Cigarette smoke permeates many materials of a car's interior, making it a challenge to remove the smell. This guide is about removing cigarette smoke odor from a car.
By stephanie 1
My husband and I just bought a truck and it reeks of cigarettes. We have tried everything we know of, and can't get the odor out. I sprinkled baking soda into the carpet, and even went as far as spraying my favorite perfume into the A/C vents. While this helped some, and the perfume makes the air smell nice, it hasn't eliminated it. I really need some advice.
By Steph.W from Albemarle, NC
September 7, 2009
I had the some problem, first I took the mats(vinyl) out and washed them with hot soapy and bleach water and left them in the sun to dry, I then vacuumed , washed the entire interior with a Murphy's oil soap solution (use directions on bottle if you don't feel comfortable without measuring) even slightly swiping the cloth seats,this took about 2 hours,also taking special care to double clean the windshield as this is where most of the nicotine collects. After all this I took about a cup of unused coffee grounds and spread them in an aluminum pie pan then let the car set the rest of the afternoon in the hot sun! Talk about smelling heavenly and clean, unless of course you don"t like the undertone of coffee.
My brother-in-law just got a work van that smells of cigarette smoke really bad. How can he get rid of the smell? There is no carpeting in it.
February 17, 2005
i use ODOBAN -which i get at sams. it works on all odors. eliminates odors --doesn't mask them. use it for fire damaged homes and it works great. will get any smell out and it doesn't return. great for litter box too. Eucalyptus and wildflower smell. nice clean sent
By jonesmieke 1
I would like information on removing the smell of cigarette smoke in a caravan. Thank you.
January 6, 2012
I used to smoke quite heavily and my car smelled like an overflowing ash tray. When I quit, I put lots of baking soda in the ash tray. When not in use, I left the car windows closed so the baking soda could do its magic. Change the baking soda frequently. Took about two weeks but it really worked
By Robin 1
How do I get cigarette smoke smell out of my car?
May 31, 2015
Set a small pint jar half full of white vinegar, close up the windows and leave that all night ... the vinegar will absorb any and all bad smells no matter where you find them, I promise.
I do this all the time in my home leaving several small jars of vinegar set in different areas of our house UNSEEN as this helps control cooking odors too (like the cooking cabbage smells).
My interior truck heater caught fire causing smoke damage inside. The fire department put it out with foam. What is the best way to clean interior hard surfaces? How can I clean the upholstered seats and remove the smoke odor?
By Linda from Hendersonville, NC
April 24, 2011
Most of the suggestions I have viewed below 'may' work, with the exception of using bread as an odor sponge. However, if you are looking to take an approach that will in fact *work*, then the process is simple.
Get a can of Scotchgard Fabric & Upholstery Cleaner
Follow the instructions on the label. Repeat the process again after 7 days, if necessary, depending on how bad the smoke damage is/was, you may need to apply a 3rd application after 14 days. Once you have rid yourself of the smoke smell, then it's suggested that you invest in a fabric sealer by 3M which does an excellent job at enhancing the Scotchgard Fabric & Upholstery Cleaner's sealer protection.
Armor All any plastic trim in your vehicle to augment the upholstery cleaning you have done over the past two weeks. This process will ensure a smoke free vehicle smell either for your personal use or if you plan to sell your car.
Also, an inexpensive air freshener to use if you plan to leave your car sealed and unused for an extended period of time would be to wrap some Bounce laundry softener sheets to the underside of both the driver/passenger seats and under the dash with a paper clip or by tying it into a knot around a wire (careful not to disconnect a wire if you chose one, you don't need a lot of pressure to tie them).
Best of luck!
I bought a car that was owned by a smoker. I've done a pretty good job of getting the smell of smoke out of the fabric but the heating/cooling system smells heavily of stale smoke. Anyone have any ideas of how I can 'clean' the smell? I've tried burning incense with the interior air circulation going full blast but the incense wore off and the smell of smoke is still there. Help. I'm desperate. Thanks in advance.
'Oder ban' from sam's should take care of the problem. Also charcoal granules in the ash tray or baking soda. (05/25/2005)
Take a ziplock bag place paper towels or cotton balls that have been soaked in vinegar, place it under the seat and leave the ziplock bag open overnight. This should really help. I have a daughter who smokes and I couldn't ride in teh car with her because of the smoke, she did this and it really helped! Good luck:) (05/26/2005)
Yes, try baking soda in ash tray, I had this problem
once. To me it was horrid, I obsessed till my mom
said get some vinegar in a large flat container and
place UNDER hood when engine is cooled and let it sit for as long as it can..I actually once kinda poured
on there AFTER I washed car engine at the car wash
it helps also if a cat pees and you park over it
it will take your new car smell away so try that .
