How to get cigarette smoke smell out of a car

Posted by

A car with a smoking cigarette for a tailpipe. When you buy used from a smoking owner, your car interior may stink, so learning how to get cigarette smell out of a car can be quite useful.

Ever bought a used car from a smoker? Then you need to know how to get the cigarette smell out of a car. (Photo: Flickr)

If you’ve ever purchased a privately owned used car, you may have been left wondering how to get the smell of cigarette smoke out of a car. Some people go the extra mile to detail their vehicles before sale, but if you’re scoping a spur-of-the-moment deal on Craigslist, you may be purchasing an AS-IS vehicle that doubled as a mobile smoking lounge. Not only are the upholstery and instrument panel stained or discolored from cigarette smoke, but the unmistakable odor has been left behind. You need to learn how to get the cigarette smell out of a car if you are a non-smoker who prefers a low-tar automobile interior.

How to get cigarette smell out of a car? It takes effort

Whatever method you use when you’re following these directions for how to get cigarette smell out of a car, it’s going to require elbow grease. Cigarette smell is pervasive. Assuming that you want to do the job as cheaply and safely as possible – you aren’t a professional auto detailer, but an auto loans-bearing consumer – what follows are some DIY tips that don’t require scary chemicals. Yes, hydrogen peroxide will do the job well, but why not use less expensive home methods that are less likely to bleach your skin and cause blisters or irritation? Here are some ideas, courtesy of How to Do Things:

  1. Vacuum the car. Some of the cigarette odor is attached to the physical artifacts left behind. Use hose attachments that are intended for cleaning upholstery
  2. Use white vinegar. A bowl left in the car overnight can help the smell a great deal.
  3. Use citrus peels. Toss a few peels in various places inside the car. This method takes several days, but the magic of orange peels in particular cannot be overstated.
  4. Use baking soda. Sprinkle it on the upholstery and carpet and leave it for a few hours. Vacuum and see how your car smells. If you aren’t sure how your upholstery will react to baking soda, spot test this first.
  5. Use coffee grounds. Put the grounds in filters and secure them so they won’t dump the grounds directly onto the upholstery. Place the filters on the most offending areas.
  6. Air it out. Sounds obvious, right? Keep the doors open for a few hours. For minor lingering cigarette odors, this may help.
  7. Use charcoal. Similar to the vinegar method, leave a bowl of charcoal in the car overnight.
  8. Pay attention to the lights. Interior lights attract smoke, which means they’ll be centers for cigarette smell. Scrub these areas with the most powerful cleaner you have. Even bring in a hydrogen peroxide mix here if necessary.

Don’t drive an ashmobile

Knowing how to get cigarette smell out of a car is serious business. Many people are sickened by continual exposure to the smell, which is something nobody wants to experience when they purchase a new car. The above home remedies are easy and inexpensive to apply, so why not give them a try?


How to Do Things

Related Video:


  1. jennifer on

    great. this worked well

    • Steve on

      I’m glad it worked for you, Jennifer. I’m a non-smoker, so the smell nauseates me if I’m exposed to it for too long. There are some simple but useful ideas in that article.

  2. Lisa Davis on

    I test drove my dream car today, unfortunately the sale hinges on whether the dealer can get the sickening odor of cigarettes out by tomorrow. I can still smell it on my clothes 8 hrs later. Do the dealers have something that really works and not just masks the smell? I really love the car, but can not tolerate that smell–it literally makes me sick.

  3. gdhgfh hg on

    Dealers will use something called Ozone. We bought a car yesterday that smelled strong like smoke. They promised the ozone would get it out so we bought it. Its not quite as strong, but it is still there….strong, just not AS strong. So…..apparently it barely works. I am going to use baking soda and white vinagar and anything else natural I can find, plus airing it out a lot!

    • Lorrie Carey on

      Right where you are. We had to replace a vehicle. Got a great deal on a low mileage Nissan. Plan was for my husband to drive it. Now he wants to 'trade' with me for the larger van (he's 6'3"). The smoke smell in the Nissan doesn't bother him (the treatment the dealership did was enough for him). So, now I'll be trying all of the above mentioned remedies, now that I'm going to be driving it!

  4. Michael on

    Try using Vamoose, it works.

    • John on

      What is Vamoose

      • Nick on

        Go to I just checked it out and if it does what it says then it will be a life saver. I am going to try these inexpensive remedies above while I wait for vamoose. It is 100% garaunteed.

  5. Pallis_athene on

    Don’t forget to change out the cabin air filters

  6. john hogue on

    I’m older and retired, never smoked. Seems like lots of young people are smoking. I thought the younger generation was the educated group. They look awful DUM smoking the cancer killing crappppppp!!

    • Dg on

      Everything you eat or drink has cancer killing CRAP in it!! I am NOT a smoker but this sight was not to post your opinion about smoking (which is everyone’s constitutional right) but to give people sound advice about cleaning up a car. I am sick to death of you self righteous non-smokers!

      • SRNS on

        Sick to death… Ha. Funny.

    • Snowfreak333 on

      and its spelled DUMB!! I guess we are the educated group..

      • Mrau92me on

        …and it’s spelled “it’s”!!  I guess you’re not as educated as you thought 😉

        • The Young Generation on

          You’re lacking grammar skills. 
          Just because some “Young People” smoke does not mean the whole generation is “DUM”. Smoking does not kill cancer, nor are cigarettes made from “crappppppp”. 

          We’re educated. 
          What’s “awful DUM”? Awfully dumb?


  7. Jill Winkowski on

    Thank you. I bought a 2009 camry that I love but the cigarette smoke is making me sick. I have five days to take it back so I am going to try these things first.

  8. Vicki Gowen on

    LIke others, I am the non-smoker of the household. Alas, I can control whether they smoke in our house but not the family car. Twice a year, I take out the seats, pull the flooring carpet and mats and give it all a thorough wash with a Rug Doctor type machine and let them dry in the sunshine. I change the air filters for the air conditioner, use the home remedy solution of white vinegar, Palmolive dishwashing soap and rubbing alcohol on all the other surfaces. I place a tin of charcoal or orange rinds under the driver’s seat and the passenger seats for odor control between cleanings. The lingering, pesky, arm tiring window washing to eliminate the smears and streaks of the residual nicotine on the interior windows is, sadly, a constant battle. I have not stumbled on a great way to solve that without repeated efforts. Any helpful tips with that part of the chore would be greatly appreciated!

    • emilyconwell on


      Is someone still smoking in the family car? So long as people are still smoking in the car regularly, you will be hard pressed to find a solution for getting rid of the smell.