Cleaning Nicotine From Light Bulbs and Fixtures

Cleaning nicotine from light bulbs and fixtures is a vital step. Light bulbs and fixtures with tar build up release smoke smell when they get warm. As a result, anytime you have the lights on an increased amount of odor is being released.

An Easy to Overlook Problem

nicotine stained bulb

Light bulbs and fixtures are a very easy to overlook item when cleaning. Because they get warm, they are especially important in efforts to eliminate cigarette smoke odor.

As you remove the odor from the rest of the home, the lights are spewing odor back into your home! Cleaning nicotine from light bulbs and fixtures has to be done.  Replacing all of the bulbs in your home is a quick and easy early win.

Replace Bulbs Early

I recommend replacing all the light bulbs in your home with some cheap, basic bulbs early in the cleaning process.

Through the cleaning process they will continue to absorb smoke and tar already in the home. As a result, you should think about replacing them again once you have made good progress on carpets, walls, ceilings, and furniture. If you would normally use more expensive bulbs such as dimmable bulbs, this would be a good time to switch back to those.

Clean Fixtures

Fixtures themselves should be washed thoroughly.  Many glass and plastic parts of fixture covers can be washed in the dishwasher with soap and vinegar.  

Hand Wash

You should scrub the remaining light fixtures with equal parts hot water and vinegar, and a few drops of soap. Soak them in hot water and vinegar if possible. Since the tar and nicotine buildup has had so much exposure to heat, it may take a lot of exposure to heat in order to clean it off. Soaking in hot water is the easiest way to accomplish this.

Most light fixtures are a reasonable size to consider isolating them in a plastic tote with an odor absorbing solution as described in our our Odor Absorption Techniques article.


Cleaning nicotine from light bulbs and fixtures might seem like a small piece of the puzzle, but it plays a major role. Being next to a source of heat means the lights are taking in and also releasing a lot of odor. Do not overlook this step!