How do I get this stuff off of my walls?
June 18, 2015 6:33 PM   Subscribe

Something sticky has formed tiny droplets on the wall.

I washed the wall with a sponge mop. I didn't do a very good job because something invisible at the time dripped down. Now there are streaks marks and at the end of each there's a drop of something yellow and sticky. I have no idea what it is but it was clearly originally all over the walls. It's about the consistency of coke if it was dehydrated or that clear stuff that is some times used to close boxes but which is easily removed. It seems as if it would be easy to remove if it came of so readily the first time. It cannot be removed with soap, amonia, scrubbing, baking soda, or salt. But if I scratch it it's easily removed. Unfortunately this wall is textured and I think that has made the situation worse because these stuff is attached to the nooks. There are more than 100 drops of it all over the place and I do not want to put in the maual effort to remove it. Any suggestions?
posted by ksaklingon to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is this in the kitchen? Could be cooking grease. Is this a new to you place? Could be nicotine from a former person. Best route may be to paint over with something like Killz to deal it off.
posted by kellyblah at 6:36 PM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was thinking nicotine from smoking, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:44 PM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

I also thought of nicotine or residue from any other substance that might have been smoked.
posted by cgg at 6:56 PM on June 18, 2015

Ughhhhhh, oh man this is bringing back memories of my first apartment. The bathroom walls were coated with this grossness exactly like you describe. It was a combination of the bathroom being immediately off the kitchen (so it got filled with cooking grease/stank), it being the "secret" smoker bathroom when people were too wussy to go get cancer outside in Chicago winters, and being the room of cat pee. It was awful. And god, as the layers of gross came off it smelled so bad, too. Like piss and cigarettes and rancid fat. I'm going to have nightmares tonight now just remembering it.

Anyway, I can tell you what did help: spraying vinegar on the walls, letting it soak, and then wiping things down with steamy wet hot (like near boiling, obviously you should wear some heavy duty gloves) rags. It took a long time to get everything, but it did eventually get clean enough to be habitable.

And that's the story of how we learned that the bathroom was actually pink and not tan.
posted by phunniemee at 7:50 PM on June 18, 2015 [13 favorites]

Yep sounds like Nicotine or kitchen grime. You'll need to thoroughly clean with TSP and than seal the walls with Kilz or Zinnser primer at least 2 coats. Let each coat dry to specifications before you paint with whatever color you want. If its a kitchen or Bathroom you'll want semi or gloss.
posted by ljesse at 8:08 PM on June 18, 2015

Sounds like surfactant leaching to me. We had a similar issue in our bathroom, which is painted a fairly saturated grey. A weeping cola appearance was exactly how I would describe it. Once we cleaned it up/scrapped it off, we were a bit more careful about keeping the humidity down, and it hasn't reappeared.
posted by Cecilia Rose at 8:22 PM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

I helped deep-clean a smoker's kitchen once and am nthing that sounds like nicotine.

I don't remember how we got it off, though.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:37 PM on June 18, 2015

It does sound like tar/nicotine residue from smoking. A bad case of it would look like this image.

I don't know of any easy method for removal, so I'll discuss my experience dealing with a houseful of the above.

My in-laws both smoked heavily indoors from about 1970-2005, and the walls and ceiling of their house was left a real problem to clean up. I found that spraying TSP (with a respirator) and then carefully sucking the liquid off the wall was very effective at sorta-removal. The problem is, the tar actually seeped into the wall over the years, migrating through the paint and into the wallboard, so that you could TSP and suck off the surface muck without too much trouble, but the result wasn't actually a clean wall, and you could then TSP again even a dozen times and get more. The underlying paint was just a total loss, there was no way to get it to look "good." The trick is to not worry about the additional passes. You need to get the surface muck off (especially anything "shiny"). This may leave the surface mottled or streaky but that's okay, as long as the surface muck is gone. The picture linked shows some of the ceiling having been "cleaned" but nothing yet done to the walls... the TSP created lots of trails down the walls, which were then later also TSP'd.

The magic recipe that worked here was Zinsser Oil-Based Cover Stain, which seals in the remaining crap. This needs to be a solid coat, you don't want any gaps in the paint, because the tar *will* migrate through to discolor a water/latex based paint. I found a HVLP paint sprayer worked best, but, boy, the overspray sucked. The oil-based primer is a tough customer, though, and normal latex interior paint won't adhere well to it, so then you have to go and prime that as well, possibly also sanding and wiping down with TSP. I got away using a combination latex primer/paint, Zinsser Ceiling Paint. This produced a very white result and after several months there's no sign of any bleed through.
posted by jgreco at 2:36 AM on June 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

We had this happen in our bathroom - it was residue from old wallpaper seeping through the paint.
posted by Verdandi at 3:59 AM on June 19, 2015

I also had this is a bathroom from wallpaper adhesive. I used to have to wash down the walls with water and a big sponge, rinsing frequently. Tried various cleaners to no good effect.
posted by theora55 at 10:10 AM on June 19, 2015

I agree with the tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) solution and Killz. Wear gloves and you may have to repeat. Also, if you aren't already, clean the walls from the bottom up so the trail of grossness doesn't run down the walls. Good luck!
posted by haunted by Leonard Cohen at 11:55 AM on June 19, 2015

Response by poster: I did not mention it originally but my house is adobe, which is significant because you cannot use primer or paint the walls.

I used tsp (from bottom to top as suggested) which cleaned the walls in general. However tsp was not effective on the nicotine/grease lumps. Rinsing the walls with bleach was helpful to restore the walls to their original color. To remove the nicotine lumps I used Mean Green Orange Champ in combination with a Orabrush Tongue Cleaner Scraper. I did not do this, but you could also try using a strong piece of tape to remove the lumps.

For those spots lumps and streaks that cannot be removed without priming and completely repainting the wall, I matched the paint color of the wall and used an artist's brush to conceal the lumps. For the streaks, I matched the paint color and painted over the streaks and then used a Woolie to blend the color into the wall.

Of course, this is only in the case of adobe walls and if you have regular dry wall or sheet rock you can probably just prime and paint over it.

the woolie from a local hardware store
orabrush which i ordered online
orange champ from the dollar store
posted by ksaklingon at 10:57 AM on September 19, 2015

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