Washing a Textured Ceiling (To Get Rid of Smoke Residue)

Updated on November 01, 2012
A.K. asks from Minneapolis, MN
8 answers

We moved into our house 6 years ago. The previous owners smoked in their office, which is now baby's room. We repainted the walls when we moved in. Now that it's winter and the house is shut up tight, I can sometimes smell the lingering oder in her room! UGH! I hate smoke. Also, I run a humidifier when she has a cold or cough and it seems to make the smell a little worse.

I want to wash and possibly paint the ceiling. It is a textured ceiling, but not popcorn. It's more like someone put a splat of white goop on the ceiling and smeared it around with a flat tool. It looks ok, but I am afraid it will break off when I get it wet. Once time I stuck a star on it and when I took it off to move it somewhere else, a circle of the ceiling texture broke off with it. So I know it's a little thin and fragile.

Any ideas of what I should use to clean the ceiling? Vinegar and water? Any tips?


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answers from Portland on

I suggest that you paint it. Painting over the smell will cause the smell to go away. I doubt that you can wash it. Getting it wet will cause the stuff to break up.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Wichita Falls on

You will never completely get rid of the smoke smell, I know I've tried. I would scrape off the ceiling. It's not as hard as it sounds (unless you have 12 foot ceilings), they make a tool that is a scraping edge with a place to attach a bag that will collect most of what you scrape off. Just test the material first, it might have asbestos (though unlikely if built after 1980). You can re-texture then and use Kilz to cover any leftover smoke residue.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Fargo on

Don't wash it! My husband has had to repair several textured ceilings that homeowners have attempted to wash. Good for our business, bad for homeowners. :)

I would have it professionally cleaned or try painting it, as Marda suggested. I can ask my husband and then PM you with his advice, if you like!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Ocala on

You will have a mess on your hands if you try to wash it. I would recommend you use a good sealing primer such as Kilz and repaint. Talk to your paint professional (at a real paint store, not a big box store)and let them know exactly what the issue is, they will gladly assist you in the proper choices.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

I think painting it is your best bet.
You'll need a thick roller (or paint gun) and give it a few coats - 2 or 3 (let dry completely between coats).
Might as well re-paint the walls if you are going to paint the ceiling.
Use a mildew resistant paint.
What do you have for flooring in the room?
When we removed carpet from a bedroom in our old house, we found cigarette butts underneath the carpet pad - gross!
The prior owners were heavy smokers (but that had to come from when it was installed) and the carpet and pad beneath it smelled horrible no matter how we tried to clean it.
Removing it and then cleaning the floor beneath it solved that problem.
Don't forget to clean window treatments - drapes, blinds, etc.
Eliminating smoke residue is not easy.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Albuquerque on

I would actually suggest scraping it. If you get it damp with a spray bottle and take a large scraper to it, you can remove most of the texture and then paint.



answers from Portland on

There's a primer called Kilz that completely seals previous paint against color leakage – it may help seal smells, too. But it contains toxic volatiles itself, so must be allowed to dry completely before you'd want to move a baby into the room.

The only other treatments I've heard give at least some relief are to rent an ozone machine for a day (again, air the room thoroughly afterward), or sandblasting with baking soda, which will actually take off layers of old paint and other surface contaminants. It may not work for all surfaces.

For lower-impact treatment that may still help somewhat, both baking soda and vinegar might help. Apply them separately, or they will foam furiously while they cancel each other out. You might try spraying a concentrated soda mix first, let it dry, then spray with vinegar and let them react right on the ceiling, then wipe the residue off.



answers from Madison on

Honestly, you might be better off buying that odor eliminating paint and repainting it.

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