remove smoke smell from car

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There’s nothing better than that new car smell, when the only smell in your car is leather and new fabric. Unfortunately, one of the fastest ways to kill that smell is to smoke in your car. The smell of smoke gets everywhere. It permeates everything and just won’t let go. This is bad enough on its own, but it can also sink into your clothes each time you get into your car. That means that when you get out of the car, you will carry the faint scent of smoke on your clothes. And if you have business contacts in the car with you at any time, it can be embarrassing. They will think badly of you for the smell and for the way they smell when they get out of the car. And that isn’t the way to make good business contacts.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the smell of smoke can be incredibly difficult. No matter how much you wash or clean the interior of your car, there will still be a faint smell in the car. That’s why we’ve created this guide. If you want to know the secrets to getting rid of the smell of smoke once and for all, you’ll find them all here.

So, here’s what you need to know.


  1. Why is the smell of smoke so hard to get rid of?
  2. Is the smell of cigarettes in the car harmful?
  3. General steps to get the smell of smoke out of your car.
  4. How to get the smell of cigarettes out of leather seats
  5. Home remedies for getting rid of the smell of smoke.
  6. The best products to remove the smoke smell from your car.

Why is the Smell of Smoke So Hard to Get Rid Of? 

It’s incredibly difficult to get the smell of cigarette smoke out of the car because it sinks into the upholstery, hard surfaces and carpet. Once it’s in the car, it also gets into the air filtration system, so every time you turn on the engine the smell will circulate again. This is a problem that will affect the value of your car if you’re trying to sell it, it will impact others’ opinions of you, and it will affect how you smell once you’re out of the car as well. That’s why this bad smell needs to be removed for good.

Is the Smell of Cigarettes in the Car Harmful? 

Not many people realize that the smell of cigarettes left behind in carpets and upholstery, often called third-hand smoke, can actually be harmful. The smell of the smoke indicates that a cocktail of toxins is lingering on the fabric and surfaces, and this can be dangerous for infants and young children. This is particularly relevant if you smoke in your car over a long period. Every time you smoke, another layer of toxins is laid over every surface in your car. And because the interior of a car is a small space, this layer can become very thick over time.

Cigarettes are full of deadly toxins like cyanide, lead, and arsenic and these chemicals are particularly dangerous for children and infants because they can affect their developing brain. Children and infants also tend to chew and mouth surfaces, which means that they may actually be ingesting the residue from your cigarettes when they chew the inside of your car!

There isn’t a lot of evidence about the long-term effects of this ‘third-hand smoke’ at the moment because it’s difficult to test. However, evidence links tobacco toxin exposure to an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) as well as respiratory problems. So, if you smoke in the car and you have children, you need to be very careful about how you clean the interior.

General Steps to Get the Smell of Smoke Out of your Car. 

Before you try any home remedies or chemicals to get the smell of smoke out of your car, there are some general cleaning tips that will help. These ideas will remove most of the smell, so once they’re done you may not have to do anything else! Here’s what to do:

  • Clean out the ashtray

The bulk of the cigarette smell will come from the physical remains of cigarettes, so remove and clean out your ashtray first. And it isn’t enough to just empty it either. Remove it completely, wash it out with soapy water, and leave it to dry for 24 hours before putting it back into your car.

  • Clean out the interior and vacuum. 

When you smoke in the car, particles of ash fly around the interior and sink into the carpet and upholstery. You need to remove these particles to get rid of the smoke smell. Clean out the car, including under the seats, and remove the floor mats. Vacuum everywhere, making sure to get under the seats and around the center console. Shake out the mats and vacuum them before replacing them. Once you’re done, your car will smell a lot better than it did.

  • Wipe down the hard surfaces. 

Using a damp cloth, wipe down the hard surfaces in your car. Make sure that you don’t use a very wet cloth, as this can damage the surfaces, particularly if you have a leather interior. You can also buy specialized leather or vinyl wipes.

  • Clean the windows. 

Use a glass cleaner, preferably one with ammonia, to clean the insides of the windows and windscreen. Smoking residue can be difficult to remove from glass, so be prepared to apply the cleaner and really scrub it more than once.

  • Shampoo the seats. 

You can do this yourself or take it to your local detailing center to have the seats professionally shampooed. Here’s how to shampoo the upholstery in your car yourself:

  1. Remove any rubbish from seats and seat pockets.
  2. Vacuum the surfaces.
  3. Pour upholstery shampoo into a bucket of water and mix well.
  4. Using a clean cloth, work the upholstery into a small area.
  5. Use a sponge to work the shampoo into the damp area.
  6. Dip a clean sponge in plain water and scrub off the shampoo.
  7. Blot with a dry cloth to remove as much of the water and shampoo as possible.
  8. Repeat.
  9. When you’ve finished, leave the car doors open to help the seats dry.
  • Air out the ducts 

The smell of smoke circulates throughout your car, which means that it also circulates through your duct system. So, once you’ve cleaned out your car, you also need to clear out all the cigarette smell in your ducts. Otherwise, when you need turn the engine on, you’ll get a face full of smoke smell. Here’s how to clear out your ducts:

  1. Start the engine with the car in park.
  2. Turn the fan and air conditioner on maximum cool and full strength.
  3. Roll the windows down and let the air conditioner run for 3 minutes.
  4. Spray air freshener onto the air intake vent. This is usually located by the wiper blades.
  5. Turn the air conditioner fan onto heat for 1 minute.
  6. Spray air freshener into the air intake vent again.

