA) mostly used for interior walls due to their being washable and scrub resistant. But the best latex paint for your situation is 100% acrylic paint.

Full acrylic paint provides unparalleled coverage, has fade-resistant qualities, amazing wet and dry adhesion, and is resistant to alkali and efflorescence.

It’s normally associated with external uses, but for tackling those nasty smoke stains, it’s absolutely perfect.

Oil-Based

Oil-based paints (Alkyd) are mixed using a variety of different oils, Linseed oil, soya oils, and tung oil to name a few.

To reduce VOCs many oil-based products today are now made with modified oil binders. These are called oil emulsion paints.

Oil-based paint has a far superior flow to its water-based counterpart, meaning it spreads easily and levels in a pristine manner.

Latex paints are the typical go-to product for covering smoke stains, but oil paints and primers are a fair bit thicker, so they can be helpful too.

Shellac-Based

Shellac-based paint is your absolute best bet for stain coverage and stench reduction. It’s UV-resistant, water-resistant, and odor trapping.

A couple of layers of this kind of paint and you can breathe easy and enjoy a visually pleasing environment.

Viscosity

Viscosity refers to a paint’s consistency. Normally, high viscosity paints are preferable for covering stains for obvious reasons: the more paint on the wall, the smaller the chance that the stain will eventually penetrate it.

That said, depending on the paint’s mixture, it may not need to be as thick. Take our number one B-I-N choice for instance.

It’s roughly half as thick as its oil-based Zinsser sibling in the third spot, yet due to advanced pigmentation and a shellac base, it’s perfectly fine the way it is.

Pigment

Paints also contain different pigments, and some are better than others. Pigment is what defines a paint’s opacity or hide.

Hide refers to the ability of a paint to obscure the previous layers of paint. Being that you’re battling some gnarly cigarette smoke stains, hide is the name of the game!

If you’re serious about ousting those ghoulish marks, you should be looking for paint that uses titanium dioxide as a primary pigment.

Titanium dioxide is brilliant white that imbues any paint it’s mixed into with unparalleled hide. Paint and primer containing this wonder ingredient can run a little pricey, but that’s because it’s the best.

Two-in-One Vs Individual

Let’s preface this by mentioning that whether you get a primer/paint hybrid or not, an initial couple of coats with a strong primer and sealant is essential for covering aggressive stains.

There’s really no point in trying to paint straight over with a top coat. The stain will win out.

Once you’ve sufficiently primed your problem area, you can decide whether to choose a strictly top coat paint, or a dual function paint/primer.

As long as your primer has fully sealed in the stain, you can use either, but a hybrid paint does give you an extra layer of protection against both the odor and stain.

Matching Your Primer and Top Coat

Some paints just don’t get on, so it’s vital you check that any top coat paint is compatible with your primer or vice versa.

If the paints don’t work well together, it will affect adhesion, hide, curing duration, and the overall finish.

Odor Reduction

Piling on the layers of hardcore primer will certainly cover the stains, and it may cover odor to a certain extent, but to truly dissipate that ripe smell, you’re going to need something special.

There are paints currently available with odor-eating qualities. Antimicrobial agents within the mix absorb and stifle odors from the substrate, leaving you with a fresh-smelling room. Perfect!

VOCs

VOC stands for volatile organic compounds and they are everywhere! It’s practically impossible to avoid them entirely in modern life, but they don’t cause any problems unless you’re overexposed to them.

Almost all paint features some level of VOC emission. As long as the room is ventilated, they shouldn’t cause a problem.

Heavy VOC paints, on the other hand, do put you at risk. Extended exposure to a high concentration of VOCs can damage your organs and nervous system.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does painting remove smoke smell?

To a certain degree, but once the smell of the paint dies down, the smell of the smoke will once again be prevalent.

It’s best to use paints with antimicrobial agents in their mixture. These will absorb and nullify odors. If you can’t find any paint like that, it’s best to use a primer/sealant that will lock the smell in.

What’s the best paint for covering cigarette smoke stains?

The best would be a shellac-based mixture with a nitrogen dioxide primary pigment.

Does vinegar clean nicotine off walls?

Undiluted white vinegar can help to reduce some of the more stubborn stains.

You could also try a mix of water and vinegar to lift some of the lighter areas.

Final Thoughts

It may seem like a hassle having to shop around for specialist paint, but it’s actually a blessing in disguise. Now you have direction in a highly saturated market, a compass to navigate an endless torrent of shades and mixtures.

There’s still a lot of small print reading to be done on the back of every can you consider, but keep some of our advice in mind and you’ll find what you need in no time. 

Last update on 2021-06-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API