Cleaning out the house was a monumental task. There was a ton of stuff left in the house, a sort-of gift from the previous owner who knew we would be using the house as a furnished rental so they figured we could use some of the stuff. True, glassware and some of the dishes and kitchen ware was perfectly usable after being cleaned. Less usable were the televisions in each room (and they cost $15 to dispose of), the reptile tank (sold it for $50) and the filthy chest freezer left in the pantry (scrappers grabbed it off the porch).

The old leaking fridge in the dining room had food inside dating back to the 90’s and that was the same era of the homemade pickles left in the pantry. The attic and basement areas were by far the worst as far as junk left, with piles and boxes of old memorabilia and junk. It took weeks to get it out and sorted, some donated and much discarded.

See this? This is a bedroom wall that I was cleaning on a hot summer night. Gasp. That's what nicotine looks like. Here is a tip, to get it off of old plaster walls use Krud Kutter and a mop. 

And here are a few more choice pics of the cleaning process, which took months and gallon after gallon of Krud Kutter, denatured alcohol, piles of rags and many mops and sponges.

 My biggest challenge was cleaning the nicotine off the shellac finish on the oak and chestnut trim. I tried a variety of products on this, here are my comments.

If the nicotine was not super thick, like blackened thick, Krud Kutter on paper towels worked best. It made the shellac finish shine like it was new in the dining room, which was the least smoky room in the house. It took some help from taller people to get the coffered ceiling beams cleaned but we got it done.

The living room woodwork was the worst as far as nicotine, and the fireplace had also added soot to the equation so it was double trouble. I agonized over this room for weeks, trying Krud Kutter (not strong enough), Restor-A-Finish (same), denatured alcohol and steel wool (strong enough but also removes the shellac completely but takes too long), stripper (just plain messy and obviously removed everything), and mineral spirits (worked on cleaning the grime BUT clouds the finish when it dries so I then had to go back with denatured alcohol to fix that issue). A bonus bummer to the living room wood finishes: someone had installed plastic weatherstripping covers over the windows at some point and used that sticky double sided tape they come with to adhere it right into the center of all of the window trim pieces. It was still there and when I peeled it off it also peeled the finish off down to the bare oak. So that streak ran from top to bottom of each side rail of the window trim on several of the windows. I ended up stripping the rest of the finish off those pieces of woodwork completely, no other option that I could think of to spot finish the 1/2" wide strip of bare oak. Maddening. People, don't put tape on wood finishes ever please. PLEASE.

Here's the bathroom window before and after cleaning. This one took Restor-A-Finish after Krud Kutter. The walls were Krud Kutter'ed. The upstairs bathroom was completely gutted but here is a video that shows what it looked like.

Posted on Categories : Cleaning & Restoration