So, your pal borrowed your car and now that he has returned it, everything just reeks of cigarette. What do you do now? Cigarette smell is not only a nuisance but also dangerous.

The smell indicates that the toxic chemicals from the cigarette are still present. Cigarette smoke residue has been scientifically proven to damage human health and even cause cancer.

Well, if you’re looking for ways to get rid of that smell for good you just came to the right place since we’re going to discuss various ways to do just that.

how to get smoke smell out of car

Get Rid Of The Source

There’s an ashtray in your car, right? Empty it and throw away the remaining ashes and cigarette butts. Empty and clean the cup holders too. If there are ashes in the cabin, the smoke odor will linger no matter what you do.

Wipe Down Everythinghow to get cigarette smell out of car

Cigarette smoke sticks to anything and everything. They cling so hard they can last for months. and that’s what thirdhand smoke is all about.

Driving around with the windows open will not help rid of the smoke already stuck on various surfaces in the car. To rid those sticky smoke particles, you need to wipe down everything.

Grab a piece of a microfiber towel. Dip it in a bowl of water mixed with a little bit of shampoo or soap.

Wring out excess water and wipe every surface of the car interior including the windows. Spend a good time on the headrests since they’re the ones that usually stink the most.

If you have leather seats, use leather cleaner but read the instructions carefully before you wipe down anything. A cleaner specially formulated for real leather may ruin seats made of faux leather and vice versa.

Vacuum The Interior

remove smoke smell from car

If your car seats have fabric covers, you should vacuum them thoroughly. Take the covers off if possible and clean them outside of the car then vacuum the seats.

Got a steam cleaner? Use that or just borrow one from your friendly neighbor. Steam-cleaning fabric seats will not only remove smoke particles on the surface but also the ones literally buried deep under the seats. As an added bonus, the seats will be free from grime, dirt, and stain too.

“But none of my neighbors own a steam cleaner!”

You can always rent one. If that still sounds too troublesome just call a steam cleaning service in your area.

Once you have taken care of the seats, take out and vacuum the floor mats. Let them air out for a while outside before you put them back in.

Replace The Cabin Air Filter

how to remove smoke smell from car

Cars usually have two air filters: One that filters the air going to the engine and one leading to the car’s air conditioner. This cabin air filter is usually hidden behind the glove box. It’s easy to replace on your own.

After you replace the filter, put your car on the driveway or any open space and run the AC on full blast. This will blow any residual smoke particles on the vents. Wipe the vents too while you’re at it.

Plug In An Ionizer

how to remove cigarette smell from car

There are portable 12 Volt ionizers that you can use to remove cigarette smell from your car. Just plug it into the 12 Volt cigarette lighter socket on the dashboard and let it do its job.

There are also car air purifiers that you can plug into the USB port. Being small, it may take a while for either to rid of the cigarette odor completely.

“What about ozone generator?”

An ozone generator works too. It’s basically a specialized ionizer which uses high voltage to create ozone molecules from oxygen.

The ozone will attach itself to the cigarette smoke particles, oxidizes them, and breaks down the toxic molecules into simpler non-toxic ones.

Please note that if you’re sensitive to ozone, you should not be in the car while you’re running the ozone generator.

Plug it in, get out of the car, let the generator run for 15 minutes, get back in, and plug the generator out.  The remaining ozone will break down to oxygen in half an hour or so.

Use An Air Purifier

remove cigarette smell from car

If you happen to have a car with a built-in AC socket, things are much simpler. Just grab the air purifier you use at home, plug that one in, and let it run on the highest fan setting with all the windows closed. For such a small confined space, that air purifier won’t need long to clean the air in the cabin.

Make sure the air purifier has both HEPA and activated carbon filter. This combo does wonder when it comes to removing foul odors by filtering the particulates that cause them.

Interested in air purifiers? Take a look here

Spray Odor Eliminators

removing smoke smell from car

Febreze and Ozium both work well for eliminating cigarette smell in the car.

Febreze contains a chemical compound called beta-cyclodextrin. This compound is made of sugar molecules bound together in a shape of a ring. Think of it as donut molecule complete with a hole in the middle.

As you spray Febreze, the water vapor makes the odor-causing particles to get trapped by the hole in the middle. The particles will no longer bind to your olfactory perceptors. They’re there but you can’t smell them anymore.

This short clip will help you visualize how this happens.


Ozium follows the same principle. It traps the smelly particles and weighs them down so they no longer airborne. The downside is Ozium gives that thick feeling to the air after you spray it so don’t spray too much of it.

Use Natural Odor Eliminators

Not everyone fancies spraying Febreze or Ozium all over their car interior. Some can’t even stand the fruity or flowery smell those two left, and they’re supposed to be removing odors instead of adding one into the mix.

If you’re one of them, then it’s time to look some natural odor eliminators.

Ground coffee

get smoke smell out of car

Put a cup of ground coffee on a plate. Put the plate on the car seat and leave it overnight. Make sure all the windows are up. The coffee will soak up the odor from the air and leave the cabin smells fresh.

Just don’t brew the leftover coffee afterward. It’s going to taste foul.

Baking soda

how to get cigarette smoke out of a car interior

Baking soda/baking powder (sodium bicarbonate) is the go-to solution for various cleaning task in and around the house. It’s versatile, affordable, and do wonders as an odor-eliminator too.

Just like with coffee, put a cup of baking soda on a plate and leave it there. It leaves your car odorless. If you consider the aroma of ground coffee is too strong, go with baking soda instead.

Activated charcoal bags

how to get cigar smell out of a car

Activated charcoal or activated carbon is also considered a natural way to get rid of tobacco smell from cars. You can buy bags of these for cheap online. Just get the small bags. You don’t need a big one for a small space that is your car cabin.

Activated charcoal bags are not only excellent for removing odors. They also adsorb harmful chemicals called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

Gasses such as formaldehyde, ammonia or benzene are the result of off-gassing from plastics, glue, carpeting, and various other material used to build the car interior.

Using charcoal bags will not only rid toxic cigarette smell from your car but also leave the air fresher and safer to breathe.

Cat litter

how to get rid of cigarette smell in car

Yes, we’re not joking. Put a bowl of cat litter inside the car and leave it for a day or two. Cat litter is super cheap, so if you don’t have a cat you can always buy a box.

Cat litter contains activated carbon and that’s why it’s great for removing odor. It’s also easy to find in almost any store. If you can’t find activated charcoal anywhere, this is the next best thing.

Remember to go with unscented litter. The scented ones mask the smell of the cigarettes so it’s hard to tell if the cigarette smell is already gone or is it just covered by the scent.

Conclusion

That’s all for tips on how to remove smoke smell from cars. You may consider yourself a graduate in Cigarette Odor Removal study. No matter what kind of situation you’re in, you will rid of that cigarette smell without fail.

“Will those methods remove vape smell too?”

Of course. However, vape smoke is a completely different being compared to cigarette smoke. The smoke you blow when you vape is mostly water vapor. They don’t stick or linger as strong as cigarette smoke. Opening the window while you’re driving is usually sufficient to get rid to the odor.

All things said, the best method to rid of cigarette odor is not smoking completely instead of  switching to vaping. While vaping is less dangerous compared to smoking cigarettes, it is still dangerous nevertheless. What are the difference between vaping  and smoking? We’ll let this video to clear it up.