How to Get the Smell of Cigarettes out of Leather Seats

Leather is a little harder to clean than other types of fabric. If you use water or harsh products that aren’t designed to work on leather, it can strip the natural oils and leave the surface dry and cracked. Here’s how to keep your leather seats looking like new:

  1. Use a clean, dry cloth to remove any dust or debris on the surface.
  2. Mix five parts warm water with one-part liquid dish washing soap.
  3. Dampen a clean cloth and wring it dry.
  4. Wipe down the seats.
  5. Wipe clean with a second damp cloth.
  6. Dry the leather thoroughly.

When you clean your leather seats, never saturate the leather because the water can seep into the cushion and damage the leather. And always make sure that you dry it really well afterwards.

Home Remedies for Getting Rid of the Smell of Smoke

If the general tips don’t work, then you need to try some more advanced techniques. But don’t worry, most of these are simple ideas, using things you probably already have at home. And if they’re a little bit complicated, we’ll give you a detailed run down of what to do. So, here are some home remedies that can help:

  • Vinegar

Pour vinegar into a bowl and place it inside your car with the doors closed and windows up. Leave overnight.

  • Citrus peels

You know that tart, biting smell of lemon and orange peels? Well, this smell is an effective and natural way to eliminate the smell of smoke. Peel one of these fruits, put them in a bowl in the car, and leave them there for a few days while you go about your business.  Afterwards, throw the peels away.

  • Charcoal

Charcoal absorbs bad odors rather than covering them, which makes it the perfect way to have your car smelling like new again. Put a bowl of charcoal in your car somewhere it won’t fall over and leave it for a few days. If you’ve already cleaned your car thoroughly, this should be enough to completely remove the last traces of the bad smell.

  • Baking Soda

Baking soda soaks up bad smells and leaves behind a tingly freshness. Sprinkle it over the carpets and floor mats, leave up to 24 hours if you can, and then vacuum the surfaces clean.

  • Coffee Grounds

If you need to quickly and temporarily mask the smell of cigarettes in your car then try using coffee grounds. Put a bowl of coffee grounds into your car with the door shut and within a few minutes all you’ll smell is the beans.

  • Cat Litter 

Put a bowl of cat litter into your car and let it soak up the smell.

  • Dryer Sheets

You can use dryer sheets to wipe down cloth surfaces for a quick, temporary fix for the smell of cigarettes. Be aware that this will just deodorize your car and cover the smell, it won’t actually remove the smell.

The Best Products to Remove the Smoke Smell from your Car

Sometimes home remedies just don’t work, and you need to go hard core to remove the smell of cigarettes from your car. If you’ve tried everything and just can’t get the smell to go away, there are a lot of heavy-duty products that can help. For the best products for removing the smell of cigarettes, try the following:

  • Ozium

This is an on the spot air cleaner that will disinfect your car while it eliminates the smell of smoke. It’s more effective than any other odor eater on the market at the moment. To use it, just spray it in your car, close the windows and doors, and leave overnight. If the smell is still lingering, repeat the process until your car smells great again.

  • Odor Bombs 

Odor bombs don’t just cover bad smells, they completely eliminate them. This makes them the perfect choice to use in your car. There are a lot of different types of odor bombs, so make sure you follow the instructions on the can. But basically, you just need to put the can on a flat surface in the car, depress the valve, and close the car doors. Leave the car alone for around 2 hours and then remove the can and leave the car doors open for half an hour to ventilate the space.

  • Smoke Eater

A Smoke Eater is an ozone generator that filters the air using several different types of filters. These filters are designed to capture and destroy the fine particles that create bad odors. There are a few different types of Smoke Eaters and to use them, all you have to do is plug in the machine, turn it on, and leave it in the car to eat up all the bad smells. These devices work when nothing else will but be aware that they can be more expensive than other options, so only buy one if you intend to use it regularly.

  • Turn to the professionals

If you try all of these ideas and your car still smells like smoke, then you need to get it professionally cleaned. Experienced and trained car detailers have access to the really heavy-duty products, the ones that can be dangerous to use if you aren’t trained properly. They also know all the tips and tricks for removing bad smells from every surface in your car. So, if you need to have your car professionally detailed to remove the smell of smoke, ask your trusted car detailer about their interior cleaning services.

The Takeaway

Smoking is a terrible habit for lots of reasons, and one of those reasons is the smell that it leaves in your car. But by using these ideas, you’ll be able to remove every trace of that smell. This will help keep your family and anyone else in your car safer and happier. And you’ll make a better impression on everyone if you don’t stink of smoke every time you get out of your car too.

Do you have your own tips for removing the smell of cigarettes from your car? (Apart from not smoking in there, of course.) Let us know your ideas in the comments below.