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How To Get Cigarette Smell Out Of Car

How To Get Cigarette Smell Out Of Car

By PattyKay Lilley

Smoking in the car can be a real eye-sore and smell terrible – no one wants to drive or ride in an ashtray. But don’t worry, you don’t have to suffer from the stale stench of cigarette smoke any longer.

In this blog post, we will look at ways to get the smoky odor out of your vehicle effectively and quickly so you can enjoy a pleasant ride that is free of cigarette smell. You will learn how lifestyle changes, professional cleaning treatments, and simple DIY solutions can help rid your car of nicotine odors for good!

How To Get Cigarette Smell Out Of Car

The pervasive smell of smoke can be quite challenging to eliminate from a car’s interior, regardless of the source — be it cigarettes, cigars, or marijuana. Smoke has a knack for infiltrating every nook and cranny, embedding its stubborn odor deep within, which makes the process of eliminating it somewhat hefty.

A run-of-the-mill car cleaning kit may not suffice to tackle this task. It’s prudent to be prepared to expend a substantial amount of cleaning supplies.

Step 1: Remove Trash and Other Items

Kickstart the process by removing all loose trash and items, including those hiding under the seats, tucked away in the door pockets, and stashed in the glove box or the storage area between the driver and front passenger seats.

If the vehicle has been subjected to smoking for a prolonged timespan, it’s likely that every single item inside the car reeks of smoke — right from the owner’s manual to magazines, shopping bags, paper maps, and other miscellaneous items.

Clearing everything out not only simplifies the cleaning process but also allows for a thorough cleanse without the need for shuffling items.

Step 2: Remove and Clean the Car Mats

Whether they’re made of carpet or rubber, remove the car mats and clean them individually. After a thorough vacuum, you can use a brush and some soap and water to wash out all the smoke residue.

Once they’re dry, and if they still have a smell, consider sprinkling them with baking soda, let them sit for up to 20 minutes and then vacuum the baking soda away. Consider easier-to-clean all-weather floor mats going forward.

If you use car seat covers, remove those and clean (and dry) those as directed. Some cloth ones should be machine washable, others need a hand wash.

Step 3: Vacuum the Interior

Next, thoroughly vacuum the entire interior of the vehicle. Pay attention to the upholstery, dashboard, consoles, and even the roof. Using vacuum attachments like crevice tools can help reach into the narrow, hard-to-reach areas where smoke particles may have settled, such as between the seats and the central console.

After vacuuming, it’s recommended to use an upholstery cleaner on the fabric parts of the car. Make sure to follow the product’s instructions closely. This step not only helps get rid of the odor but also revives the look and feel of the interior, making your car smell and look cleaner.

Remember, the essence of this step lies in the thoroughness of the vacuuming. An intensive, methodical vacuuming session can significantly reduce the persistent cigarette smell, paving the way for a fresher, cleaner car interior.

Step 4: Add Baking Soda

After a thorough vacuuming and cleaning, the next step in getting rid of the cigarette smell from your car involves using baking soda, a natural odor eliminator. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda all over the car’s upholstery – the seats, floor mats, and even the carpeting in the trunk. You should also consider sprinkling it on the dashboard and other hard surfaces.

Let the baking soda sit in the car overnight – its properties will absorb the smoke smell. In the morning, use a vacuum cleaner to remove the baking soda from all surfaces. Make sure to reach into all the nooks and crevices to ensure no residue is left behind.

Using baking soda not only helps in removing the smoke smell but also leaves your car smelling fresh and clean. However, if the smell persists, repeat this step a couple of more times until the odor is completely gone. Remember that persistence is key when dealing with stubborn cigarette smells.

Step 5: Wash and Dry

Now that the interior has been thoroughly cleaned, it’s time to wash the exterior of the vehicle. Cigarette smoke can also stick to the exterior surfaces, particularly if you often smoke outside the car with the windows down.

Start by thoroughly washing the car’s exterior with a car-approved soap. Pay close attention to the windows and windshields, as these are areas where smoke residue often accumulates. After washing, rinse the car with plenty of water to ensure all soap and residue is removed.

