Even when you think you have finally eliminated your smoke-smell woes, the odor can linger still, especially in times of humidity or season change. Below are a few tips on removing the smell of cigarette smoke from your car for once and for all.

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Smelling Smoke? Get Rid of the Source.

Before really getting into the deep cleaning, it is important to start at the source. Remove the car’s ashtray, and dump out any cigarette butts that may be in the tray. Then, wipe out all of the ash and remaining residue thoroughly, before leaving the ashtray out to completely air out.

Odor Removal May Mean Pulling Out the Vacuum.

Next, it is incredibly important to vacuum out the entire interior surface of the car. The more meticulous you are with this step, the more likely you are to completely eliminate the cigarette odor for good. Be careful to get into all of the nooks and crannies between seats and in hard-to-reach areas. Vacuum the floor mats and place them outside of the car so that they have the opportunity to air out while you finish cleaning. Remember to also vacuum under the floor mats really well.

Fight the Odor: Cigarette Smoke Removal from Fabric

Now that the causes of the odor have been removed from the vehicle, it is time to really attack the main culprit of the smell: fabric surfaces. Seats and carpets absorb the odor particles the most, and it is essential to remove the odor from these surfaces, or the scent will always linger. There are different plans of attack, depending on the severity of the odor. For recent or light odors, a liberal use of air freshener and a day of airing-out should do the trick. If you need a little more of a deep cleaning, begin by sprinkling pet odor powder all over the surface of the car. This should remove the odor that just will not go away. However, if neither of these options seem to do the job adequately, then pull out the baking soda. Baking soda should be used for the odors that are seemingly impossible to remove, and should be seen somewhat as a last resort.

If you take the pet odor powder or baking soda route, it is important to vacuum up all of the powder well. This may even require vacuuming up all of the powder, dumping the vacuum and then repeating. As the baking soda will absorb all of the cigarette smell from your car, if any of it is left in the cracks between your seats or is missed, the smell will not be gone.

The most extreme option is to have the interior of your car shampooed or steam-cleaned. You can have this done professionally for around $100 to $200 or you can do it yourself with an upholstery cleaner and car interior shampoo. You can find the right shampoo at most auto parts stores and online retailers.

Get Some Fresh Air and Prevent Smoke Damage

After you have removed all of the odor from the fabric surfaces in your car, you can begin to focus on improving the quality of the air that circulates in your car. The first order of business is to check the air filter. If it is dirty or gross, begin by replacing it. Then, open the vents, and let the air circulate through the car for an hour or so. This will improve the air quality considerably. If you add some clip-on air fresheners to the vents before doing this, you will not only introduce clean air to the interior of the car, but you will also add a pleasant and refreshing scent into the mix.

Wipe Down Hard Surfaces

Now that you have vacuumed all of the fabric surfaces and introduced clean air to the car, it is time to wipe down all of the hard surfaces in the interior of the car. Before starting, it is important to ensure that any cleaning products that you use are safe for the surfaces found inside your car. Car-safe wipes can be found at most auto part stores. When using pre-soaked wet wipes, it is recommended to also go over all surfaces with a dry towel, to avoid leaving streaks on the surfaces as the cleaner dries. To be safe, do a test of the product on a small and unnoticeable area of the car before covering every surface with the cleaner.

Glass cleaners are ideal for wiping down the interior of the windows. If you would like to avoid using harsh chemicals or non-organic and potentially toxic cleaners to wipe down the surfaces of your car, you can mix a solution of water and vinegar for efficient cleaning. Simply put the solution in a spray bottle and spray on all hard surfaces in the car.

Finish Up

After the car has been thoroughly cleaned and completely aired out, place the ashtray back into the car. If seat covers were removed and washed, place them back on the seats. Finally, replace floor mats. If you have not already, place air fresheners in your car. Your car should now smell like it just rolled off the lot. If, however, you can still smell a slight odor, there are additional plans of action to completely get rid of the smoky smell.

Other Options

If following the above regimen is just not quite enough, there are several other ways to eliminate the odors tobacco can leave behind.

One option is to use activated carbon. Simply fill bowls or similarly sized containers with the activated carbon, and place them in your car for a few hours with the windows rolled up and the door closed. Later, remove the carbon and completely air out your vehicle before driving it.

Another great way to counteract the stench of cigarette smoke is to put coffee grounds that have not been used in bowls and place them in several areas in your car, and park your car in a place that will get plenty of sunlight. The sun will release the scent of the coffee grounds, which will work against the odors of the tobacco.


Even if it feels that there is no way to remove the smell of cigarette odor from your car, it can be done, with meticulous hard work. After you have followed the above guidelines, you will be free a smoky car, and will be able to drive your car in comfort.

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