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How To Get Rid Of The Smell Of Smoke In A Car

Updated on December 17, 2012

Getting rid of the smell of cigarettes from the interior of a car isn't always quite as simple as spraying the interior and hoping for the best. Occasionally, especially over time, eradicating the evil will involve taking care of chemicals that may have sunken in, making the soft internal fabrics of the car their new home.

This is my attempt at a concise, step-by-step guide to efficiently and thoroughly get rid of the smell of smoke in your car. The solutions I will outline include some simple D.I.Y techniques, through to convenient commercial solutions. In some cases both may ideally be necessary.


What We'll Need

Before we get started in earnest, it's time to ready ourselves by preparing our D.I.Y arsenal. If you don't mind shelling out a few bucks to have a professional take care of the entire ordeal, please skip to the end of the article!

  • Some shampoo (optional).
  • A 50-50 solution of hot water and vinegar (optional).
  • A vacuum cleaner (optional).
  • Fabric softener sheets (optional).
  • A safe area where you can keep the car unlocked and open (preferable over night).
  • A couple of cans of Febreze.
  • A moderate amount of time and patience!

Ideally, set aside an evening for the task. While it may be tempting to simply spray the car every now and again, it only provides a temporary solution -- masking the odor. Our objective is to eradicate the source of the odor itself as best we can.

Getting To Work

Unfortunately for us, there is no shortcut to eradicating cigarette odor. Cigarette smoke will sink into every porous surface and accumulate. In order to rid ourselves of it's presence, we're going to have to get our hands dirty. This means:

  • Shampooing and scrubbing the upholstery, mats and headliners with an appropriate odor cleansing solution. If nothing seems to work you can throw the old parts away and replace them entirely.
  • Alternatively, you can try using baking soda (avoid damp areas) or a diluted vinegar solution to soak up the smell. If you do use vinegar, remember to not let it sit too long or you'll be attempting to remove two odors from your car instead of one!
  • Vacuuming thoroughly wherever you can.
  • Once you've soaked, beaten and dismantled what you can, open the windows and let the car get some air. Ideally you'll want a moderate amount of air flow (a windy area is best), if you can't leave the car outdoors, you can use a large fan instead.
  • Once the car is dry and clean, you can additionally place fabric softeners or newspapers under the seats to further soak up any remaining odor.
  • Use a copious amount of febreze (or a similarly efficient air freshener) inside the car and let it air.
  • Lastly, when you do decide to take your newly pampered car for a whirl, drive with the windows open for a little while to dilute any lingering chemical smells.

Your car should -- at this point -- begin to not smell of much at all, however...
Your car should -- at this point -- begin to not smell of much at all, however... | Source

If All Else Fails

Commercial cleaning outlets can not only do what we do more efficiently, they also have resources we obviously do not. Despite the tech involved (ozone machines anyone?) getting those odors fixed won't bankrupt you. Getting your car cleaning and ozoned will usually not cost you in excess of $50, and save you a little time as well.

Getting rid of that ashtray smell is a notoriously sticky challenge, and there are many ways to tackle the problem. The above steps are those that I have personally tried, but I am sure that many readers will have found other ways to successfully placate the unpleasant odors. I would love to hear from you and incorporate your ideas!


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    • tipstoretireearly profile image


      6 years ago from New York

      Good tips that might work inside a house too. With my wife's acute nose, however, I can't imagine that any of these tips would truly be effective.


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