How to get cigarette smell out of a car

Cigarettes are bad, they are harmful to your health, and they smell terrible. If you or a person you have along in the car with you smokes, then the smell may linger in your car and can be hard to remove. If you are in the market for a used vehicle, and the previous owner was a smoker, you might want to remove the smell. There are a number of ways to rid cars of the cigarette smell from the interior and have them smell fresher. The most effective ways to eliminate this bad odor, as we’ll explain, are with baking soda, or an ozone generator. There is also a method to remove the smell with coffee grounds or charcoal. Here are the best ways to get cigarette smell and smoke residue out of a car.

Method 1: Instructions to get cigarette smell out of your car

Tools you’ll need

Step 1: Vacuum then spray and wipe down the interior

cropped hand cleaning car window romania

When trying to remove the smell of cigarettes from your vehicle, you need to start by cleaning your car as you normally would. Using a vacuum cleaner to remove loose ash, debris and dirt will make it easier to clean the rest of the interior. Next, spray an all-purpose cleaner on the seats, floor, mats, headliner and other surfaces of the vehicle that need cleaning.

Step 2: Coat the interior with baking soda

baking soda

Start placing baking soda on the carpet, seats and floor mats of the vehicle. Make sure you use enough to nicely coat the surface. Then let it sit for a few hours so it can deeply penetrate the surface.

Step 3: Vacuum again

cropped view of car cleaner vacuuming drivers seat in car

Grab your vacuum and use it again in your car. This will clean up the baking soda you used earlier. 

Step 4: Ventilate your vehicle

open car with view on the headrest

Leave the windows down for a while so any more odors can escape. Leave your car outside in a safe area if you can.

Method 2: Instructions to get cigarette smell out of your car

Tools you’ll need

Step 1: Take all loose items out of your car

friends on a road trip journey in together

Start off by removing all of your items from the vehicle and store them somewhere else.

Step 2: Clean your interior

wiping down surface of car dashboard with 70 alcohol spray and disposable damp cloth

Start out by thoroughly cleaning the interior of your car. Use a vacuum to remove ash, dirt and other debris from your interior surfaces. Spray an all-purpose or any other material surface cleaning product you have to clean your car seats, floor mats, headliner and other parts of your vehicle’s interior.

Step 3: Put on protective gear and place the generator

TTDMK Ozone Generator 1

Put on a mask and some gloves. Then take your ozone generator and place it in the vehicle. It’s best to place it on the center console or any other secure place in the middle of the vehicle. Make sure all windows and the sunroof are completely closed.

Step 4: Turn on the ozone generator

TTDMK Ozone Generator 2

Then turn on the machine. Most of these generators have a timer, generally ranging from 20 minutes up to 2 hours. How long you run the ozone generator will depend on how strong the cigarette smoke smell is in your vehicle.

Step 5: Ventilate your vehicle

aspen colorado mountain forest and car interior view in october 2019 and vibrant trees foliage autumn

Once your timer goes off, open all doors and windows to let the ozone ventilate. Let the car sit for at least 30 minutes to clear out any leftover ozone. If the smell isn’t fully removed, then you may need to repeat the entire process.

Cigarette smell removal FAQs

Baking soda vs ozone generator

Baking soda can remove odors effectively, but it takes more manual work and is much cheaper than an ozone generator. With ozone generators, you will need a protective mask and have to let the car sit for a long time, but it works better than the baking soda method.

Can changing my cabin air filter help remove the smell?

Changing your cabin air filter can help a lot and let you breathe fresher air in your vehicle, but it won’t remove the smell from the carpet and floor mats.

Are ozone generators safe?

With proper precautions and safety equipment, they can be used without causing harm to yourself or anyone else. Make sure you have on gloves and a mask and aren’t in the vehicle while it’s being used. For more information on ozone generators, here is a guide from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on how to properly use them safely.

Can air fresheners remove cigarette smell?

They can mask the smell temporarily but won’t remove the odor. After using a more complete odor removal method, air fresheners are always a nice finishing touch to add.

What is thirdhand smoke and how harmful is it?

According to the American Lung Association, “Thirdhand smoke occurs when tobacco smoke leaves residual nicotine and other chemicals on indoor surfaces, skin, fur and furniture, even after the air has cleared.” This can be extremely harmful to children that may touch or put objects in their mouth that may have touched these surfaces. It can be extremely harmful in cars due to their compact space and how easily smoke and residue can get stuck in the seats and other interior surfaces. For more information, here is a document from the American Lung Association on Thirdhand smoke.

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