How to get smoke smell out of your car

Whether you’re a car trader who’s bought a car sight unseen due to it being a great deal, or you’re a long-term smoker, lingering smoke smell is a common issue. If the car’s interior has been exposed to cigarette smoke for a prolonged period of time, it might prove rather difficult to neutralize.

Cigarette smoke is a complex compound of chemicals, i.e. gases, that give its unpleasant smell. Due to its constitution, it can be pretty hard to eliminate completely, especially as second hand smoke tends to get in every nook and cranny of the car cabin.

The best cure is prevention, so if you’ve just bought a new car or only recently started smoking in your car, then you should consider getting a Car Air Purifier to help trap the smoke smell and prevent it from getting into all areas of your car.

However, if it’s too late, in this article we show you how you can effectively remove smoke odor from your car. We’ve included the best DIY solutions that you can apply right away, and if none of that works, we’d recommend getting a car air purifier and using that to help eliminate the smell.

Let’s get started.

Deep Clean the Car Interior

Before spending money on products like car sprays or applying our DIY solutions, we highly recommend that you give your car some rigorous cleaning.

To do this as efficiently as possible you will need a vacuum cleaner or a portable vacuum cleaner, a glass cleaning product, a leather/vinyl cleaning agent (depending on the type of material of your seats), carpet shampoo and some microfiber towels.

If possible, it’s wise to park the car in an open space and take out all the seat covers and floor mats. Air the car out and start by vacuuming the upholstery and the whole of the car interior. Make sure to be as thorough as possible.

Then, move on to the floor mats and/or carpets and vacuum or shampoo them individually. Let them dry out in the sun while you’re cleaning the rest of your car.

Afterward, roll the windows up and wipe them clean using the glass cleaning product and the microfiber towels. Don’t forget the windshield too! Although this might seem a bit excessive, remember that cigarette smoke residue contains tar that sticks to all surfaces and since we’re deep cleaning the car, we might as well do a good job out of it.

Move on to the car seats and clean them accordingly, depending on the type of material. If they’re made of nylon or polyester, the vacuum cleaner ought to do the job followed by putting all of the seat covers in the washing machine. Alternatively, you can opt to steam-clean them as well. But, if they’re vinyl or leather, you might want to use a specialized cleaning agent.

Lastly, make sure to wipe all the surfaces clean, including the dashboard, the steering wheel, vent slats, etc. You may use a deodorizing agent here, but a damp microfiber cloth will do the trick as well.

Clean The Car Vents

One of the most overlooked parts when eliminating bad car smells is the car ventilation system. As we said, smoke seeps into every crevice of the car and there’s no going around that. Even if you thoroughly clean the car, the smoke smell might linger. If that is the case, before proceeding with our next suggestions, you will want to air out the car vents to neutralize the smoke residue.

This can be done either by a professional AC & vent cleaning service or if you want to keep the cost down, you can do it yourself as well.

You should start by replacing the cabin air filter, if your car has one. Most newer cars have one which is easily accessible from inside the cabin, often via the glove box or passenger footwell. Refer to your owner’s manual or a service guide for details on replacing the filter.

If you decide to do it yourself, the first thing you need to do is air out the ducts. Don’t forget that you need to wipe the vent slats beforehand. Start by putting the car in park and turning on the fan/air conditioner, and setting it to maximum speed and lowest temperature settings. It’s important to have the air circulation setting turned off (ie bring in outside air, don’t recirculate air in the car). After a while, you will notice the smoke smell dissipating.

Then you will need to clean the air intake. These vents are usually located by the wiper blades.  While the AC is still going, spray an odor neutralizing agent in the air intake. Continue to do so until you notice that the smell is beginning to change, i.e. the unpleasant smoke smell is minimized or gone.

Since the car heating and air conditioning systems are usually separate, the next thing you would need to do is take care of the former. To do this, simply repeat the previous steps, but turn the temperature setting to maximum.

DIY Steps To Take In Removing Smoke Smell

If all of the solutions outlined above don’t remove the smoke smell, you can try our DIY solutions as listed below.

Baking Soda

Make sure that your car interior is completely dry and simply sprinkle the baking soda over the upholstery, seats, and carpets. Leave it there for up to 15 minutes and then vacuum the affected surfaces.

Coffee Grounds

Although this technique is more of a mask than a smoke eliminator, coffee grounds will overwhelm the unpleasant smoke smell. Simply leave a cup of grounds in the car interior for a few hours. Don’t forget to close the windows!

White Vinegar

White vinegar is a powerful absorbing agent when it comes to cigarette smoke. Pour the vinegar in a bowl and leave it overnight in your car.

Cat Litter

The last smoke absorbent on our list is cat litter. Though, you will need to leave a bowl of it in your car for a couple of days for it to do the trick.

Car Air Purifiers for Removing Smoke Odor from Your Car

Can you remove smoke odor from your car with a car air purifier?

Yes, you definitely can, and if you want to give it a go, we have a review and buying guide compiled just for you, where we recommend the best car air purifiers currently on the market.

We hope you found this article helpful and that now you’re equipped with the knowledge you need to successfully get your car smelling fresh and clean! For more articles like this, check out our blog!