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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.

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.

“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”.

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.

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.

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.


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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.

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.

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!

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.

yeah, right, I wish…

I’m going to do that and as suggested keep scrubbing on my own.

I was afraid of that, I’ll try all the other suggestions though. Cigarette smoke is really miserable.

I didn’t realize it was smoky, I was a sucker, as I said in my posting. I agree with you, but I’ve got to try to get it to the point where I can stand it.

Thank you. That’s very helpful. I’ve been trying to get in touch with the man who owns the detailing shop in town, but haven’t been able to reach him. I’ll just keep trying. Then, I expect I’ll have to do some scrubbing on my own as per some of the other replies.

My suggestion is that you take about fifty air fresheners, of different types, and duct tape them to the roof. Keep the windows open in the summer. And, finally, don’t let smokers into your car. That should do it.

If you can get an air purifier that emits ozone, you may be able to do the job. Ozone is chemically reactive with the smoke smell, and will break it down chemically wherever it is in the car. If the cigarette smoke got into something, so can the ozone. Leave it in the car overnight on full blast, and the smell should be gone. If not, repeat for another night.

all air fresheners do is cover up odors with their own scent. they do nothing to remove odors in fabric, etc.

You have been listening to too many TV ads. An odor is nothing more than small particles in the air. Putting different odors in the air from an air freshener can’t possibly remove any odor particles, it just adds more.

I once bought a used car that had been owned by a smoker. Evidently, the dealer had sprayed it with something that hid the smell for the first two weeks. I sprinkled baking soda over the carpets and seats and let it sit for a day, then vacuumed. Then I sprayed it with Febreeze several times. Then I took the ashtray out and found about 10 butts behind it. Sprayed down there with the Febreeze. The smell kept coming back if I parked it with the windows rolled up overnight. Finally, after about 9 months, it went away. Good luck with yours.

We had exactly the same problem with a used 97 Honda Accord wagon that we bought, c. 2000. Someone suggested Fabreze, so I bought a bottle and my son used it all on the interior of the car. After this the car smelled worse, a sickening combination of Fabreze perfume and old cigarette smoke. So I took it to a shop that did ionizing or ozone (whatever it was) treatment. One time didn’t help, so they offered to do it again. A little better, but still didn’t help.

Finally, I gave up and avoided the car whenever possible (my wife drove it); her nose is remarkably insensitive. After about five years, she graduated to another car, and I started to drive the Honda. By then the odors had dissipated to the point where I could drive it without gagging. Now I barely notice it.

So take heart! Let someone else drive the car, and after five years you’ll not notice the problem.

Or just do what I should have done; sell the car to a smoker, and buy another one.

/Mr Lynn