Clearing the Air: Proven Strategies to Rid Your Car of Cigarette and Marijuana Smells

fact check policy
Updated on:

August 9, 2023

Smoke Smell Remediation: Effective Techniques for Eliminating Cigarette and Weed Odors in Cars

Odors in a car can be very annoying. It can be difficult to get rid of many odors as they permeate the interior, and dominate the driving experience. Smoke odor can be one of the most difficult odors to eliminate from a vehicle. Cigarette smoke, cigar smoke and smells from Cannabis or marijuana are all causes of unpleasant odors in your car. Your passengers will smell the undesirable odor in your vehicle. Keeping your car interior clean and free of smoke smell will allow your car to hold onto its value.

The solutions for getting the smell of smoke out of your car are varied. Although it may provide a fresh scent, an air freshener will simply mask the cigarette smell in your car. To remove the smoke smell, you need to cleanse the hard and soft surfaces in your car. Every part of your car’s interior will need to be addressed. To effectively eliminate the smell of smoke in your car, you can clean the interior, and then address it with an odor-eliminating agent.

For deep cleaning and rejuvenation of a car’s interior, a car wash steamer is the key piece of equipment. It awakens the fibers and prepares them for cleaning. A steam cleaner not only removes the smoke stains and smell, it also removes many other types of soil that appear in a car’s interior.

Key Takeaways:

  • Thoroughly clean all interior surfaces to effectively remove smoke smell from a car. Air fresheners only provide temporary relief.
  • A car wash steamer is essential for deep cleaning and revitalizing the interior, eliminating smoke stains and odor, following with ozone machine as final touch
  • Utilize techniques like steam cleaning, vacuuming, and using natural remedies or commercial solutions to eliminate smoke smell. Replace filters for ongoing freshness.

Request FREE EBook about Interior Detailing

Table of Contents (Show)

Table of Contents (Hide)

Introduction

15 steps of smoke smell removal

Adiitional steps to make your car smell like new

Common questions about removing smoke residues

1. Understanding Smoke Odor in Cars

Many of the items you need to get rid of smoke smell are regular household items. Other agents used to clean surfaces are tailored to the job of getting smells out of your vehicle. You will use a vacuum, and if available, other professional equipment, such as a steam cleaner. A steam cleaner is a key part of a car cleaning system. We listed many items below for you to consider. They all offer solutions for getting the smell of smoke out of your car.

If you prefer a home remedy verses a commercial car cleaning agent, for hard surfaces, you can use a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water. This will work most anytime in the process.

2. Essential Tools and Supplies for Smoke Odor Removal

3. Step-by-step Guide for Cleaning the Car's Interior to Remove Smoke Smell

3.1. Trash and Debris Removal

Get a trash bin and remove all loose trash from the vehicle. Debris in your car houses smoke smell, and you will want it out of your way while cleaning. Look deep under the seats and remove anything you find.

Car matts shampooing for smoke smell removal


3.2. Cleaning Car Mats and Extracting Smoke Smell

Grab the floor mats from the front and back seats. Vacuum them thoroughly. If you have a steam cleaner, use that on fabric, rubber or vinyl car mats. It is a good idea to use a degreaser on floor mats. For carpet mats, sprinkle baking soda on the mats. Let them sit for 15 to 20 minutes before vacuuming it and the smells up.

LEARN MORE: Check our complete guide for Interior Car Detailing Workflow

3.3. Vacuuming and Cleaning the Floor and Surrounding Areas

To ensure you get the smoke smell removed from all areas, use a vacuum to remove odor-holding dirt and debris from this area. Sprinkle baking soda on the carpeting and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes. The next step in the process, is simply to vacuum the baking soda up from the carpet. As a natural absorbent, it will remove the cigarette smell.


3.4. Cleaning the Glove Box and Dashboard

Remove the contents and discard what is not necessary. Everything in the car can hold the smell of smoke. Let the remaining contents air out. Wipe down the glove box interior surfaces with a cloth and cleaning agent.

3.5. Washing the Cup Holder Area and Gear Shift

Using a hard surface cleaner and a microfiber cloth is the first step in removing odor from this area. Wrap or tape a small cloth around the end of a ruler to get in the cracks and crevices where the dash meets the windshield.

Tabacco around Gear shift
Tabacco around Gear shift


Both of these areas can gather ash and the smell of smoke. Vacuum the cup holders. Spray a hard surface cleaner in the cup holders and wipe them out with a cloth. Do the same if your gear shift is not wrapped in leather. For leather-wrapped gear shifts, use a leather cleaner and conditioner to rid the area of cigarette and cigar smells.

If you find insects inside your car cabin check this guide.

