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How To Get Smoke Smell Out Of A Car – 12 Tips & Tricks

car cigarrete

Whether you’ve bought a second-hand car that was previously owned by a smoker, you’ve leant the car to somebody that smokes, or you want to freshen up the vehicle and get rid of your own smoke smell, there are ways that you can tackle cigarette odors. And, in most cases, you can do it using materials you have laying around the house or that are available for very little money.

The best approach is to start with the simplest and least invasive techniques before moving on to the next, stopping when you’re happy that the smell has gone. But beware that the smoke particles that cause the smell can get really deep, especially into fabric upholstery, so while the smell might disappear on the day of the big clean, it could come back again in the future.

Below are 12 remedies to a car that smells of cigarette smoke.

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Top 12 Tips to Get Smoke Smell Out of a Car

1. Empty the Ashtrays

The first step to getting rid of the smell of smoke and stale cigarettes is to get rid of any evidence of them. Completely empty all the ashtrays in the vehicle. Remove them from their casing, wipe out all the ash, and wash them down with an antibacterial or disinfectant spray. Once sprayed, leave the ashtrays to dry naturally, before replacing them. As well as the ashtray in the front cabin, ensure you do the same for any in the rear of the vehicle and anywhere else.

Image Credit: Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay

2. Air Out the Vehicle

Air the vehicle out completely. Make sure you do this on a dry day, but open all the doors and trunk, and any windows on doors that can’t be opened. Alternatively, on a breezy day, open all the windows and go for a long drive. This will help shift some of the smoke particles, especially those in the roof lining just above the window, which is one area that the smoke smell can really gather.

3. Clean Hard Surfaces With Vinegar and Water

Mix two parts water, one part vinegar, and a couple of drops of dish soap. Put the mixture in a spray bottle and spray all the hard surfaces in the car before wiping them down with a clean cloth. Make sure you do the dashboard, all around the ashtray areas, and even the doors and roof if they’re hard enough to be able to cope with the wiping.

Image By: evita-ochel, Pixabay

4. Wipe Fabric Upholstery With Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets contain softeners and lubricants as well as deodorizers and fragrances. They can break down the smoke particles that are stuck in fabric and help remove any bad smells in the car. Unfortunately, you can’t put the car in the dryer, but you can effectively bring the dryer to your car. Be generous, use a good number of wipes, and give the fabric upholstery, floor carpets, and other fabric surfaces a good rub with dryer sheets.

5. Change Your Air Fresheners

Car air fresheners only work as intended for so long but are designed to retain smells. If the pine tree smell has dissipated from an air freshener, it is likely just picking up bad smells like smoke and then holding on to them and recirculating them around the car. Take out any old fresheners and invest in some new ones.

Air freshener on car dashboard
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

6. Thoroughly Vacuum Fabric Carpet and Upholstery

If somebody has smoked in the car, there is a good chance that ash won’t have just accumulated in the ashtrays. Small flecks will naturally blow back into the car even if, or possibly especially if, the smoker is diligent over their use of the window. Use a good quality dry vacuum and vacuum all of the fabric surfaces in the car. Take any removable carpets out, clean them, and clean under the carpets. Vacuum the seats and then fold them down and vacuum behind and under them. Use the vacuum extension to make sure you can get into gaps between seats and consoles and open the doors so that you can get between the seats and doors.

7. Use Baking Soda and Vacuum Fabric Again

Most of us have baking soda in the kitchen cupboard and if you don’t have any, it is easy enough to get hold of at local stores. It is a very effective odor neutralizer, too. Sprinkle it over all the fabric that you’ve vacuumed and then leave it to get into the roots of the fabric. Typically, this means leaving it at least a couple of hours and ideally overnight. Vacuum the baking soda up, making sure you get every bit of it out of the fabric.

Baking Soda
Image Credit: NatureFriend, Pixabay

8. Use Coffee Grounds

If you have a coffee maker at home, there are plenty of ways that you can use and effectively recycled the used grounds. One way is to help get rid of the smoke smell. Put coffee grounds in a container and place that container in the car. Do remember that the grounds are there before you drive the car, though, or they could spill out.

9. Try Citrus Peel

Citrus peel is also very good at masking smells. Lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits are especially effective so save up any rinds and peel that you have left over and place these in the car. You can place them in a net bag and leave them in the car for a few days. While they do lose some scent when they start to dry out, dried rinds do still have some aromas, so don’t dispose of them too soon.

citrus peel
Image Credit: MiraCosic, Pixabay

10. Use Leather Cleaner on Leather Upholstery

Leather upholstery doesn’t tend to attract and retain smells as badly as fabric, but smoke is very good at clinging on even to harder and less porous surfaces like this. Use a proper leather cleaner and give all leather surfaces a thorough clean. It is important that you use a cleaner designed for leather, or you could damage the seats and trim.

11. Use External Air Fan Settings

If you have your fan set to recirculate air, it is likely just pushing the same bad smell around the car and it won’t get rid of the smoke particles in the fabric and upholstery. Set the fan to circulate external air to try and get some fresh air in and to blow the bad smells away.

12. Change the Air Filter In Your Car

a mechanic checking a worn out car
Image Credit: Qilin’s prance Filmmaker, Shutterstock

The air fan itself could be a part of the problem. Fans use an internal air filter that is designed to block pollutants and allergens, but car owners rarely change the filter. Over time, dirt and dust gets stuck in the filter and this accumulation can trap smoke smells so that they are pushed into the car every time you turn the fan on. Check your user manual for the location of the filter and swap it out for a new one.

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Smoke particles are very good at clinging onto surfaces, especially the fabric surfaces that are found in cars. However, through a series of steps including vacuuming, using baking soda, and changing your air filter, it is possible to eliminate the smokey smell and to help ensure a cleaner and more enjoyable atmosphere in your ride.

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Featured Image Credit: DPimenta, Shutterstock


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