How to Get Smoke Smell Out of Car Easily (9 Hacks)

by Joshua Thomas

Cigarette smoke smell is unmistakable and for nonsmokers, it can be hard to tolerate, and so if it is all over your vehicle, it will make it quite uncomfortable.

Different situations can result in cigarette smoke in your car. They will range from smoking in the vehicle to buying a vehicle previously owned by a smoker, and even inheriting a car from someone that smokes a lot.

The biggest problem that comes with the smoke smell is that besides being quite unpleasant, it can diminish the value of the car significantly.

Although getting smoke out of a car can be quite difficult, this is not to say it cannot be done. There are different ways of eliminating the smoke smell from the vehicle permanently. And in this piece, we go over some of the easiest and most effective ones.

General Steps for Getting Smoke Out of Car

General Steps for Getting Smoke Out of Car
General Steps for Getting Smoke Out of Car

While every situation will be unique and hence require special attention, there are still some general steps that will be very useful in getting rid of smoke smell for most vehicles. And hence, if you have a smoke smell problem, these steps should always be your first line of action. Here is a more comprehensive breakdown of the steps.

Step 1: Get Rid of the Smoke Source

When you notice that your car has a lingering smoke smell, the first thing that you need to do to fix the issue is to get rid of the source of the smell. In many instances, dong thing can be enough to totally eliminate the smoke smell or at least mask it to almost insignificant levels.

Here you will need to empty the ashtray and get rid of all the traces of cigarettes in the car such as old cigarette packs.

Make sure to look under the seat and all those hidden and hard to reach places and remove anything that might bring the smoke smell. Also, remember to smell every piece and toss out anything with a smoke smell for cleaning.

Step 2: Clean Notorious Odor Retaining Items

Once you get rid of the smoke smell source, the next step is to clean the items in your vehicle that are notorious for retaining odors, and this will include things like the carpets, seats, and anything else with some kind of fabric.

A vacuum cleaner will be very handy for this step, and you should make sure that you vacuum the upholstery thoroughly and make sure you suck up all the ash. For anything that can be removed, it is a good idea to take it out for an even more comprehensive cleanup.

After the cleanup, you should remember to spray a fabric deodorizer as it will contain enzymes that will help fasten the breakdown of any remaining smoke smell.

Step 3: Clean Window and Windscreen

If you or someone else was smoking in the car, the chances are that some of the cigarette ash and residue will end up on the windows and windscreen. Hence, even if you clean all the fabric thoroughly, there might still be some smoke left.

A glass cleaner will be very useful here, and something with ammonia will be better to ensure a thorough clean up. Also, note that you will need to use some elbow grease to scrub off the windows and windscreen.

Step 4: Wipe the Interior

The next step is to give the interior surface a thorough wipe down because, after the steps above, the chances are that you will end up with everything from ash to window cleaner all over the interior.

This step is also quite easy as you will only need to use a cotton rag or microfiber cloth to give the interior surface a thorough cleanup by sweeping away these substances.

Effective Home Remedies

Effective Home Remedies
Effective Home Remedies

In most instances, the 4 steps above should be enough to get rid of the smoke smell or at least most of it, and so you might not need to do anything else. However, there are also some simple but effective home remedies that you can use to deal with the smoke smell which includes the following.

1. Air Freshener

The air fresheners are always what many people turn to when faced with some bad odors, and the smoke smell in your vehicle is no exception.

While air fresheners might not get rid of the smoke smell source, it can cover it with a more pleasant scent, and hence making the car's interior more comfortable.

There is a wide variety of air fresheners for cars out there, and so you should not have any problem finding one, but just make sure that you buy the types that eliminate the odor and not just mask the smoke smell.

2. Coffee Grounds

Coffee being the second most widely consumed beverage in the world, coffee grounds should not be hard to come by. Hence, before you toss them into the dustbin after use, it is worth noting that they are also a potent odor absorber that can help you deal with smoke smell in your car. But, the fresh, unused ones will even be much better.

By simply placing a few tablespoons of unused coffee grounds in an open cup in your vehicle for a few hours or overnight, you will notice a huge difference in the smells in your car. The strong coffee scent will mask most of the smoke smell.

3. Baking Soda

Baking soda is another highly effective odor absorber, and this fact should be enough indication that it will be highly useful in dealing with the smoke smell in your car.

You can sprinkle baking soda on the upholstery and carpet and leave it overnight before vacuuming the next day or leave an open baking soda box in the car if you do not want to make a mess. And besides absorbing the smell, baking soda can also be useful for the actual cleanup.

4. White Vinegar

When you want to get rid of food smells in your fridge, white vinegar is one of the best products that you can use, and besides its uses in food preparation, this is perhaps its second most common use.

The same way that white vinegar will be useful on your fridge is the same way that it will work in your car because like baking soda, it is very effective at absorbing and masking odors. And it is also quite easy to use because you only need to pour some in an open cup and leave it in the car overnight.

5. Charcoal

Charcoal has been in use as an odor eliminator for a long time. Some types like bamboo charcoal can absorb everything from odors to bacteria and mildew, and so smoke smell masking should be a small task for charcoal.

All you will need to do is leave an open bag of charcoal in the car for a couple of days, and you should notice changes in the smell. Better yet, even after absorbing the bad odor, the charcoal will still be in perfect condition for grilling, and so there is no loss here.

Long Term Solutions

Long Term Solutions
Long Term Solutions

While all the highlighted methods and remedies above will be effective in getting rid of the smoke smell in the car, it is still worth looking for a more permanent solution. Here are a few long term solutions that will almost guarantee you never have to worry about smoke smell again.

1. Work on the Ventilation System

The fact that there is smoke smell lingering in your car is an indication that the ventilation system might not be performing optimally.

With a good ventilation system, most smells should dissipate easily, and even as you get rid of the smoke smell with other methods, you also need to work on the ventilation system.

There are different ways of fixing the ventilation system, but using a neutralizer through the air intake is often the most effective one.

2. Replace Parts

If all the cleanup does not provide the desired results or the smoke smell does not go away completely, a more permanent solution will be to replace parts that retain smells such as carpets, mats, and upholstery.

In some cases, you might even need to replace the entire air filtration system as it may also have some ash and other sources of smoke smell trapped in it, and just cleaning it might not be enough.

3. Professional Detailing

Another effective and long-term solution for dealing with smoke smells is taking your car to a professional for a thorough expert clean up.

Given the huge number of smokers, you can be certain that many professional detailers get cases of smoke smell quite often and will hence have enough experience to deal with it. Also, getting professional detail services will save you time and elbow grease.


There is probably nothing more annoying and unpleasant than smoke smell in a car's interior, and this is more so for those that do not smoke. But even for smokers, a lingering smoke smell is nothing that they want to live within their vehicle.

However, the good news is that getting rid of the smoke smell in your car is quite straightforward if you know what to do. And besides giving it a thorough clean up, there are also several effective home remedies that you can use such as baking soda, coffee grounds, and white vinegar.

In many instances, you might need to use a combination of different methods and products, but ultimately the most important thing will be to identify the source of the smell and get rid of it before you clean up.


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About Joshua Thomas

Joshua Thomas just simply loves cars and willing to work on them whenever there's chance... sometimes for free.

He started CarCareTotal back in 2017 from the advices of total strangers who witnessed his amazing skills in car repairs here and there.

His goal with this creation is to help car owners better learn how to maintain and repair their cars; as such, the site would cover alot of areas: troubleshooting, product recommendations, tips & tricks.

Joshua received Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering at San Diego State University.

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