Put baking soda in an old sock and toss under
a seat or two it keeps working for awhile.
There is a product "NilOdor". I've used it in my home and it seems to do a great job. You can buy it at hardware stores, drugstores, Walmarts, etc. All you need is a drop or two in the ashtray and it should do the job for you. (05/27/2005)
This should be done by everyone yearly: Turn on the air conditioner, spray Lysol disinfected spray into the grills that are located on the outside of your car, below the windshield. Run the air for a couple of minutes. Do this once a year. (05/27/2005)
There are filters in the heating/cooling systems that you can & it's recommend you do sometimes, replace. I've heard that they're in strange places such as in the back of the glove box or below dash or other silly places. Obviously, not a mechanic here. If disinfecting the system doesn't work, because it's smoke & not a fungus or mold, try finding out how to change the filters on the heating & a.c. systems. Maybe someone can elaborate on this for us. (05/27/2005)
I bought a car that also had a smell in it. I tried everything and now just carry a small bag of opened charcoal under the front seat. Charcoal also removes any smell from a plastic container. Just put a piece in and put the lid on. I keep a piece in my plastic deviled egg carrier and it never stinks. *S* Shoes etc are also a great place for a paper towel wrapped piece of charcoal. (05/28/2005)
You got the smell out of the fabric, but you will need to thoroughly clean the other surfaces (dashboard, insides of doors, etc) with a mixture of vinegar and water, or even just diluted Lysol liquid (or Mr. Clean, whatever all-purpose cleaner you prefer). You may even want to invest the money to have the car professionally detailed. Also be sure to thoroughly wash the INSIDES of all windows, as the nicotine film can build up there. Then fill the ashtray with potpourri and leave it partially open. Place new fabric softener sheets under each seat. Whenever you are parked in a garage or outdoors where you feel secure, leave the windows open and let the fresh air blow through! (06/03/2005)
By Becki in Indiana
I recently bought a car from a smoker. I took the car in for a detail and that only worked for a few months. Now the smell is back and the wife can not stand it. I read all of your comments and will definitely use all of them if I have to. Thanks (08/04/2005)
Everyone has great suggestions, but my question is are any of them permanent fixes? Or do you continuously have to clean and deodorize your car from smoke?
From the October 2005 edition of Professional Car Washing & Detailing magazine. Since cigarette/cigar/ smoke smell is an odor and not a stain, this is what I have found:
1)Foggers - They require a chemical to be discharged sending the fog into the air.The chemical fog kills bacteria, and foggers disperse chemicals into every microscopic pore of a vehicle's interior.Foggers also contain specialized products to eliminate every type of odor.
2)Ozone machine - These units have long been touted as the best option to permanently remove odors and purify the air in autos.These machines do not require chemicals and run on their own. Ozone is heavier than air. An ozone machine requires the oxygen (O2) levels to be turned changed to O3. Air quickly returns to O2 within a home and much quicker in a car.
3)Vapor steamer machines - Very high-end shops use these units, which can clean just about any surface.The attraction is that they can clean and deodorize all surfaces extremely well and cut chemical use by about 25 percent. Also, the surfaces are left virtually dry and chemical-free. Vapor systems use high-temperature (240-298 degrees) water vapor and pressure to clean and sanitize virtually any surface. Hard to clean areas such as cracks, crevices, deep cavities, and air ducts are easily cleaned with minimal effort. Previously inaccessible places can be easily cleaned and sanitized using this process. Surfaces are dry within minutes. A vapor steamer machine easily penetrates air vents, crevices in engine compartments, under seats, door jams and headliners. There is no better method for completely removing tobacco smoke film and eliminating bacteria driven odors.
I hope this will be of some help to those of us used car buyers who inherited a smoke smelling car. (12/29/2005)
If you know someone handy, like my husband, you can take the fronts off the the air conditioner vents and clean inside w/ vinegar. If this doesn't work someone VERY handy can take off the dashboard and clean inside. (01/25/2006)
Whatever you do, *don't* spray it with anything chemical like Lysol -- that only adds to the greater, long-run problems. (Cigarette smoke itself is made up of chemicals, so why add more to the interior air?)
