How to Get Rid of Smoke Smell in Your Car

No one wants a ride that smells like cigarettes.

Air it out

Whether you’ve purchased a used car that someone smoked in, or have finally kicked the bad habit yourself, you may be itching to learn how to get rid of that smoke smell in your car.

The first thing you need to do to get rid of the smoke smell is clean, clean, clean! Drive your car to a well-ventilated area. Roll down the windows, remove any belongings and take out every scrap of trash.

Vacuum all surfaces

Next, remove seat covers and floor mats and begin to vacuum every inch of your interior. A handheld vacuum, or vacuum with an attachment meant for getting into the deepest nooks and crannies is ideal for this job. Vacuum your seat covers (or launder them at home or at a self-service laundry if the tag says they’re washable) and floor mats separately, after they’ve aired out in the sun for a bit.

Wash all surfaces

Now, combine white vinegar and water in a 1:1 ratio in a spray bottle and spritz your upholstery. Use a microfibre cloth and wipe down all of the interior upholstery, interior side panels, steering wheel, dashboard, etc. (Check out more genius uses for vinegar all around the house.) You should also use a glass cleaner to remove any cigarette residue on your windows and windshield. (Here’s how to clean inside car windows like a pro.)


Next, start your engine, turn the fan on high and the air conditioner to the lowest temperature. With windows rolled down, allow the car’s air ventilation/filtration system to pull the smoke smell out of the car. With the fan and A/C still on, spray an odour neutralizer into the vents. Repeat this process, but this time, turn the heat all the way up and spray the neutralizer into the vents again.

More drastic measures

Despite your best efforts, sometimes the smell of smoke has permeated so deeply that it is nearly impossible to eliminate. In that case, consider taking more drastic measures, like replacing the upholstery, headliner (roof material) and carpets. (Here’s expert advice on how to install new car carpet.)

If your car smells of smoke from a bonfire instead of cigarettes, you can usually get rid of that smell by putting your car in a well-ventilated area with the windows down to let it air out. After a little while, sprinkle some baking soda on the carpet and floor mats and vacuum it off.

If you have no interest in doing this job yourself, hire a pro! It costs anywhere from $125 to $200 for a thorough interior cleaning, depending on your location and the size of your vehicle.

Next, check out these car interior cleaning tips.

The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman