For many, keeping your car clean goes beyond the surface. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a smoker who’s trying to cover up their tracks, or you’re an Uber driver who’s ready to say goodbye to memories of last night’s passengers. If you want to get that smoke smell out of your car, we’ve got you covered — step by step.

Basic, thorough cleaning to get rid of smoke smell

To eliminate smoke smell, start by airing out your vehicle, throwing out all the garbage (including cigarette butts and ashtray remnants) and vacuuming all interior surfaces. If you have access to a steam cleaner, we recommend using it for your upholstery. Make sure you wipe touch areas clean using disinfectant or a half-and-half mixture of vinegar and water.

While you do this, work on airing out your duct system. To do this, ignite the engine and keep your car in park. Put your fan on high and your AC temperature on the coolest setting. Turn off air recirculation, roll the windows down and let the air do its thing.

Neutralize your air and heating systems

If you still have a smoke smell problem after basic cleaning, try neutralizing your air and heating systems using these steps:

  1. Put your AC on full blast and locate the air intake. You will probably find yours at the base of the wiper blades. Spray an odor neutralizer (like Rocco & Roxie or a brand from your local store) straight into the vents. 
  2. Put your heat on full blast and locate the air intake. Again, spray the odor neutralizer straight into the vents.

Replace your cabin air filter

Generally, experts recommend changing your cabin air filter every 15,000 – 30,000 miles. However, if you’ve got a serious smoke smell problem in your car, you may want to switch it out even sooner. Remnants of cigarette smoke could be caught in the filter.

Home remedies to keep on hand

Consider trying these home remedies to get smoke smell out of your car to see which one works best for your ride:

  • Keep a cup of white vinegar in your car to neutralize odor in real time.
  • Sprinkle baking soda on your car’s carpet or floor mats. Leave it on for a bit and vacuum it up when it’s done its job.
  • If you can find charcoal, keep a bowl of it in your car for multiple days. It soaks up odors, ultimately eliminating them instead of merely masking them.
  • Place a cup of coffee grounds in your car to mask the smell.
  • Wipe your car seats and surfaces with a dryer sheet. While it won’t get to the root of the cause, it will serve a swift function.
  • Put a bowl of cat litter in your car for a couple of days and wait until the smoke smell disappears.

If the problem persists, purchase effective products

Sometimes, the holistic approach just doesn’t cut it. Fortunately, there are a number of products on the market specifically tailored to getting the smoke smell out of your car.

Ozium is the most popular and, arguably, the most effective of these products. Spray it in your car and leave the windows closed for a few hours.

The runner up is the Dakota Odor Bomb car odor eliminator. Make sure you ventilate your car for half an hour before getting back inside.

Should you invest in professional surfaces?

A professional ozone treatment using an ozone generator will cost you some money. For most people, this won’t be necessary. But if you’re in a bind or want to sell your car for maximum value, it may be the best option.

Getting the smoke smell out of your car isn’t always easy, but with some time and a bit of creativity, your ride is bound to feel fresh once more.

Rachel Curry
"Hey! My name's Rachel Curry and I'm a full-time writer who loves telling the world's stories as much as hanging with my dogs (and that's saying a lot). A University of Delaware graduate, I've traveled extensively, living everywhere from Ireland to Thailand. Bylines include Matador Network and Delaware Today."

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    7 Comments

    1. That stench of cold cigarette smoke is so unpleasant. Thanks for this article.

    2. If you can steam clean the interior of your car, then do it!! You will remove more grime and odor using this method than anything else in my experience. Plus you will have a very clean car at the end of steam cleaning.

    3. Car smelling like smoke is the worst. Never thought of this, but this is useful for sure.

    4. The charcoal and cat litter are new tricks that I will have to try the next time I am deep cleaning my car.

    5. I hate it when I get in a car and it smells like old smoke, nothing worse than that smell. These are great tricks to eliminate this problem.

    6. Nothing worse than getting in an Uber and the driver obviously smokes.

    7. Back in the day, I used to be an Uber driver and passengers who were smokers often carry the smell with them and do not realize it. Some are quite good at covering or masking the smell, while others are not. These tricks would have been good to know. I simply would roll down the windows between rides and spray an air freshener. I will say that overall, smelly people, in general, were one of the worse parts of having strangers in your car. Great tips here to refresh your car.

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