Get Rid of Smoke Smell from a Car

Edited by Donna, Inukshuk, Eng

The smell of cigarettes is notoriously difficult to remove from car interiors simply because most are made of materials that easily retain the odor such as leather, vinyl, rubber and other fabrics. If that cigarette smoke scent has permeated all of the upholstery in your car then here are some steps that you can take to remove that lingering stench.

Clean and Deodorize Your Vehicle

  1. 1
    Remove the mats from the floor of the car and wash well with hot soapy water
    Be sure to wear rubber gloves so you don't irritate your skin with nicotine resins that may have coagulated on the corrugated surfaces of the mats. Be sure to wash both the fabric floor mats, that have a rubber lining and the fabric floor mats. This thorough washing helps remove any nicotine and smoke clinging to their surface. Drying the mats in the sun also helps them to smell fresh.
    Remove all car mats and wash thoroughly and dry to remove cigarette smoke odor from your vehicle.
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  2. 2
    Vacuum the entire interior of the car
    There might be nicotine particles, microscopic bits of ash and smoke particles tapped in crevices, nooks and crannies. Be sure to vacuum well beneath the seats and the mats using a hypoallergenic vacuum cleaner with a lot of suction power. If the vacuum cleaner has a rolling brush attachment that is all the better for grinding the nicotine particles out of your car upholstery so that they can be sucked up.
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  3. 3
    Clean your car upholstery
    You can use a commercial upholstery spray cleaner that allows you to spray and wipe the car interior or you can wipe everything down with a cloth dabbed with Murphy's oil. A strong smelling citrus oil cleaner like Citrus Solv works well to clean the hard materials in your car as well. Then leave the interior of the car open for a couple of hours and let it air dry.
    Citra Solv Helps Remove Smelly Nicotine Residue - Photo <>
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  4. 4
    Hang multiple air fresheners over every car vent that blows air
    Hook a scented air freshener over each vent and operate it so that the scent can circulate throughout the vehicle. Do this for at least half-an-hour for best results. The small scented gel freshener disks that attach right to the vents are the best because they come in strong scents that are good at masking odors.
    Fragranced gel disks can help remove cigarette odor from your vehicle.
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  5. 5
    Leave your car windows open for a few days
    If you can park your car in a sunny spot and leave the windows wide this can help to air out the cigarette smoking smell lingering in your car upholstery.
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Ways to Absorb Smoke Odor

Sometimes the smell of cigarette smoke persists no matter what you do, (especially in a used car that was previously owned by a smoker) in which case you might want to try placing any of the following to try and absorb or mask the odor.

  1. 1
    Place a tray of baking soda beneath your car seat and leave it there for two weeks.
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  2. 2
    Place a tray of activated carbon (also sometimes called activated charcoal), a substance known for absorbing odors, beneath your car seat and leave it there for two weeks
    You can buy this substance in bulk from an automotive supply store or a chain store with an automotive department such as Canadian Tire or Wal-Mart.
    Activated carbon can help absorb stubborn smoke and nicotine smells from your car.
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  3. 3
    Place a tray of freshly ground coffee beans beneath your car seat and leave it in the car with the doors closed overnight to absorb and mask the cigarette smoke odor
    Coffee is a well-known neutralizer of strong smells and that is why perfumers and perfume stores use the grounds to cleanse the sense of smell when sampling different perfumes. It will also have the effect of neutralizing the smoke odor in your car.
    Coffee beans neutralize smoke odors and other odors.
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Use Essential oils to Mask Smoke Odor

Sometimes you don't have much of a choice but to try and mask the odor until it fades away on it's own. Use essential oil drops help you tolerate the smell over the long-term. They are natural air cleaners and smell better than commercial deodorizers.

Effective essential oil deodorizers for cars include:

  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Rosemary oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Clary sage

You can even make a spray by putting a 8-10 drops of these oils in any combination in a spray bottle and use it to mist the entire interior of your car.

If you are using these oils you will also enjoy the additional intrinsic therapeutic effects of using essential oils as they are also known to increase mental alertness, awareness and improve memory. Essential oils are also natural anti-viral and anti-bacterial agents.

A vial of Eucalptus Oil - Photo by Intineranttrader.

Tips and Tricks

  • Use a powerful vacuum with a HEPA filter that can remove particles between 1.0 and ..1 to guarantee results as that is the size of smoke particles.
  • If your car still has ash trays in the doors or elsewhere you conceal a gel deodorizer inside of each one to help mask the scent.
  • If you can, it is always better to get rid of the scent rather than mask it as too many strong smells in a car can give the driver and passengers a headache.

If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


Article Info

Categories : Automotive

Recent edits by: Inukshuk, Donna

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