3.6. Removing Smoke Smell from Steering Wheel and Column

If the steering wheel is wrapped in leather, use a leather cleaner and conditioner to remove the odor. On a non-leather steering wheel, you can use an automotive cleaner that does not leave the area slippery. Marijuana and standard cigarette smoke will gather in parts of the steering column. Tilt the column up and down to clean all of the surfaces.


Seat Belts Cleaning


3.7. Cleaning Seat Belts and Removing Smoke Smell from Trim

Seat belts

The smell of smoke can be strong in this area. Typically, they are close to the source of cigarette smoke. Use a damp cloth to wipe the front and back while you extend the belt from the pretensioner. Repeat if necessary.

Trim

To get the smoke smell from the trim, it will take a little patience. A car or truck has a lot of trim throughout the vehicle. Wipe down the trim in detail with a clean and damp microfiber cloth. Rotating and replacing it frequently will eliminate the cigarette odor.

3.8. Cleaning Headliner, Visor, and Windows

Smoke rises, especially if the windows are not open while passengers smoke. Using a car steam cleaner is the most effective way to clean, and get smoke smell out of the headliner. This interior section can be tricky. Use an adapter that curves to allow the spray head to make proper contact with the smoke-filled surface.

You can get smoke removed and other particles dislodged that have gathered on your visors. Vacuum and wipe the visors with a damp cloth. Clean the mirror with a glass cleaner.

Cleaing of trunk inside the car
Steam Cleaning of trucnk area


Cargo Area

Vacuum the cargo area to remove smoke residue, debris and smell. If your cargo area has carpet, sprinkle with baking soda, and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Vacuum the baking soda up along with the smoke smells that have accumulated in it.


Windows

Smoke will leave a film and odor on the glass. Spray the surfaces and wipe with a clean or new glass microfiber cloth. Repeat if you have streaks. Your glass is now smoke and odor free. Using steam on glass helps to remove smoke film with easy.

LEARN MORE: Check this guide for car windows cleaning

Vents cleaning with steam for smoke smell removal
Cleaning vents with steam for smoke smell removal


3.9. Removing Smoke Residue from Vents and Ventilation System

Clean the front of the vents with a small brush or damp cloth. The most effective way to get deep into the air vents, and remove the smell of smoke is to use a steamer. Introduce steam to the system through the intake or one of the vents. The steam will flow through the system while it removes smoke residue as part of the process.

LEARN MORE: Check our full guide for air vents cleaning

If you do not have a steam cleaner, you can use your car’s air system. While the car is in park, open the windows. Turn the car fan to the highest position. Turn the air conditioner to the coldest setting. Run the air conditioning for seven to ten minutes. This will help get rid of the cigarette smell that was housed on those duct surfaces.

To thoroughly remove smoke smell and odors, there is one more thing to do for the vents. Locate the air intakes in your car. They are typically located on the outside near the wiper blades. Spray an odor neutralizer into the air intake system. This will help remove the odor of smoke and will reduce the smell from your air conditioning system.

LEARN MORE: Check this guide for car air filter cleaning

Repeat the step above for your heating system to remove the smoke smell. Turn your heater on high and spray the odor neutralizer into the intake system.

Shampooing of car seats


3.10. Cleaning Car Seats to Eliminate Smoke Smell

To remove odor caused by smoke and the smell of marijuana or cigars on fabric seats, there are a few essential things to do. Vacuum the upholstery. Secondly, use a steam cleaner to further remove the smell. Do not forget the head rests, as they can be smoke collectors.


If you have leather seats, vacuum them with a soft-ended accessory. After you are done vacuuming, you are ready to clean the leather. To clean and remove the smell of smoke from leather car seats, you should use a leather cleaner and conditioner. Apply the cleaner to this part of your car according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use a microfiber cloth or an applicator that may come with the product. Applying a leather conditioner afterwards can help keep future smoke from permeating the surface. Leather seats can easily absorb smoke smells. To keep on top of this car odor, you may have to clean the seats frequently.

LEARN MORE: Check this guide for removing smell of smoke from house

3.11. Finalizing Smoke Film and Surface Smell Removal

There are a few more things you can do for the environment in your car.

3.12. Replacing Air Filter and Cabin Filter for a Fresher Cabin

Replace the cabin air filter. Many drivers are unaware that there is an air filter for a car’s interior. Many manufacturers recommend that you replace a cabin air filter every 30,000 miles. If people smoke in your car, you will eventually smell the cigarettes. For a cleaner cabin, and to reduce the smell, you may have to change your air filter more frequently.

Other Car Remedies to Remove smoke smell

LEARN MORE: Check this guide of air filter cleaning

4. Natural Remedies for Smoke Odor Elimination

4.1. Use Dryer Sheets to Wipe Away Tobacco Smell

If you have cloth seats, you can wipe them down with dryer sheets. Although this will not eliminate the source of the smell, it will instantly deodorize it.

