How to remove the smell of cigarette smoke from a car

It might be hard to believe but people are still smoking cigarettes despite all the health risks associated with it. Unfortunately, the smell of cigarettes is also ruining cars too. Recently, I was inquiring into 1995 Pontiac Trans Am, 6 speed in black and it looked to be in decent shape. 

Unfortunately, the sales add did not show the ash tray nor could it give off the smell. This was a car that mechanically was maintained, had some physically marks that were expected with a 20-year-old car but wow the smell of cigarettes was incredible. The owner told me he had been smoking for 45 years and if I didn’t know the year of the car, I would assume he spent all that time smoking inside of it. Luckily for me that smell of cigarettes had deterred other buyers and had pushed the seller to be a bit more flexible on the deal because everyone else assumed they would never get the smell out. Now let me tell you how you can.

Full disclosure, getting the smell of cigarette smoke out of a car is not an easy task especially if it’s been smoked in for a while. You will most likely have to repeat this process several times to get it to a decent level or have it completely removed. Let’s get going.

Empty out the ashtrays

Pretty straight forward stuff, and a good starting point. I recommend completely removing them and letting them soak in a dish soap solution.

Remove all car mats and any seat covers

When people smoke in vehicles the ash will fall down to the seats and the floors no matter how careful they are. 

Vacuum the car

I mean really vacuum this thing thoroughly and get into all the cracks.

Wipe down the entire interior

Use the appropriate products and make sure you do a full interior clean. If you need some suggestions, here is our list of interior cleaning products.

At this point you should have a somewhat decent smelling car. However, if the smell of cigarettes is still there we need to move forward with a more chemical solution.

Apply a nicotine remove and odour eliminator

You can find a variety of these at your local parts store. Just get the one that you think smells best. Spray it everywhere in the car including the carpets, seats, windows, dash and the roof. Wait the recommended time (ranging from 2 to 5 minutes) and then wipe it away. Finally, use a wet and dry vacuum to get the remaining bits out. 

Shampoo the entire interior

You can find several interior shampoos, we have some on our recommended list, but make sure you do a thorough job with this. A good shampooing of the interior could remove 99% of the smell. 

Utilize charcoal

Charcoal is a great odor absorber and placing it in your vehicle does help get rid of the smell of cigarette smoke. I would recommend you place a large bowl on the driver’s seat and one on a passenger seat and keep the vehicle closed for 48 hours.

Blast it with white vinegar

Ok don’t blast… but definitely spray some into the vents and then place a bowl of it on the floor of the vehicle. Keep the car closed for 48 hours and you should notice the smell of cigarettes gone. However, your car will probably smell like vinegar for a brief period of time or until you get some air fresheners! 

Hopefully that helps!

About Nick

Nick resides on the West Coast and lives for cars. He has a unique passion for old American FWD V-8 vehicles and his current daily is a 2004 Buick Century. He does also have a 2003 Porsche 996 Turbo, and a 2018 Kawasaki ZX-10R.