Getting rid of the smell of cigarettes can be challenging in a car, but there are several ways to do it if you are willing to be persistent. Whether you’ve just purchased a vehicle that stinks of stale cigarette smoke, or you are tired of the smell in your own car and are trying to get rid of it, the smell of cigarettes is one of the hardest to get out of a vehicle. There is something about the compounds that allow it to linger and no amount of perfume, air freshener, cleaning products or even time seem to make it totally go away.

How To Remove The Smell Of Cigarettes From A Car 1 6 Steps To Remove The Smell Of Cigarettes From A Car

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How do you remove the cigarette smell from a car?

To remove the cigarette smell from a car, you must do a combination of the following:

  • vacuum it
  • use baking soda
  • leave a bowl of coffee grounds 
  • leave a bowl of citrus peels
  • try an ozone generator
  • take your car for a deep clean

Cigarette smoke is by far one of the hardest smells to get out of upholstery, regardless of what kind it is. And, if the smoking occurs in a relatively small space for a prolonged period of time with very little ventilation, it’s going to be even more challenging to tackle. But, rest assured, it can be done with some patience and perseverance!

I’ve known people who smoke and people who don’t. Regardless of which side you fall on, most everyone doesn’t like the stale smell cigarettes leave behind. 

I did a deep dive into how to remove the smell of cigarettes from a car and hope the information I gathered will be helpful to you if you are in the process of trying to eliminate the smell of smoke from your car.

Steps To Remove The Smell Of Cigarettes

Since the introduction of cars, people have been smoking in them. Though we now have a much better understanding of the health effects that smoking causes, it doesn’t mean that we don’t still smoke in our cars.

In fact, there are some studies that suggest people are smoking in their cars more than ever, thanks to the pandemic, being in close quarters with loved ones, and not having other places to smoke without getting in trouble for it. 

Regardless of how you feel about smoking, all of this is to say – if you have a car that you’d like to get the cigarette smell out of, you’ve come to the right place. Having unpleasant smells in your car can be a real annoyance, no matter what the cause.

1. Vacuum It

How To Remove The Smell Of Cigarettes From A Car 1 1 6 Steps To Remove The Smell Of Cigarettes From A Car

When trying to get the smell of cigarettes out of your car, the first thing you should do is vacuum. 

Vacuum everything! Take out the carpets or floor mats and vacuum them separately, then do the floor underneath. Flip-up the seats, get into the crevices, get underneath, and in hard-to-reach places. 

Vacuuming is a great starting point when you are trying to rid a space of a smell, even one that is as permeating as cigarette smoke because a vacuum’s suction is good at pulling any bits of small debris and dirt out of the car’s fabrics, which can harbor smells for longer.

Vacuuming alone will most likely not rid your car of the smell of cigarettes, but it will give you a clean surface from which to start. 

2. Use Baking Soda

Ah, baking soda. The magical, do-it-all smell remover. 

Baking soda has long been used to help remove smells lurking in everything from refrigerators to athletic shoes. Also known as sodium bicarbonate, baking soda has a pH that is slightly above neutral and therefore allows it to neutralize acidic odors very effectively.

Unlike air fresheners, perfumes or candles, baking soda won’t just mask a cigarette smell in your car. It will actually combine with the smell’s properties that are lingering in the air and neutralize them. 

Sprinkle the baking soda over all the various surfaces in your car, including the trunk and floor mats. Wait for at least 30 minutes, then vacuum it up. You may even consider leaving a box of baking soda in your car overnight to help alleviate any lingering smells.

3. Leave a Bowl of Coffee Grounds

Here’s another good one that has been a smell removal hack for years that not everyone is aware of.

Coffee is a mainstay for many of us in the mornings, and our cars have traveled many a mile with a cup of the stuff riding next to us. But did you know the coffee grounds can be useful, too?

Coffee grounds are rich in both potassium and nitrogen, two compounds that are known for helping to stop and eliminate odors in areas where smells can get trapped. Whether they are fresh or already brewed, coffee grounds are effective at neutralizing odors either way.

Unlike baking soda, you probably don’t want to spread coffee grounds throughout your car, because they can be much more challenging to clean up.

Instead, place some coffee grounds (around a cup will do) in a large bowl and leave it on your car seat overnight. (You can put another bowl of grounds on your back seat if your car is large, or the cigarette smell is particularly strong.

Leave the bowl overnight, and replace it again the next day after you’re done driving. 

After two or three nights of this, you should smell a significant improvement in your car’s interior. 

4. Leave a Bowl of Citrus Peels

Another creative (and effective!) hack is similar to the one above. But this one involves fruit, not coffee.

Fruits like oranges and lemons are not only delicious but they have long been used as ways to remove annoying smells, particularly in the kitchen and bathroom. 

Citrus fruits are made up of citric acid, which is known to remove odors when they are cut open. Though all types of citrus fruits can be used to help with stinky situations, lemons are best known for odor elimination, as the citric acid in a lemon is a bit more concentrated than in the others.

If you want to try citrus to get rid of the cigarette smell in your car, cut up a few lemons or oranges and take the peel off the outside of the fruit. Then, place the peels in a bowl and leave them in your car overnight.

I don’t recommend leaving the whole piece of fruit because you may end up replacing your cigarette smell with fruit flies. (Not a great trade-off, if you ask me!)

5. Try An Ozone Generator

When you’ve tried some of the more basic home remedies above and nothing has worked, the next step would be an ozone generator.

Ozone generators are designed for multiple uses, but for the purpose of ridding your car of cigarette smoke, these will work great. 

By emitting ozone gas into the air of your car, the machine can effectively use the silent discharge to break up the oxygen molecules of the smoke in the air and rid it of the pollutants in the car, replacing it with fresh, clean air. 

In order to use an ozone generator, you’ll need to plug it in outside the vehicle and let it run for a bit, probably about thirty minutes, but longer if you can.  After you turn it off, stay out of the car for at least two hours to let the air inside the car settle as well as let the ozone particles filter into your air filter system.

Ozone Generators aren’t extremely expensive, but if you don’t plan to use one frequently, you may be able to borrow or rent one.

6. Take Your Car for a Deep Clean

Okay, so you’ve tried everything else, from home remedies to pulling in the bigger ones and nothing has worked. The stale smell of cigarette smoke is still lingering throughout your car and you just can’t take it anymore.

Going to a professional detailer for a deep clean may be your last option. 

Car detailers can be found all over the internet and most areas have a decent handful to choose from. Many auto sales shops have detailers on-site, as do some mechanic shops. 

Many car detailers work for themselves and you can even find mobile detailers who will come to you.

The great thing about a professional auto detailer is they have seen it all when it comes to cars and smells. Many of the products they use are not sold in retail stores and have specially made formulas for some of the bigger jobs, such as a car that has been smoked in often and heavily.

A good detailing job comes at a price though. To get a thorough clean, inside and out, you may pay $200 or more, depending on where you live and how big the job is.

Always ask for references before you commit to a detailed job, and be very specific as to what you’re looking for, so the detailer can give you a realistic idea as to whether or not the smoke smell in your car is permanent or something that can be eliminated.

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