4.2. Use Vinegar to Remove Smoke Smells

Pour undiluted vinegar in a bowl and let it sit overnight. White vinegar works well. If you have a larger SUV, place two to three bowls to get the job done. If one night’s treatment does not work, repeat it the next night.

4.3. Get the Smoke Smell Out With Cat Litter

Place a bowl of cat litter in your car and let it sit overnight. Cat litter is meant to absorb odors and works well on smoke smells. If it did not get the smoke smell out in 24 hours, repeat it the next night.

4.4. Remove Cigarette Odor With Charcoal

Putting a bowl of charcoal in your car for 36 to 48 hours can help reduce the tobacco smell. It will absorb the odor at a small price.

4.5. Citrus Peels Work to Remove the Smokey Smell

A very natural remedy for smoke smell removal is to use citrus peels. Leave a plate of lemon, lime, grapefruit or orange peels in your car for about 48 hours. You will also have a pleasant citrus scent in your car. Be sure to keep the windows closed so insects are not attracted to the fruits.

4.6. Coffee Grounds Cover Cigar and Cigarette Smells

Although they are less absorbent than other solutions, they are usually available and extremely cost-effective. If you need to get the smoke smell reduction job done fast, this is the technique for you. Coffee grounds will not entirely eliminate the smell, but they are effective in the short term.

4.7. Best smoke eliminator spray - Enzyme eliminators for odor removal

You can choose Ozium products as a final steep for smoke smell removing to remove any odors from tabbacos and weed, and also chemicals smell after cleaning.

5. Commercial Solutions for Smoke Odor Elimination

There are commercial car air re-freshers and odor bombs that you can buy. These aerosol cans permeate all areas and eliminate all kinds of odors, including smoke. Many people do not recommend them for continual use as there are more complete solutions if you keep the interior clean, and use one of the odor-removal techniques mentioned above.

LEARN MORE: If you have mold smell inside your car, learn more at this special guide.
cleaning of leather seats with brush
Cleaning Leather seats with soft brush

6. Common Questions About Removing Smoke Residue and Odor


Q. How do dealerships get the smoke smell out of cars?

A. A car dealer is likely to use a commercial spray cleaner on the carpet and upholstery as they clean vehicles. The dealer may use baking soda on the floor for odor removal. Some dealers may have an ozone machine that powers the odors away.

Many car dealers have full detail shops that use commercial steam cleaners to aid in the process.


Q. How long does it take to get rid of smoke smell in car?

A. After you have cleaned the car, it can take up to 48 hours to eliminate the smell that tobacco leaves behind. Starting with a clean car interior will let one of the odor-removal remedies do its job. Your car will be smelling like normal quickly.


Q. How much does it cost to get the smell of smoke out of your car?

A. If you get the smoke odor out yourself, you can do it for under $30. If you choose to have the service done professionally, those services can cost $150 and up.

You can search for the best solution for removing smoke and the odors that come from standard cigarettes, cigars and marijuana. If you thoroughly clean the car interior first, then follow it up with a car odor removal technique, you can effectively rid your car of the odor that has been bothering you. After a car deep clean, you may notice a slight lingering smell. If that is the case, just do a light service to keep the odor caused by smoke down.

Q: What do I need to do if i keep smelling cigarette smoke?

A: If you have strong smell you need to perform full procedure of smoke smell removal, if cigarette smell is medium strength - perform ozone treatment 30 minutes, if smell is super light - just park your car under the sun, open all windows and let it stay for 2-3 hours.

Q: How to remove heavy smoke odor out of Tesla?

Perform detailing with steaming. Put the car in camp mode and run a ozone in it for 2-4hrs. It will  help remove the smoke smell and ozone smell at the sametime.

About the Authors

Darren Priest
Proud owner of AutoFetishDetail, where the emphasis lies in the finer points. Passionate about instructing, guiding, and providing expert consultation for all things related to meticulous detailing.
Lev Tretyakov
With over 25 years in the industry, I bring extensive sales expertise in heavy equipment across diverse sectors. Pioneered the first CAD/CAM school in CIS countries. Proud owner of Miami's premier auto detailing hub, Totaal Steam Detailing, hailed as the finest in Miami-Dade by Google.

Learn More

The Ultimate Guide to Car Interior Dressing: Protect, Preserve, and Shine

VIEW MORE     >

Ultimate Guide to Choosing and Using Drill Car Carpet Brushes

VIEW MORE     >

Ultimate Guide to Car Clay Bar: Step-by-Step Instructions for a Showroom Shine

VIEW MORE     >

MORE  >
Contact Us
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
This is some text inside of a div block.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.