Smell from cigarette

I am looking to buy a used car. About a week ago I went to check out this Honda Prelude 5th gen from 2000. Everything looks good, it runs good. But the previous owner smoked a lot. So the only thing that is holding me back to buy it, is the smell of the cigarettes. The interior is in leather, if that helps. Can you guys help me? Thanks!

Find another vehicle as it may never not have that smoke smell . Or if you are set on this one call a few detail shops near you and see what they think they can do.


You’re talking about 20 years of tobacco particulates mixing with the vehicle interior on a chemical level. You will never completely get rid of the smell, the most you can do is get rid of some of it and try and mask the rest.


If this was a fairly-new vehicle, then a detailer could probably eliminate the smell.
But, after 2 decades, the leather upholstery, the underlying foam padding, and the headliner have absorbed so much of that stench that you could never eliminate it.


Do you think a car detail shop can get rid of the smell? Or is this almost impossible?

After 20 years?
Yes, without doubt.

If you REALLY want the car… the only way to get a lot of the smell out, not all, is to remove the seats, clean them really well top and bottom, steam clean the carpet AND the headliner. And clean every surface inside the car several times. You might have to remove some of the duct work for the AC system as well. It will still smell a bit when you are done, but it will get better over many months. It will never completely go away.


I purchased a used 2000 GMC truck in 2006. I don’t smoke, but the previous owner obviously did.

14 years later, and I can still smell the smoke sometimes…


Use this:

There are a number of products that claim to handle it, but I’d have trouble buying a stinky 20 year old car hoping they work. Maybe check with the best-reviewed auto detailers in your area, see what they say, ask for references from owners of cars that they deodorized.

1 Like

My 6 year old car was smoked in. The dealer cleaned it with an ozone machine. I cleaned the upholstery, carpets and changed the cabin air filter squirting special cleaner doedorizer into the cabin filter housing.

Smoked no more than 6 years. It took 6 months to fade. Sometimes I can still smell a whiff.

IMO, it will cost too much to remove the tobacco smoke odor. Find another car. You could try it yourself using the method suggested by @Mustangman, but if it doesn’t work well enough, you are stuck with a used car that stinks. Who’s going to buy it?

1 Like

You might want to try a UVC light. Just make sure you follow instructions that come with the lamp/light. Not the 12V car plug-in type, but a 110v that you can leave inside the car for 15 minutes.

My wife’s car had some terrible smell once and we were unable to determine what it was, where it came from and get rid of it for months. We even thought of getting rid of the car. A $30 UVC light on Amazon done the trick for us.

Be very careful with ultraviolet C wave band light. It is very dangerous, and WILL blind you if you look too long directly at the light. More likely is UV-A, which is the longes wavelength UV light. Even that can blind you. Wear polycarbonate safety glasses with side shields to make sure no UV light enters your eyes.


I call BS. Even the manufacturers of UV lights don’t market their product as an odor removal device–they are marketed as effective against bacteria/viruses/mold spores. I would not attempt to use UV light on any automotive surfaces. Even natural sunlight causes many automotive plastics and upholstery to decompose.


That’s because of the UV-A in sunlight that passes through the atmosphere.

Uvc light work because they “emit” ozone as byproduct, your only real solution is using an ozon generator multiple times, it will work.
Its the only “real” deoderizer because the O3 will bond with any and every atom and “break” down the smell.
You should not breath in the ozon and let your car vent atleast 30 minutes after turning of the machine.

So buy a ozon generator not a uv lamp.

1 Like

You need to read… I said UVC light, not UV light… read up on it.

UV-C light is a subset of UV light. I would not use a UV-C lamp alone because it is too dangerous. Buying or renting an ozone generator would be better. If it produces ozone using UV light, it will be done in an enclosed cavity and the ozone will be swept out by the fan used to pull air into the unit. Sufficient energy is needed to generate ozone, but it doesn’t have to be energetic light. An electrical charge will ionize oxygen too. I’m not endorsing ozone as a way to remove cigarette odors. I don’t know if it will or won’t work. If you can rent an ozone generator, that might not be so expensive that you’d think twice about it.

they are not that expensive if you buy the bare ozone generator on aliexpress. i think you can buy a good 20g/h for less then $50. you only need to connect your own socket and use an external fan and timer if you want to.

im talking about this type of generators.

you have 110volts USA 12volt dc car and 230 volt Europeans