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How do I get the strong smell of cigarette smoke out of a used car?

Help! I went down to my local Honda dealer and bought a used 2006 Honda Civic. When I drove it I thought I smelled something funny, but it wasn't very strong. I thought it was a used car sitting around smell.

I was a sucker. It got worse and worse and I finally identified it as smoke smell in the cloth seats and the rest of the car's interior. It seems that it was owned by a heavy smoker for two years. It stinks and I'm getting headaches and upset stomachs. The dealership treated it with an ionizer that they said would clean out the smell. It didn't work.

I changed the cabin filter.

I thought I'd get the interior washed and detailed, but the detailer said it's very hard to get cigarette smoke smell out and there's a good chance that it won't work.

Any suggestions? I can't afford to sell and get another one. And smoke smells aren't covered by lemon laws.

I could really use some help on this one. Thanks in advance.


  • edited February 2008
    try letting it sit with the windows open for a week or so? If you have a place you can do this, let it sit with a fan blowing air in through a window. I'd get the interior washed, it can't hurt.

    Check the rug and floor mats if any. Toss any floor mats, and let the rug air out.
  • edited February 2008
    "Test Drive" another identical Honda Civic sans the aud ash tray aroma. Have your "swap party" standing by to swap out the "green" interior for the "smogged" interior. Then, return to dealer from the "test drive".
  • edited February 2008
    Lots and lots of elbow grease and a variety of good old fashioned cleaning solutions (carpet shampoo, upholstery cleaner, and so forth).

    And I'm a little surprised that the dealer didn't try that. An ionizer won't do the trick. What'd they do, drive to Kragen and spend $2.99 for the thing? Holy cow.

    Elbow grease should go a long way to fixing this, though. It really should. Don't waste your time looking for a miracle product to fix this. They don't exist.
  • edited February 2008
    i would start by getting it professionally detailed and ask them to do whatever they can, then you will have to decide if you can live with it.
  • edited February 2008
    Cigarette smoke permeates absolutely everything porous, including linings, padding, foam, upholstery.....everything. It's virtually impossible to get rid of it except via time....lots and lots and lots of time.

  • edited February 2008
    You need to have the carpets and seats cleaned. Probably the headliner, too. A good detailing shop may have been there before. Call ahead and ask specifically what they will do to remove the smoke particles and nonvolatile residues from the cigarettes. You don't need to know what solvents they use, but the do need a detailed plan to show that they know how to approach the problem.
  • edited February 2008
    I know some folks that have replaced all the soft interior pieces to clean up an otherwise nice car. Personally, I would never buy a smoky car unless it was valuable enough to clean up correctly. Fortunately, there a less smokers (alive) these days and most decent cars are now owned by non-smokers.
  • edited February 2008
    The same way your wife get dog smell out of the furniture! Lots of elbow grease. I once bought a smoker's car and went through several upholstery shampoo kits (available at auto stores) before we go the smell out. The car was bought in the winter but we left the windows down when parked in the garage. If the headliner is cloth material, you have to shampoo it too.

    If it is in the A/C ducts, you can buy an A/C dodorizer kit (Wynn's) that sprays a mist into the air intakes outside and runs it through the system. Directions are on the can. I do this every year with our 2 cars since it is a fungicide as well and prevents mildew.

    Happy scrubbing!
  • edited February 2008
    Ok, thanks. I'll do that and take it to a good detailer (with a plan as suggested by tsanders) and then I'll probably keep scrubbing it myself.
  • edited February 2008
    yeah, right, I wish...
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