How to Get Smoke Smell Out of Car

How to Get Smoke Smell Out of Car

So, you have just purchased a used car and you deserve to feel happy about it. Although most used cars require some maintenance and installment of new parts once you have made the purchase, there are some factors associated with the used car which are harder to get rid of than the other problems. Sure, you can easily spend some money and use your skills to get new tires, buff out the paint scratches, change the interior and fix any apparent issues with your newly-purchased used car. However, smoke smell, tobacco odor and once in a rare occasion, weed smell – marijuana smell are among those things which are way too hard to get rid of.

If the previous car owner was a heavy smoker, there are high chances that smoke smell will continue to linger in the same car (now owned by you) for a long time to come – unless you do something about it!

We have gathered all the information which you will need to know and implement to get rid of smoke smell from your car. Let’s dive in to learn more, shall we?

Why is Smoke Smell Hard to Get Rid Of?

The cigarette and cigar manufacturer companies infuse tobacco products with preservative chemicals and flavoring agents to prolong the lifetime and effect of cigarette on smokers. These chemical molecules tend to stick to cloth materials, plastic pores and other similar surfaces found in the car seating, upholstery, carpets and even the dashboard buttons. If you dig deeper, you will find out a considerable amount of smoke odor chemical molecules sticking in the ventilation systems, heating and cooling systems of any car.

The bad news here is that smoke smell tends to return after some time if you use the cleaning techniques just once. The good news is that with a couple of subsequent cleanups and deep neutralization treatments, the smoke smell will eventually leave the car and you will be able to enjoy fresher interior. Although we are not here to preach the harmful effects of smoking, let us inform you that smoking contributes to a high percentage (millions) of lung cancer patients annually.

Getting Started with Smoke Smell Removal From Car – What Will You Need?

Just like a responsible car owner, the first thing you need to do is gather the necessary supplies. Typical smoke odor removal methods used for cars usually involve the use of a combination of equipment and chemicals. Before you gather the supplies, let us also inform you that smoke odor removal from the car is a tricky and slightly laborious job – mainly because of the fact that you will need to clean, neutralize and deodorize the car’s cabin filters, ventilation system, clothing and other components thoroughly.

Here is everything you will need to get started with smoke odor removal from your car:

  • Vacuum Cleaner
  • Sponge and Interior Detailing Agents
  • Soft Bristle Brush
  • Lots of Microfiber towels
  • A bucket full of water
  • Steam Cleaner
  • Vinegar and Spray Bottle
  • DIY cleaning agents (listed below)

Preparing for Smoke Smell Removal from Car – Start with Cleaning Your Car

Car cleaning instantly hypes any car enthusiast. If you are not a fan of car cleaning, we suggest you prepare yourself for this phase. Before you head deeper into car smoke removal techniques, start by cleaning your vehicle. This step involves removing all the trash from every nook and cranny of your car.

From the bottom of the seats and the back of the car to the trunk and footrests, clean every dirt and grime particle manually or by using a small brush. If you have any personal items or non-essential stuff lying in your car, remove it before proceeding to the next steps.

Smoke Smell Removal from Car Useful Tip – Take Your Car in an Open Area

Well, it makes sense. When you are about to clean smoke particles, ash and smoke odor from your car, the first thing you need to do is find an opened area to ensure your health and find proper ventilation for odor removal.

Once you have found a cool, shady and open spot for cleaning your car, proceed with vacuum cleaning. Cleaning your car with a vacuum cleaner helps in picking up the ash residues and cigarette particles which are the main sources of odor.

Use the vacuum cleaner to clean the other car areas like the side panels on doors, convenient storage areas, center console, cup holders and the glove box. Be extra careful when vacuuming the hard and soft surfaces of the car interior such as the car seats, vents and carpets.

You can also park your car in the driveway to proceed with deep cleaning of the car as long as you have proper air circulation and power supply to connect your vacuum cleaner in the particular space.

In this step, carefully open the ashtray and use a small vacuum cleaner to pick up any residual ash particles from the tray surface. You can also remove the ash tray, wash it and let it dry 24 hours prior to reinstalling it within the car.

If you are a smoker, it is best to invest in a smoke diffuser and an astray cover to minimize the smoke odor from the car as much as possible.

Getting Started with Smoke Odor Removal From Vehicles – Basic Steps

Follow these steps to completely remove smoke smell from your car:

Step 1: Vacuum Cleaning

After the initial vacuum cleaning, go over within another round of interior car cleaning using a vacuum cleaner. Vacuum clean the different car parts including the floor mats, carpet, foot rests, arm rests, headrests, plastic trims, storage compartments and even the steering wheel.

Step 2: Steam Cleaning

Invest in a standard steam cleaner or borrow one from your fellow car cleaning enthusiast. Use the steam cleaner on your cloth upholstery, floorboards, headrests and rear seating. Steam cleaning plays an essential role in eliminating smoke and cigarette particles from the pores present on hard-to-clean, porous surfaces.

Step 3: Vinegar and Water Spray

For cleaning the plastic and vinyl components of your car, use a vinegar and distilled water solution and spray it over a microfiber cloth. Avoid direct spraying on car parts. Use the damp microfiber cloth to wipe down a target area and alternate by using a clean, dry microfiber towel for drying the target area.