Next, proceed to dry the car using a microfiber towel. This type of towel is effective in absorbing water and avoiding streaks on the car’s body. Additionally, it is gentle enough to prevent any scratching.

Remember to clean your windows and windshield on the inside as well, using a glass cleaner to ensure they are streak-free and clear. This step will help in removing any smoke film that might have settled on the glass, contributing to the overall freshness of your car.

After washing and drying, your car’s exterior should look as clean and fresh as its interior. This process further aids in eliminating any lingering cigarette smells, ensuring you enjoy a smoke-free driving experience.

Step 6: Clean the Leather Surfaces

Leather surfaces in your car, like the seats and steering wheel, can absorb and hold onto the smell of cigarette smoke. To tackle this, use a leather cleaner or a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar. Before applying any cleaner, ensure to test it on an inconspicuous part of the leather to make sure it doesn’t cause discoloration.

Using a soft cloth, apply the cleaner on the leather surfaces in a circular motion, making sure to cover all areas. Let the cleaner sit on the surfaces for a few minutes, allowing it to penetrate and break down the residue of the smoke. After this, gently wipe off the cleaner with a clean and dry cloth.

If you notice the smell persisting after the initial cleaning, repeat the process. Once clean, consider applying a leather conditioner to keep the leather moisturized and prevent cracks.

Remember to conduct this step with care, as leather is a delicate material that requires gentle handling. By doing this, you’re one step closer to completely removing the cigarette smell from your car.

Step 7: Clean Windows and Hard Surfaces

Cigarette smoke can be greasy and leave a film on various surfaces, including the interior of your windows, gear shift, dashboard, center console, steering wheel, sun visors, instrument cluster, cup holders, and other nooks and crannies.

You can use soapy water to clean these surfaces, but be careful to avoid wetting any electronics in the process. A spray-on window cleaner can also be effective in tackling this task.

Keep in mind that you may need to clean the inside of the windows multiple times to completely remove the greasy smoke residue. Don’t forget to extend the cleaning to the rearview mirror as well.

While you’re at it, remember to clean all the hard surfaces that are not immediately visible, such as the inside of the glove box, the storage bin between the driver and front passenger seats, and any other storage compartments.

Since you emptied these areas at the start of the cleaning process, it will be easy to access each of them for a thorough cleaning. This step will help ensure that every corner of your car is free from the lingering smell of cigarette smoke.

Step 8: Clean the Seat Belts

Seat belts, often overlooked in a car cleaning process, can retain the smell of cigarette smoke. The fabric can absorb the smoke particles, making it important to clean them thoroughly.

First, extend the seat belt to its full length and use a clamp or clip to keep it extended. Dampen a cloth with a mixture of warm water and a mild fabric cleaning solution, then gently wipe down the seatbelt on both sides. Make sure to not soak the seat belt, as overly wet fabric may take a long time to dry and could potentially lead to mildew growth.

After wiping down the seat belts, let them dry fully before retracting them. It’s recommended to leave the windows open and the car in sunlight, if possible, to speed up the drying process.

Remember, seat belts are crucial safety components of your car, so handle them with care. Avoid using harsh cleaners or bleach, as these can compromise the integrity and durability of the fabric. By cleaning your seat belts, you are getting one step closer to a smoke-free car.

Step 9: Clean the Air Vents and Cabin Air Filter

Most of today’s vehicles come equipped with a “cabin air filter,” typically located within the dashboard, often behind the glove box. If your car’s interior has been exposed to cigarette smoke, the filter is likely saturated with it. Therefore, replacing this filter is crucial. Before installing the new filter, remember to clean the housing that holds the filter—soapy water should suffice for this task.

Air ducts can present a greater challenge, as they are difficult to access and might be laden with accumulated smoke. The air vents, found on the dashboard and under the seats, are more accessible and can be cleaned with soapy water or a steam cleaner. However, to clean the ducts, you might need to invest in a specialized cleaning product formulated specifically for vehicle air ducts. Follow the directions provided on the product’s label to achieve optimal results.

