Cleaning Guides

How to Remove Nicotine Stains from uPVC Window Frames

Have you ever had to move to a new place in a short amount of time only to find out that the previous occupant was a smoker? Not only does the place smell of cigarettes, but all the surfaces are covered with nicotine and tar stains. Especially the windows. This can literally turn your bright and sunny day into a nicotine-coloured nightmare.

So, if you are:

  • a smoker or someone who has relatives who smoke
  • someone who has rented a flat from a smoker
  • someone who has bought a house from a smoker
  • someone who often burns combustibles in the fireplace
  • someone who was affected by a house fire

…then this article is for you!

Table of Contents:

Why is removing nicotine and tar stains important?

Even if you’re not a smoker yourself, living in a space where the surfaces are covered with “tar” (total aerosol residue) can still negatively affect your health and the well-being of your children.

These stains are also known as third-hand smoke. Although there is no actual smoke present, research shows that exposure to third-hand smoke can be as hazardous as being exposed to second-hand smoke. What’s more, the consequences could be even more detrimental to children due to their proximity to the stained surfaces.

Cigarettes are not the only culprit that can leave such stains. Burning wood in the fireplace can have the same negative effect on the human body, if the smoke residue is not frequently cleaned.

So for your convenience, we have compiled a list with a few ways you can easily tackle this problem.

Items to avoid in the interest of preventing further damage

Removing nicotine and tar stains from anything usually requires a lot of elbow grease. But before you roll up your sleeves and start cleaning, there are certain things you need to consider. For example, there are certain tools and detergents you cannot use if you want to avoid inflicting more damage to the surface and make the stains harder to wash:

  • Cream detergents like Cif and Jif: They are slightly abrasive and may remove the shiny coat of the uPVC frames.
  • Bleach: It is a strong solution which can discolour the window frames or even worse – leave brown stains if left for too long.
  • White spirits, nail varnish remover, WD40 or methylated spirits: These are very strong chemicals, which can destroy the surface of the window frames.
  • Scouring pads, scourers, or wire wool: This goes without saying. All of these cleaning tools are abrasive and will damage the polished finish of the uPVC frames.

With those items out of the way, let’s see what equipment is suitable for this kind of task.

Materials and supplies you will need

  • Gloves
  • Bucket
  • Spray bottle
  • Squeegee
  • Lint-free cloth
  • A non-abrasive sponge or a rag
  • Dust mask
  • Ammonia
  • Water
  • White distilled vinegar
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Glass cleaner
  • Eraser sponge or melamine foam
  • Essential oils (optional)

How to remove nicotine and tar stains from uPVC window frames

So, how do you clean nicotine off uPVC? The most popular recipes include ammonia, white distilled vinegar and baking soda. If you want to learn how to clean and whiten uPVC window frames, just follow any of these three methods.

Method #1 – Ammonia

  1. Put on the gloves and the dust mask. They will limit your exposure to the ammonia and its fumes.
  2. Mix ½ cup of ammonia in 1 gallon of warm water in a bucket or a spray bottle. You can also try a different ratio, which is 1 cup ammonia per 2½ gallons of water, if you want the detergent to be more diluted.
  3. Spray the mixture on the window frames. Alternatively, you can dampen and wring out a non-abrasive sponge or an old rag and apply the solution directly onto the window frame.
  4. Wipe the windows with a squeegee.
  5. Spritz glass cleaner on the frames.
  6. Wipe with a lint-free cloth to remove any remaining residue and streaks.
If you’re using a bucket, make sure to frequently change the homemade solution. Otherwise, it will quickly get contaminated with nicotine and tar the more you rinse your sponge.
Exposure to high concentrations of ammonia can hurt your eyes and nose, as well as damage your throat and respiratory tract.

Method #2 – White Distilled Vinegar

  1. Mix 1 cup of white vinegar and 1 cup of water in a spray bottle. If you don’t want your solution to be so concentrated, mix 1 part vinegar with 2 parts water.
  2. Add dishwashing liquid or essential oils to mask the smell.
  3. If the stains are persistent, apply undiluted vinegar on the dirty spots and leave it for a few minutes.
  4. Spray the windows and scrub with a non-abrasive sponge or a rag.
  5. Spritz glass cleaner on the frames and wipe any remaining tar residue from the uPVC frames with a lint-free cloth.
This method is also used when cleaning nicotine off tinted windows.

Method #3 – Baking Soda

  1. Spray the stains with glass cleaner. Leave the commercial detergent for 5 minutes, while you proceed with the next step.
  2. Fill half a bucket with hot water. Add 1 cup of white distilled vinegar and 1 cup of baking soda.
  3. Soak and wring out a non-abrasive sponge or a clean old rag and wipe the dirty surface.
  4. If the stains prove more difficult to remove, use an eraser sponge (melamine foam).
  5. Wipe any nicotine stains and melamine foam residue with a lint-free cloth.
These homemade detergents can also be used to clean smoke-damaged mirrors.

Hire a professional

Removing nicotine stains is no easy task. Scrubbing away all of the accumulated dirt, while trying not to damage your uPVC window frames is even more time-consuming than regular window cleaning. That’s why we offer window cleaning services that will save you time and money by tackling such difficult jobs. The certified specialists have experience with different types of windows and use only eco-friendly cleaning techniques.

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  • Don’t use any harsh or abrasive creams or tools.
  • Always wear safety gear when working with strong chemicals.
  • Be careful when handling ammonia, because it can damage your body if it directly touches your skin or if you inhale it.
  • Routinely clean your windows to prevent the accumulation of any harmful particles.
  • Use air purifiers or air out the house on a regular basis.


We hope you found our guide on how to remove nicotine stains from uPVC window frames helpful. Share your experience in cleaning tar stains or ask your questions in the comment section below!

Image source: Shutterstock / photorawjpg

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