Step 4: Clean the Air Vents

Believe it or not, your car’s air vents are one of the biggest culprits behind the smoke odor inside the car cabin. Many car owners tend to skip this step, and complain when the smoke smell persists even after cleaning the car’s interior. Remove the dash and reach the air vents. Use the same vinegar and distilled water spray solution to clean the vents and dry them for at least 24 hours before re-attaching them. During this step, ensure that you fully wipe down the vents, vent tubes and remove the cabin filter to clean the housing of the vents.

Step 5: Switch to the Odor Neutralizer Method to Clean Vents

Understandably, not all the car owners can remove the dashboard and reach the air vents for deep cleaning. In such cases, the odor neutralizer method is used to deep clean the car’s heating and cooling air vents. Follow these steps to perform the odor neutralizer method:

  • Find out the air vents: Air vents are of two types; interior and exterior. Locate the interior vents on the side of the dash or near the windshield. Locate the exterior vents near the windshield vipers.
  • Remove Cabin Filter: Clean the housing of the vents and leave the old filter removed. Do not install a new one just yet.
  • Roll Down all the Windows: Do this step to ensure proper ventilation before you spray the neutralizer.
  • Turn On Heater: Run the heater on full blast from outside vents. Why outside vents? It is easier to clean the exterior vents than the interior ones.
  • Spray Odor Neutralizer: Directly spray the odor neutralizer of a good manufacturer inside the outer vent intakes. Do this step for about 10 seconds till the neutralizer compound reaches the interior vents. Repeat this step on each vent.
  • Clean the Glass: Use a strong window cleaner and completely clean all the glass from the inside to ensure there is no smoke residue left inside
  • Finally, install the new indoor cabin filter, secure the housing and you are good to do!

Best Method to Remove Smoke Smell from Car – Ozone Treatment

Behold! The winner of all car smoke smell removal methods – the Ozone treatment. Also known as the Ozone shock treatment, this method is one of the most promising ways to completely remove smoke smell from your car. However, due to the hazardous nature of chemicals involved in this treatment, this method shall be your resort. Given that you decide to go for Ozone treatment, it is strongly recommended that you for a professional and avoid doing it at home.

How Does Ozone Treatment Work?

An Ozone generator is used in Ozone treatment for smoke smell removal from cars. This generator utilized the UV radiation to break down the O2 molecules into individual Oxygen atoms. Since the Oxygen atoms are reactive with each other, they combine together with O2 to form Ozone (O3) molecules. Ozone is an unstable molecule and it will break off to attach with another molecule (mainly the odor molecule). Consequently, the O3 molecule breaks down the odor molecules of smoke smell and you get to enjoy a fresh interior free from any smoke smell.

Steps to Use an Ozone Generator to Remove Smoke Smell:

  • Follow the general car cleaning steps and take your car in an open area
  • Connect the Ozone generator to a hose and place it inside your car
  • Roll up the car windows, turn on the Ozone generator and close the doors
  • Make sure that your car’s heating and cooling system or any fans are turned off
  • The car interior will fill up with Ozone it will act to break down odor molecules
  • Remove the Ozone generator after a few minutes, open the car doors, roll down the windows and take your car out for a spin (after some time) to remove residual Ozone

Removing Smoke Smell from a Car – DIY Methods

Although smoke smell removal is by no means a DIY thing to do, there are some remedies which can temporarily offer you relief from the bad smoke odor. Here are some popular DIY remedies used for car smoke smell removal:


Place a Bowl of Pure White Vinegar in The Car

Pure white vinegar sucks away all odor causing substances. Pour pure white vinegar in a bowl and leave it in your car overnight. Make sure that all the windows are rolled up and car doors are closed. Since pure white vinegar has a potent, strong smell, your car may smell of vinegar for next few days to come. You can easily get rid of vinegar and smoke smell from your car by driving your vehicle outside for next couple of days.


Baking Soda Method

Baking soda is known as the King of all odor removal DIY remedies. You can sprinkle some baking soda on your car’s clothing material, let it soak for some time and use a vacuum cleaner to pick up the baking soda.

However, it is quite obvious that this method will lead to a lot of mess.

Charcoal or Coffee Grounds

Charcoal is a famous odor eliminator used in refrigerators and even kitchens. Place some charcoal in a bowl and leave it inside your closed car for a few days. Note that charcoal is only effective limitedly and the results will vary.

Similarly, you can use coffee grounds particularly for removing cigar smoke smell from your car. Coffee grounds mask the cigar small and are only effective as long as you keep the grounds inside your car. For regular smokers, this method is effective.

Citrus Skins

Use the citrus peels, such as the lemons, orange and lime skins, to remove the smoke smell from your car. Leave the skin inside your car for a few days and the smoke smell will vanish for a short while.

Dryer Sheets

Place the dryer sheets on your seats, floorboards and carpets. Let the sheets sit on these surfaces for at least 24 hours. You may end up with a fresh smelling car, fresh laundry – or both if you are lucky enough!

Cat Litter

Last, but not the least, cat litter is also used by many DIYers for absorbing cigarette smoke odor. All you have to do Is leave a bowl of cat litter inside the car for a few days and let it do its magic!


In the End

Cars purchased from dealerships are usually treated for smoke odor removal. However, if you are purchasing your car from a former smoker car owner, you will have to follow the steps mentioned above to restore the freshness in your car’s cabin. Happy Driving!


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