Remember, a thorough cleaning of your air vents and a replacement of the cabin air filter are pivotal steps in completely eliminating cigarette smell from your car. This brings you one step closer to having a vehicle that smells fresh and clean.

Step 10: Clean the Headliner

The headliner, or the fabric covering the ceiling inside your car, is another area that can absorb and retain the smell of cigarette smoke. It’s essential to handle this area with care, as aggressive cleaning can lead to damage or sagging of the headliner fabric.

Start by lightly spraying a fabric cleaner onto a clean cloth – avoid spraying directly onto the headliner to prevent soaking it. Gently wipe the headliner with the cloth, using light strokes to avoid damaging it. Be sure to cover the entire surface area, ensuring that you clean the corners and edges well.

If you see any stubborn stains, consider using a soft-bristled brush to gently scrub the area. Remember to let the headliner dry completely before using your car. Keeping the windows open and letting fresh air circulate can help speed up the drying process.

By cleaning your car’s headliner, you are removing one more source of lingering cigarette smell, putting you closer to achieving a smoke-free car.

See more: How To Get Smoke Smell Out Of Car


When it comes to removing the smell of cigarette smoke from your car, you might have a few questions. We’ve gathered and addressed some of the most frequently asked questions on this topic to provide you with comprehensive guidance.

Can I use regular air fresheners to remove the smoke smell from my car?

Air fresheners can mask the smell of cigarette smoke temporarily, but they do not eliminate the odor at its source. Cigarette smoke permeates various materials in the car, like upholstery, carpets, and air vents, where it leaves behind a residual scent. Using an air freshener will only mask the smell for a while, but once the fragrance wears off, the smoke smell is likely to return.

To completely remove the smell, you need to clean all areas of the car thoroughly, as outlined in the steps above. This process might seem time-consuming, but it ensures a long-lasting solution to the problem.

Is it necessary to clean the seat belts?

Yes, it is crucial to clean the seat belts as they are often made from fabric, which can absorb and retain the smell of cigarette smoke. Ignoring to clean them might result in the cigarette smell lingering in your car despite your other cleaning efforts.

Ensure to use a mild fabric cleaning solution and warm water to wipe down the seat belts, and let them dry fully before retracting them. Avoid using harsh cleaners or bleach, as these can degrade the fabric and compromise the safety of the seat belts.

How often should I replace the cabin air filter if my car has been exposed to cigarette smoke?

The frequency of replacing your car’s cabin air filter depends on several factors including, the level of smoke exposure and the duration. If your car was exposed to cigarette smoke over a prolonged period, it’s advisable to change the filter as soon as you notice a persistent smoke smell, even after cleaning.

In general, it’s a good practice to replace the cabin air filter every 12,000 to 15,000 miles, or at least once a year. However, frequent exposure to pollutants like cigarette smoke may require more frequent changes.

Can I use home cleaning products for cleaning my car’s interior?

Can I use home cleaning products for cleaning my car's interior?

While some home cleaning products may be safe to use on certain car surfaces, it’s usually best to invest in cleaning products specifically designed for automotive use. Certain household cleaners may contain chemicals that are too harsh for delicate interior surfaces in your car, leading to damages such as discoloration or cracking.

Always remember, proper care and maintenance not only improve your vehicle’s appeal but also prolong its lifespan. When in doubt, always choose products designed for car interiors.

Final Thoughts

Successfully eradicating cigarette smoke from your car can be quite challenging but is undoubtedly worthwhile. A clean, fresh-smelling car creates a pleasant driving experience and can also increase your vehicle’s resale value.

This guide has walked you through a series of comprehensive steps designed to help you thoroughly clean your car’s interior and remove the stubborn smell of cigarette smoke. By following these steps meticulously, you can transform your car from a smoking zone into a fresh, welcoming space.

However, it’s important to remember that the key to maintaining a smoke-free car is prevention. Avoid smoking inside the vehicle to prevent the smoke smell from permeating the car’s interior in the first place.

In conclusion, a clean, smoke-free car is not only more enjoyable to drive but can also contribute to a healthier environment for you and your passengers. It may require some time and effort, but the end results are well worth it. Happy motoring!

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