Smoke filling interior of car. Smoke smell in car can cause your car value to decrease.

How To Get Rid Of Smoke Smell in Cars

Biohazard Clean Up

If you are one of the millions who smoke either tobacco or cannabis, you are probably aware of the lingering odor that often follows. Did you know this smoke can stick to interior surfaces in your car and bring down the car’s value? Cigarette smoke smell can penetrate air vents and douse your entire vehicle in smoke residue. Therefore, it is essential to know how to remove the smoke smell from your car.

When sticky tobacco residues accumulate, the resulting film on interior surfaces continually releases malodors. Heavy smoking over a long period of time causes stubborn and severe smoke odors.  There is even a term for this; according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) is the mixture of smoke that comes from the burning end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar, resulting in a complex mixture of over 7,000 compounds, more than 40 of which are associated with cancer. ETS is often referred to as “secondhand smoke,” and exposure to ETS is often called “passive smoking,” which affects both smokers and non-smokers.

First: Eliminate the Cause

The very first thing to do if you plan to remove the smoke smell from the inside of your car is to stop whatever is causing the smell. Simple enough. This means if the odor is being driven by smoking tobacco or cannabis*, you will need to find a different spot to smoke. Likewise, clean up and remove any cigarette butts or ash, especially off of leather car seats and floor mats.

Second: Vacuum

Up next is when you vacuum up the car. Prepare to be thorough because the seats, floor mats, roof liners, and other items made of porous materials within the car interior can have the smoke particles deeply embedded within their fibers. Be sure to vacuum every small crevice between and underneath the car seats. Remove the floor mats and vacuum underneath, then keep the mats outside the car so you can later assess if they still smell like smoke.

Third: Air Recirculation

Spray a deodorizing solution, such as Febreze Fabric Auto, on the soft places in your car, including the seats and seatbacks, to help clean them. Then, recirculate the air by opening all the doors to your car and turning the vents on. Let the air move through the entire system for at least an hour. For an even better result, let the solution sit in the vehicle overnight to give it time to settle into the fibers.

Fourth: Clean the Hard Surfaces

You can’t neglect the hard surfaces within the car, either. Although the particles will not impregnate the inner fibers, they will still congregate on the surface. You can easily create a DIY cleaning solution to clean the interior of the windows. To make this solution, mix ¼ cup vinegar with ½ teaspoon of liquid dish soap, then pour it and two cups of water into a spray bottle. 

Fifth: Hang an Air Freshener up and Make Everything Pretty (Put Things Back Where You Found Them)

Now it’s time to move everything back into the car. After you have ensured your ashtray and car mats no longer smell like smoke, go ahead and put them back in your vehicle. Hanging air fresheners on your rearview mirror can also help make your car smell even fresher.

Deep Cleaning Tips and Tricks

If you’re really serious about getting the cigarette odor out of your car, and we know you are, then we can take it several steps further. In addition to the techniques listed above, the following steps can help provide a deep clean. You will need baking soda, an in-cabin air filter, and a can of car deodorizer.

First: Sprinkle Some Baking Soda

Baking soda, being the versatile substance that it is, can be an excellent medium for trapping odor. If you sprinkle it over all the soft spaces in your car, even between the seats and on the interior side of the roof, you can thoroughly remove deeply trapped odors. It might feel like you are making a mess in your own car, but trust us, we know what we are talking about. Let the baking soda sit for about 36 hours, and then vacuum it up. It’s easy for baking soda to stick to your seats, so you’ll probably want to repeat the vacuuming process several times. You can even try this process with coffee grounds as well.

Second: Replace Your In-Cabin Air Filter

You might (or might not) be surprised that many people have never changed out their in-cabin air filters before. If you’ve never replaced yours, you’ll be amazed at the dirt, grime, and odors that get trapped inside. It is like thinking you see fine until you put on glasses that match your eyes then realize just how bad your vision used to be. You can easily replace it with a new one on your own. First, remove everything out of your glove box, then slide the door off its hinges to remove it completely. This might sound daunting, but you shouldn’t need any tools for this for most car models. Now, all you need to do is remove the old, smoke-saturated cabin air filter, dispose of it, and insert your fresh one.

Third: Deodorize your HVAC

One of the very best ways to eliminate the smoke scent is by using your HVAC to blow a deodorizer throughout your entire car. First, roll down all your windows and locate the HVAC intake, which is probably somewhere near the base of your windshield. Then, turn your ignition on and set your system to recirculate with your fans set to their highest setting and your temperature to its lowest. Spray the deodorizer through the HVAC intake by inserting an extension tube directly into the air vents if you have one, and then turn your ignition off. Let your car sit with the windows down until the deodorizer settles. 

If you follow these tips, you should be able to conduct the odor removal process right at home! You should note that these are not permanent fixes if you decide to continue to smoke in your car, and you will likely need to repeat these processes over again once the smoke smell returns.

Call PuroClean for Help Removing Smoke Smell in Car!

Call PuroClean, the leading restoration and remediation franchise known as the “Paramedics of Property Damage,” at 1-800-775-7876, or visit our website to find your nearest PuroClean office.  Our certified technicians are professionally trained to remove odors like tobacco, cannabis, cigar smoke, and many other odors from your car, house, or any other personal property. PuroClean uses the latest technology, products, and equipment to remove these pungent odors, which will increase the value of your car, home, or other property, and return the items to freshness as good as new.

Last edited on 22nd of December 2021

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