If you get the car detailed, try to find a place that uses as few chemical cleaners as possible.
If you have access to an allergy or health food store, ask for a non-chemical enzyme spray that will neutralize the chemicals' VOCs. These are usually advertised as pet-smell fighters but they work with varying degrees of success on other odors.
I've washed the interior of my car with baking soda water, kept the inside of the windows wiped down with vinegar water, and used lava-rock bags and an ozonator. These aren't one-time fixes -- you have to keep at it because the chems in cig smoke are so pervasive.
Oh, and keep the windows open (at least cracked) whenever you can. Nuthin' like fresh air, and the price is right.
Good luck! (02/04/2006)
Never put Lysol in any thing that will circulate air. It is a harmful chemical. It needs time to dissipate. (02/28/2006)
Some one said, "spray Lysol disinfected spray into the grills that are located on the outside of your car, below the windshield. Run the air for a couple of minutes. Do this once a year"
NO NO NO I did this at home and my son became asthmatic and I had to replace all the air ducts in my home. Too costly for health (02/28/2006)
Put dryer sheets under the seats, works in 2 weeks. (03/21/2006)
"There are filters in the heating/cooling systems that you can & it's recommend you do sometimes, replace. I've heard that they're in strange places such as in the back of the glove box or below dash or other silly places. Obviously, not a mechanic here. If disinfecting the system doesn't work, because it's smoke & not a fungus or mold, try finding out how to change the filters on the heating & a.c. systems. Maybe someone can elaborate on this for us."
They're called cabin filters, (yes)they usually are located behind the glove box. I would recommend bringing your car to a local mechanic shop before selling it if you do smoke and have this filter changed, the difference is great. I'm just glad I'm a mechanic, because i will only pay part cost on that job :) good luck (03/28/2006)
I agree with Becky.
The reason the smell is so persistent is that the smoke tar deposits itself to all the ventilation ducts and in all interior fabric. I'd start with having the car detailed, including having all upholstery steam cleaned. Not sure how you're going to dislodge the tar in the vents though.
I cleaned out a great-uncle's apartment after both he and his wife died of emphysema, smoking in a closed apartment for 50 years. Everything was coated with a thick layer of yellow tar. When wet, it would absorb straight through the skin. It's hard to clean up.
As to cleaning up the car, just think of it as cleaning a thin layer of sticky tar off every surface, and you'll get the idea.
Try sprinkling carpets with Baking soda.
Afterwords sprinkle carpet fresh (Vanilla)
Try to leave windows cracked at all times.
I think it will be very hard to get out permanently.
~~~Good Luck~~~ (08/18/2006)
Never use dryer sheets - in fact, don't use them in the laundry. They/fabric softeners contain very harmful chemicals that cause and/or worsen existing respiratory problems. There are actual scientific studies that have found stuff such as formaldehyde in them. Skeptical? Keep a log of any respiratory problems you or others in the household have now, and in a few weeks, stop using all dryer inserts and fabric softeners. Continue logging your respiratory health, and see if there were any changes. From personal experience, rashes can also occur.
Anyways, I've heard that kitty litter soaks up odors. (02/06/2007)
Try pouring a little Febreze in the windshield washer solution already in the wiper reservoir. With the car in motion, turn on the heater or a/c and run the wipers' spray cycle a few times. Make sure the vents are set to fresh air intake, not recirculate. I've seen pouches of liquid meant for this purpose sold at Auto Zone, but I like the Febreze better. It tends to kill the smell as well as cover any lingering odors. (02/09/2007)
By Shannon K
The ozone machine is the only way. Take your car to a detail shop once a year, give them $40 and leave the car there over night. Just like new. Beats the alternatives I hear above. I guess me being a car salesman helps, I get this service free. (04/24/2007)
Change your AC filter! (06/29/2007)
There is a product called VAMOOSE, do a search and you'll find it on ebay or other places on the net.(b)VAMOOSE(/b) (10/01/2007)
Over the years, I have found a VERY simple way to get rid of tobacco odor from a car: simply park the car in the direct summer sun with the windows slightly cracked. The intense heat that builds up inside will easily volatilize the ar that has built up, and with the windows cracked, the tar-laden air inside the car will just circulate out. In order to get the tar out of the ducts, you also want to turn the fan on while the ducts are still hot from being in the sun. Although this mehod will not work in one day, you should have a pretty smoke-free car within a week or two if this is done EVERY day in a climate with strong sunlight.
