Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Cigarette Odor

I have had my son’s vehicle throughly cleaned and shampood, but their is still a tobacco odor.

How can I get rid of it?

I take it he is aheavy smoker. leave the windows down when possible and don’t forget the inside glass .

The smell will take time to disappear completely. If you are in a dry climate (or no rain is forecast) leave it out in the sun with the windows open to dry and air out. Maybe try some Febreeze?

I was booked into a hotel room where there had been a smoker. The hotel brought in an ozone generating machine while we were out of the room and it took care of the problem. I’ve heard that this ozone treatment is also done for cars. A detail shop may know about this. A car rental agency may also know about this.

has anyone ever heard of an open bag of coffee beans to act as a filter? or a bucket of bleach with a rag in it?

No, but that might work if you place the bag or bucket over the smoker’s head…

@Triedaq wrote:
A car rental agency may also know about this.

We do know about this. A bit. We don’t have them on hand, though, because (you may be surprised to hear) we don’t need them too often. I’ve had a customer, though, tell me that he got one for his car at a parts store. Seems to make sense to me.

Here’s what I do when I have a returned rental that smells smokey:

  1. Get a citrus cleaner and wipe down everything in the car that isn’t cloth. The citrus is a good cleaning agent, and has a nice scent in case anything may have been missed. This includes the windows. (That may be overkill, but do you want the smell out or not?)

  2. For the upholstery, we have foam upholstery cleaner in an aerosol can. We have commercial suppliers for this, but I’m sure you can get some at Wal-Mart. Most of the foam upholstery cleaners I’ve dealt with also have a pleasant scent to help mask any remaining odors after you’re all done. If your car has already been shampooed, don’t even bother to wipe up or vacuum out the cleaner. Just spray it somewhat conservatively, and allow it to dry…

  3. Make sure to clean all of the windows. The tar in the cigarette smoke will stick to the glass. Really, it sticks to everything, but you’d be surprised how much it helps to clean the windows.

  4. Get the citrus cleaner in the vents. Here’s how:
    4a. Turn the car on. It doesn’t have to be running, just on. Running won’t hurt, though.
    4b. Turn the fans on full blast. I usually like to put them to blow on the windshield and floor. I haven’t discovered how much turning on the A/C would help, but I usually turn the heat up full blast. as well. Make sure, though, that the air is NOT set to recirculate.
    4c. Find the cabin air intake on the car. It may be under the hood, but should be toward the bottom of the windshield.
    4d. Spray (or dump) the citrus cleaner into that intake. Let the fans run for a bit to pull that citrus smell through the car.

  5. marlar’s comment about the coffee beans or bleach will add a pungeant smell into the car. Instead, put dryer sheets (recommended) or those pine tree air fresheners under the front seats.

  6. Febreeze or some other sprayed air freshener. One spritz in the back seat, a bit where your feet go, and spray more under the sun visor - that’s where your nose is closest.

  7. Let it air out for as long as possible. Unfortunately, for me, “as long as possible” can be 5 minutes until the next customer comes in to rent that car.

Granted, most of this is helped in “masking” the odor. Again, it’s what I do in my rental cars. But, if somebody smokes in a rental, it’s usually only for a few days, equalling 4 or 5 cigarettes - making the smell relatively faint.

For a PERSONAL car, I would repeat as needed every so often - and make sure nobody smokes in it any more. Eventually, through airing out, the smell will dissapate.

I once bought a car from a heavy smoker. We cleaned the interior out thoroughly, and left the windows open when parking in the garage or the driveway in good weather. My wife also put a Bounce towel (the kind you put in the clothes dryer) under each front seat. It took about 3 months to get rid of the smell.

I have put open boxes of baking soda in the car and a can of Fabreze. It works.
have a detail shop use a deionizing machine on it. It will cost thought.

rubbing alchol

My truck was owned by two heavy smokers. Two packs a day plus (each of them). I remember they had to have their house completely repainted inside every three years or so because of the yellowing and smell. Not to mention dry cleaning curtains etc. Anyway the stench in the truck was quite something. If it wasn’t such a low mileage, priced right, mechanical gem I would have passed on it immediately. I ended up vacuuming and shampooing the carpets, door panels and headliner. The last one I would not recommend because the risk of detachment is high (mine now has interesting political and souvenir button pins holding it up behind the windshield). I knew someone in the cleaning business with an ozone machine and we ran it overnight with the windows almost all closed and you know what? It still smelled. Luckily the seats were leather so the nicotine residue was easy to remove. And it was everywhere - top of windows, seat belt webbing, all kinds of places you could not easily reach. Time and regular cleaning of carpets and all other accessible surfaces/areas is the only solution but the smell will eventually disappear. At least the truck was not owned by two heavy incontinents…