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How to Get Rid of Smoke Smell in a Car

person smoking in car

If you have ever sat in a car and it smelled like smoke, you know how unpleasant it can be. Smoke can permeate every surface and fabric in a car, and it is very difficult to remove the smell. If the owner of the car is a regular smoker, the person probably doesn’t realize the car has a lingering odor. When it comes time to sell your car, you will find the value is lower if it smells like smoke.  

Additionally, some car insurance companies charge smokers more since smoking is considered distracted driving and there may be a tendency for more accidents. 

Let’s take a look at how to get rid of the smoke smell in a car. 

How Does Smoke Smell Get into Your Car? 

Smoking in cars has been around since cars existed. Lately, the popularity of smoking has started to wane, but it is still common. Depending on your preference, that could be a good or bad thing. The problem that most people find when smoking in a car is that the smoke odor can linger for quite some time. There is no documented proof of how long the cigarette smell can linger, but most sources say that it can take up to 48 hours to get rid of the smell. 

When exhaled, cigarette smoke tends to sit in mid-air. Most of the time, you can see it hanging there. As the smoke begins to cool, it sinks. This is because tobacco smoke is heavier than air. As the smoke sinks, it lands on any surface beneath it in the car interior. There it sits until it dissipates or gets sent out of the car. While the smoke and its particles lie on these surfaces, they permeate anything that is porous, like seat fabric or upholstery. They also stick to anything that is not, like leather and vinyl. Until this film is cleaned or vacuumed up, it tends to take on a stale odor. 

Air conditioning in a car can present another way that the stale smoke smell can linger. Air conditioning works by circulating the air around the interior of a car and eventually through a cabin air filter. After a period, this filter can get saturated with smoke and the particles that it leaves behind. Unfortunately, leftover smoke in the cabin air filter circulates around the car and causes the cigarette smell to continue. No matter how long you air out your car, until the surfaces in the cabin are cleaned and the air filter is changed you will not get rid of the stink. 

What Are Some Ways to Get Rid of Smoke Smell in a Car? 

Once the smell of cigarette smoke is in your car, it can be very difficult to get rid of it. Since the smoke particles have permeated any fabric and stuck to any hard surface, you need to do a deep clean. If you want to sell your car for its true value, you are going to want to look at some car maintenance tips to remove the smoke odor below. 

1. Remove All Items From Your Ccar 

This means everything. You would be surprised to find how many little items get left in a car. Start by getting rid of any garbage that might be hanging out. You will probably find something hiding between the seats in the back and front of the car. Move the seats back and forth to get the junk under the seat. These things tend to collect dust and smoke particles when the smoke cools and falls. Don’t forget the floor mats. These absorb smoke smell too. 

2. Air Out the Car 

When trying to figure out how to get rid of smoke smell in a car, the first step is to air out the car. You will need to roll all the windows down and park the car in a well-ventilated area. Just leaving the car in your garage is probably not going to accomplish much. You need to get the car to an area that has a breeze or at least fresh air. Leave the car in this spot for 20 to 25 minutes. A good idea is to crank the air conditioning while it is airing out. This allows the ventilation system to get some of the smoke particles out. You may want to crank the heat after the air conditioning for the same reason. 

3. Neutralize the Smell 

Many people will hang an air freshener from the rearview mirror or spray an odor-neutralizer throughout the car. This will work for the short term but will ultimately only mask the smell. You need to get rid of the source of the smell. Using a microfiber cloth and a good cleaning solution, wipe down the hard surfaces in the car. An old trick to eliminating odors anywhere is to use vinegar. A spray bottle with a 1:1 mixture of white vinegar to water can really get rid of the smoke smell in your car. If you don’t have any vinegar, there are many cleaners on the market that act as great odor killers. Putting coffee grounds in problem areas will also help absorb odors. When cleaning, you need to make sure to get ALL the hard surfaces. Start with the dash and wipe all the way around and down to the rear dash. You may need to change towels because they can and will become dirty as you clean. 

4. Vacuum and Deodorize 

The soft surfaces in your car interior are places like the fabric on the seats and the carpeting. This takes a little more work, but in the end, it is worth it. A good deodorizer can really make a difference in getting rid of the smoke smell. There are many on the market at any auto parts or department store. A good standard deodorizer is baking soda. Sprinkle whatever deodorizer you are going to use on the soft surfaces, and let it sit overnight. This will allow the product to break down the chemicals from the smoke. The next day, vacuum all the product up with a strong vacuum. This should free your car from the smell. 

person vacuuming car

5. Shampoo the Carpet 

The carpet in an automobile is exposed to everything that gets in the car. Think of what your shoes will drag in. Think of everything that has spilled. A good cleaning of the carpet includes a shampoo. There are many shampoos available for your automobile carpet. There are powder shampoos that you sprinkle on and vacuum up that work well. The best is a foaming shampoo that is applied with a scrub brush and rinsed. Either of these will work, it just depends on your preference. Consider also using a steam cleaner as well to be sure you’ve gotten everything. 

6. Clean the Vents and Change the Air Filter 

The vents that you use when you direct the air around the cabin are exposed to the same smoke as the rest of the car. It is important to clean these vents thoroughly. Use the same cleaning solution that you used for the hard surfaces. Don’t forget to change the air filter. It’s not a difficult task, but if you’re not comfortable with it, take your car to a shop and the mechanics will do it for a hundred bucks or so. 

7. If it Still Smells, Use Ozone 

Ozone is a naturally occurring substance that just happens to eliminate odors as well as protect the earth from ultraviolet rays. You can buy an ozone generator at most home improvement stores for a few hundred dollars. There are a few precautions that you need to take, such as keeping pets and children away from the vehicle while you use the machine. Be careful to follow the directions to use your ozone generator safely. 

How Can You Get Rid of Smoke Smell in Your Car? 

The best way to avoid this is to not smoke in your car. Tobacco smoke is pervasive and hard to get rid of. If you are a smoker, simply roll down the windows if you are going to smoke. Better yet, don’t smoke in your car at all. The smell will cost you money when it comes time to sell, and it might make it hard to get a buyer for your used car

Get Affordable Auto Insurance Online Today 

Freeway Insurance has been helping people find affordable insurance since 1987. Whether you smoke or not, we can find affordable insurance that meets your needs and budget. You can get a free car insurance quote online, call us at (800) 777-5620 or stop by one of our many locations

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