Of course, this might not work too well in winter or where strong sunlight in summer is rare. But it might be possible to accomplish the same thing with an electric heater inside the car. Of course, you NEVER want to leave the car unattended while doing this, as it could cause a fire should something go wrong. Stick with the sun if you possibly can. (10/27/2007)
I read on another site about putting unused coffee grinds in a sock, knotting it and putting it under the seat. The poster said to leave it there a couple of days - we tried it and the odor goes away completely almost immediately. We only left it in over night and took it out - the next day it smelled again, so, we put the socks (we did two) back in and again - the smell is gone. So, we will keep it in for a couple of days and see what happens....try it - it is inexpensive and really did work - who cares if you need to keep the socks under the seats - as long as you don't have that smoker's smell! Good luck! (11/25/2007)
We just got a 1992 BMW imported straight from Japan. It only has 64,000km and is in immaculate condition, but it absolutely reeks of cigarette smoke so badly I was nauseous after driving it 10 minutes to get it home from where it was unloaded off the truck. After reading this post, apart from the regular shampooing of the upholstery, roof liner, etc., I'm going to try to following methods from items I luckily have in the house already:
1: The negative air ionizers produce ozone, we already started using it, but I think I forgot to run the heater and AC on 'recirculate'.
2: Instead of Vinegar will put some Peppermint oil in a bowl with water (The chemical components of peppermint oil are menthol, menthone, 1,8-cineole, methyl acetate, methofuran, isomenthone, limonene, b-pinene, a-pinene, germacrene-d, trans-sabinene hydrate and pulegone.). In the bowl I will place one of the small ultrasonic mister units that came in the decorative indoor water fountain we bought at the Gardening Center. I'll place it on the dash and run the car's heater system on recirculate.
3: I'll take some charcoal and ammonia chips for our fish tank filters and put them in the foot of old pantyhose, knot it, and place it in the ashtray, as I understand they can stink for a long time.
I'm looking for a method that will contribute to neutralizing the toxic deposits rather than masking them. To this end the maze of ducts in the heating and AC system are the most problematic to address. It would be interesting to know which products can actually neutralize all the deposits left from smoke on non porous surfaces. For example, I was just watching an ad on TV advertising a log that breaks down the deposits in your chimney if you have a wood burning fireplace to help prevent chimney fires. I was wondering if something like that could be used in other ways such as what we're discussing here. (Review is here:
If anyone wants me to post how this all worked out when I'm done, let me know. Maybe I should even write it up for our website complete with pictures if it all works out. (01/19/2008)
The best choice for cleaning a car owned by a smoker, or some other odor, is by using an ozone blaster. These are most often found at auto detailing shops, but you can also purchase units for the home that are just as effective for your car. Solving two problems simultaneously!
You can find these products at www.ecoquest.com/grow
I own a "Fresh Air" machine and it works wonders! (03/27/2008)
How to remove cigar smell from automobile interior?
Derick from MI
Go to a bakery or bake a loaf of bread yourself. You need to have the bread right out of the oven. Cut the loaf like you would if you were going to make a sandwich. Place the loaf of freshly baked bread in your car for 24 hours. The bread will absorb odors and will actually leave a pleasant scent instead. (06/10/2008)
You will have to clean everywhere the smoke touches. Ozone gets out a lot of odors, but it can dry rubber out and there is a lot of rubber in car interiors. Back when I was a mechanic, we would detail the interior. Change the cabin air filter if there was one. We would use a smoke neutralizer "Get The Smoke Out". Mist it throughout the interior. Close the windows and put the HVAC blower on high and spray the "Get the Smoke Out" into the air intake below the windshield. Shut the car off and let it sit for a few hours. It would work most of the time. (10/01/2008)
Eucalyptus. Bought a beautiful used BMW 528i, except a smoker had previously owned it. My mechanic said to use "fresh" eucalyptus leaves (4-5 sprigs). Over a period of +/-3 months of changing them every 3 weeks or so, there was no detectable odor of smoke remaining at all. But use only fresh sprigs. The next owner was never aware that a smoker had ever owned the car. I use a sprig or two occasionally in my brand new car just to keep it fresh. Good luck. John (10/06/2008)
Today a car salesman called looking for my business. Unfortunately for him I had bought a car a month ago. I mentioned to him that I was trying to get the smoke smell out of it. He told me that 40 years ago they would put simmering onions in a pot of water in the car and leave it for several hours. Back then they used a hot plate, but today a crock pot could be used. I intend to try it. He swore it works and nothing to gain by telling me. (10/08/2008)
I just had this problem with a used car I just bought for my teenager. The people we bought it from did a good job of temporarily getting rid of the smell because we didn't notice it until after we bought the car and took it home for a few days. There is a product at the pet store called Nature's Miracle. It is for removing pet odors, but works for just about any odor. Get a big bottle of it with a sprayer.
I bought a small spray bottle and ended using two of them. Test for color fastness first, there should be no problem. Then really drench the fabric in the car. You need deep penetration of the chemical. Of course you want to get the ceiling really good. You don't wipe you just let it dry. The next weekend I repeated. You will be amazed. I think the odor is permanently gone. (10/11/2008)
There is a product called "Perky Pucks". These are porous ceramic discs that do a fantastic job of absorbing odors. Home Depot carries them.
I used them in a refrigerator that had a burnt mild odor that would not come out no matter what we tried, baking soda, charcoal, detergent, nothing worked. Then we tried Perky pucks. They worked like a charm. And they are reusable forever. I have just bought a used car that has the smoke problem. I plan to use the Perky Pucks. (12/26/2008)
I put about 1/3 cup vinegar in a cup in the car, and leave it over night, then remove. The smell will dissipate as well as the smoke smell. Also, one can use scented dryer sheets. (01/06/2009)
I haven't tried this in a car, but mixing vanilla extract with hot water and sponging down all surfaces gets almost any odor out of anything. Great for dirty refrigerators. (01/31/2009)
Can someone tell me how to get the cigarette smell out of a car?
By niteagle77 from East Hampton, NY
I firmly believe in Febreeze for getting out smells. I did a foolish thing not realizing it could possibly have hurt my pet. At the time I was desperate. My dog got "skunked" and no washing, tomato juice, or anything took the smell away. I sprayed her with Febreeze while covering her mouth and nostrils. The smell disappeared entirely. I would then spray the car's seats and floors and anywhere that is padded with Febreeze. (09/26/2009)
I have a truck that my son used over the summer, working at a golf course mowing, and the truck reeks of body odor. I poured baking soda on the seat bottoms, and leaned the seats all the way back, and covered the backs as well. I even put it on the carpets. As I already had a second auto, I left the baking soda on it for 5 days. Then I took it to the car wash, and vacuumed out the baking soda. It helped wonderfully! (09/27/2009)
The car's interior smells not because of the air, but because of dirty/smokey surfaces which, in turn, make the air smell. The only real solution is a thorough, labor-intensive cleaning/detailing to get rid of the contaminants. This will probably have to to be done more than once for 100% satisfaction, but, you will notice an improvement after each cleaning.
Unfortunately, tobacco smoke has a great affinity for plastic, and there's a lot of plastic inside a car. The best product I've found for removing smoke deposits from plastic is good old-fashioned Sunlight soap. (The bar soap, not the powdered laundry detergent.)
You'll need lots of water, as hot as you can stand it, which will have to be renewed often. You'll also need an arsenal of simple cleaning tools: fingernail scrubbers, toothbrushes, Q-tip swabs, nylon pot scrubbers, "Magic Erasers," etc. It can literally take an entire weekend to really clean a car this way, and you'll be doing a lot of stooping, crouching, kneeling.
For soft surfaces, like fuzzy headliners, seats and carpets, multiple sessions with one of those "dry foam and vacuum afterward" upholstery shampoos will eventually get things pure and fresh.
I really don't put much faith in these "air freshener" solutions, whether they come from chemical spray bottles, boiling onions, or whatever. At best, they will provide only temporary relief. You need to remove the source of the odors, not just mask them. (01/21/2010)
How does one remove an acute smoke contamination from a car that was in storage for 4 to 5 years?
By Stephen from Knoxville, TN
I have had to deal with this problem twice. When buying a mattress from my mother and dad who both smoked, I
put newspapers under our sheets and changed the papers weekly. The ink in the paper will absorb the smell. It is
fool proof, but does take about 30 days of changing the papers as often as you have newspapers.
Also, once I used my Filter Queen in a car my husband bought second hand. It did the job in just one overnight use. The last suggestion is to rent an ozone machine like the ones used in motels for removing smoke from the rooms. (02/23/2010)