Have you recently purchased a used car only to discover that it carries an unpleasant cigarette smell? Or you may be a former smoker who wants to eliminate the lingering odor from your vehicle. Regardless of the reason, dealing with cigarette smell in a car can be a challenging task. But you don’t need to worry! This comprehensive guide will provide practical tips and techniques to help you remove that stubborn cigarette smell from your car once and for all.

Having a lingering cigarette smell in your car can be unpleasant and bothersome. But, whether you’ve recently quit smoking or purchased a used car with a strong smoke odor, there are effective ways to eliminate the smell and restore your vehicle’s fresh and clean scent.

Why Cigarette Smell Lingers

Cigarette smoke contains chemicals that can easily permeate your car’s upholstery, carpets, and other surfaces. The porous nature of these materials allows the smoke particles to penetrate deeply, making the smell stubborn and challenging to eliminate. The tar and nicotine residue from smoking can also contribute to the persistent odor.

To effectively tackle the cigarette smell, it’s essential to take a comprehensive approach that addresses both the surfaces and the air within your car. You can significantly reduce and eventually eliminate the unpleasant odor by following the methods outlined below.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Eliminate Cigarette Smell from Your Car

Thoroughly Clean and Vacuum the Interior

To start removing cigarette smell, it’s crucial to thoroughly clean and vacuum your car’s interior. Follow these steps:

Gather the necessary cleaning supplies: You will need a vacuum cleaner with attachments, a mild detergent or car interior cleaner, microfiber cloths, baking soda, and an odor-neutralizing spray.

Remove any debris and loose particles: Start by using the vacuum cleaner with the appropriate attachments to remove loose debris, such as cigarette ash, crumbs, and dust, from the upholstery, carpets, and crevices of your car.

how to remove cigarette smell from car

Clean the surfaces: Dilute the mild detergent or car interior cleaner according to the instructions on the packaging. Dampen a microfiber cloth with the cleaning solution and gently wipe down the surfaces, including the seats, dashboard, door panels, and any other areas affected by the smoke odor. Pay close attention to areas where smoke residue accumulates, such as the ashtray and cup holders.

Vacuum again: After cleaning the surfaces, use the vacuum cleaner once more to remove any remaining dirt or cleaning residue from the upholstery and carpets.

By following these steps, you’ll significantly reduce the cigarette smell in your car. However, for persistent or strong odors, additional methods may be necessary.

Air Out the Car

After cleaning the interior, it’s time to air out the car to help remove any lingering cigarette smell. Follow these steps:

how to remove cigarette smell from car

Open all windows and doors: Roll down the windows and open all doors of your car to allow fresh air to circulate. This will help ventilate the interior and release trapped odors.

Use natural odor absorbers: Place natural odor absorbers inside your car, such as activated charcoal, baking soda, or coffee grounds. These substances can help absorb and neutralize odors over time.

Utilize Odor Eliminators

In addition to airing out your car, using odor eliminators can significantly aid in removing cigarette smells. Consider the following techniques:

how to remove cigarette smell from car

Use an ozone generator: An ozone generator can effectively eliminate strong odors, including cigarette smells. However, ozone generators should be used cautiously following the manufacturer’s instructions, as ozone can be harmful if not used properly.

Apply vinegar solution: Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Lightly mist the upholstery, carpets, and other fabric surfaces with the vinegar solution. Vinegar can help neutralize odors, but spot-test it on a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure it doesn’t cause discoloration.

Try commercial odor eliminators: Various commercial products are designed to eliminate car odors. Look for odor eliminators that target smoke and tobacco smells. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer for the best results.

Clean the Ventilation System

Your car’s ventilation system can significantly source lingering cigarette smells. Follow these steps to clean the system:

how to remove cigarette smell from car

Replace the cabin air filter: Consult your car’s manual to locate and replace the cabin air filter. The filter can trap smoke particles and contribute to the lingering odor. Installing a fresh filter can help improve the air quality inside your car.

Use an air purifier: Consider using an automotive air purifier designed to neutralize odors and improve air quality. In addition, these devices can help remove smoke particles and freshen the air circulating through the ventilation system.

Additional Tips and Precautions

Here are some additional tips and precautions to keep in mind when dealing with cigarette smell removal:

Avoid smoking in the car: To prevent the recurrence of cigarette smell, it’s best to avoid smoking in your car altogether. Smoking outside the vehicle will help maintain a fresh and odor-free interior.

Regularly clean and maintain your car: Regularly cleaning and maintaining your car’s interior will help prevent the buildup of odors. Vacuum the interior, wipe down surfaces, and address spills and stains promptly.

Avoid masking odors: While air fresheners can temporarily mask odors, addressing the underlying cause of the smell and eliminating it rather than relying solely on fragrance is essential.

Consider professional detailing services: If the cigarette smell persists despite your efforts, you may consider professional detailing services. Auto detailing experts have specialized tools and techniques to clean and deodorize your car effectively.


Congratulations, my friend! You’ve completed the mission of banishing that pesky cigarette smell from your car. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you’ve armed yourself with the knowledge and techniques to reclaim the fresh and clean scent your car deserves. 

So roll down those windows, take a deep breath, and enjoy the ride in your odor-free sanctuary on wheels. You did it! Now, it’s time to hit the road and make new memories without the unpleasant reminder of that smoky past.

Frequently Asked Questions

What neutralizes cigarette smell?

Several substances can help neutralize cigarette smell, including baking soda, activated charcoal, white vinegar, and ozone generators. These substances work by absorbing or breaking down the odor-causing particles.

Does vinegar remove the smoke smell from the car?

Vinegar is an effective natural remedy for removing the smoke smell from a car. Mix equal white vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spritz it onto fabric surfaces, upholstery, and carpets. Vinegar helps neutralize the odor and leaves a fresher scent.

Can you put baking soda in your car to remove the cigarette smell?

Yes, baking soda is an excellent odor absorber that can help remove a car’s cigarette smell. Sprinkle baking soda on fabric surfaces, upholstery, and carpets, and let it sit for a few hours or overnight. Then, vacuum it to remove the baking soda and the absorbed odors.

Can the smoke smell in a car be removed?

Yes, the smoke smell in a car can be removed with proper cleaning and odor-elimination techniques. For example, deep cleaning of the car’s interior, using natural odor absorbers, and employing odor eliminators such as ozone generators can help effectively eliminate smoke smell.

What is the best odor eliminator for cars?

There are several effective odor eliminators for cars. Some popular options include activated charcoal bags, enzyme-based odor removers, ozone generators, and odor-neutralizing sprays designed for automotive use. The best choice depends on personal preference and the severity of the odor.