19 Tips for Getting Rid of the Cigarette Smell in Your Car

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Cigarette smoke is one of the worst smells to have in a car. It leaves an unpleasant odor that can linger for weeks, no matter how many times you try to clean it up. Unfortunately, lingering smoke odors can also harm a vehicle’s resale value.

Luckily, there are several tricks that will get rid of the cigarette smell from your vehicle quickly and easily!

  1. Keep your windows down when you’re driving if it isn’t raining outside – this will allow fresh air to circulate through the vehicle.
  2. Remove car mats and seat covers and either wash them or buy new ones.
  3. Clean the ashtray. Empty the ashtray and rinse it with soap and water. You can also use a solution of vinegar or ammonia to clean up any stains that may have formed from spilled ashes.
  4. Wipe down all hard surfaces in your car with an antibacterial cleaning wipe, like Lysol All-Purpose cleaner wipes. If you don’t want to buy those, they’re easy enough to make at home by combining two tablespoons of rubbing alcohol along with one tablespoon of liquid dishwashing detergent. This will remove any sticky residue left behind as well as smoke particles on various surfaces inside your vehicle. Use a vacuum cleaner to suck up the particles of tobacco and dust from the floor, seats and dashboard. You don’t want this smoke residue left on your car’s surfaces!
  5. Clean your cars soft surfaces such as upholstery with a vacuum and suitable car upholstery cleaner. Don’t forget the seat belts and headliner (roof lining).
  6. Consider replacing your In-Cabin Air Filter (or ICF) with a new one. This can help remove the tobacco smell from your vehicle’s air supply and it doesn’t require professional installation—simply take out the old filter, insert a new one, and you’re done!
  7. Use an air freshener with strong-smelling essential oils such as peppermint, lemon, lavender or grapefruit oil which can help neutralize unpleasant odors that develop in vehicles. Or you could always purchase an odor removal product like Febreze Car Odor Eliminator.
  8. Clean the windows by using a car window cleaner or hot water mixed with vinegar (this will also work well for removing cigarette smell from glass). If there’s no time for this step then use window cleaner instead.
  9. Use a Car Air Purifier like Enoch that plugs into the car’s cigarette lighter and is designed to eliminate smoke, unpleasant odors, and other airborne particles.
  10. Use Air Purifier Bags such as those from Nature Fresh that use charcoal and bamboo to get rid of smoke and pet smells.
  11. Try Febreeze Carpet and Upholstery Odor Eliminator. This is sprayed onto the carpets, upholstery, vents or air conditioner filter to kill lingering cigarette smoke, pet smells, cooking odors and more.
  12. Place bowls full of vinegar around the interior – it will absorb any remaining odor. Leave them in place for at least an hour.
  13. One place that smoke smells can linger is car air vents. Try spraying a product like Turtle Wax Odor-X Fresh Blast directly into the air vents and running the air conditioning on max (recirculation mode) for 15 minutes.
  14. Use a cotton ball soaked in vanilla extract to get rid of lingering smells. Place it on top of your dashboard near air vents, seats, and especially ashtrays.
  15. Sprinkle baking soda over carpets and upholstery before vacuuming – this will absorb any cigarette smell that is left behind from smoke as well as freshen the car’s interior at the same time.
  16. Combine equal parts coffee grounds and warm water (or vinegar) in an old sock then tie off one end so you have a baggie filled with liquid; place these around different areas in your car for about two hours each day until all traces are gone.
  17. If smoke odors have permeated your leather car seats consider a product like Turtle Wax Power Out! Leather Cleaner to help remove them.
  18. Newspapers placed around your car will help absorb any smell.
  19. Replace the air filter in your vehicle to reduce the amount of cigarette smoke that is recirculated through the ventilation system. Replace or clean your cabin’s air ducts as well as changing its filters on a regular basis to keep them fresh and free from odor-causing material.
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Mike Jarvis

Mike is an automotive writer with a life-long passion for all things with four wheels.