How To Remove Cigarette Smell From Car?

By Power Tools

September 1, 2022

You may not be aware that there is something known as thirdhand smoking – inhaling cigarette residue and tar from objects and surfaces where you smoked hours ago!

When you smoke inside a car, the smell and residue get trapped inside a confined space. It is important that you get rid of it from your vehicle as soon as possible, not just because it ruins the ambiance but also negatively affects your health and that of your loved ones. 

So, in today’s article, we will discuss some proven ways to remove cigarette smell from cars.

The Tools To Clear the Cigarette Smell From Your Car

Cigarette smoke can linger in several places in your vehicle. You need materials that can absorb the smell and clear it out to have your car smell fresh and nice. We have curated a list of tools for this purpose. 

  • Vacuum
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Hard surface cleaner 
  • Dustbin 
  • Bucket
  • Baking soda 
  • Vinegar 
  • Warm water 
  • Steam cleaner
  • Dryer 
  • Towels
  • Cat litter or charcoal

Try to get as many tools or products as possible to eliminate the smoke residue.

How To Remove Cigarette Smell From a Car

Here is a step-by-step process for you to remove the cigarette smell from your vehicle effectively. 

Clear the Interiors From Cigarette Butts, Trash, Debris, Etc

Someone is wiping the car seat

Before anything else, clean your car in a well-ventilated place, such as a parking area or driveway. You can then roll down the window, leave the doors open and remove all types of trash, debris, crumbs, or related litter from the interiors of your car. 

Make sure the garbage includes cigarette butts, cigars, ash, etc., before you throw it out. 

When you follow the above steps, it allows your car to breathe while you de-clutter its insides. Once the clutter is out of the vehicle, throw it away in a dustbin.

Pull Out the Car Seat Covers and Floor Mats. 

The first step is to clean out everything that is removable in the car. This includes your car’s seat covers, floor mats, rugs, and carpets. Once you take them out, follow the given steps. 

  • Vacuum the seat covers and mats thoroughly. 
  • Use a steam cleaner and degreaser if you have fabric or vinyl car mats. 
  • Soak the carpet mats or floor mats in baking soda for 20 minutes, then vacuum them. Baking soda is a natural absorbent that will help remove the smell of cigarette smoke from the mats. 
  • You can clean rubber mats made with a detergent that has a fragrant odor to eliminate the cigarette smell.. 
  • Once done, leave them outside the car for drying.

Clean the Car Interiors With a Microfiber Cloth

You will require a good quality hard surface cleaner and a microfiber to clean the car’s interior: glove box, control panel, steering wheel, dashboard, floors, etc. 

While cleaning flat surfaces can be easy, it can be hard to remove cigarette residue and odor from the nooks and crannies of your car. So, we will take different corners of the car interiors individually and share the best ways to clear them off cigarette smoke. 

Someone is wiping the car seat

  • Glove box 

Ensure that you have removed any unnecessary items from the glove box before cleaning. Then, use a cleaning agent and a cloth or pad to clean the interior of the glove box. 

  • Control Panel and dashboard

You will need a hard surface cleaner to clean these two parts of your car’s interior. The reason is that the control panel and dashboard hold years of dust, cigarette residue, tar, and dirt. 

All of this won’t come off quickly because there are several small spaces in this part of the car. You can wrap a cloth around a ruler and get it between the dash and the shield to clean it from smoke and dirt. 

  • Steering wheel 

If you have a non-leather steering wheel cover, use good quality automotive cleaner to clear the cigarette odor. If you own a leather steering wheel cover, it is best to use a cleaner that does not have chemicals that can harm the leather. Also, apply a conditioner to eliminate the odor. 

Make sure to clean the surface of the steering column as well. If not, the smell of smoke lingers there for a long time. So, move the column into a sloping position and clean it off.  

  • Cup holder and gear shift 

If your gear shift is not wrapped in leather covering, use a hard surface cleaner and clean it with a microfiber cloth. 

Do the same with the cup holder but remember to vacuum it as well. If you have a leathered gear shift, use a cleaner that works well with the material. Once you clean it, use a conditioner to ensure the odor is removed.

  • Seat belts 

Seat belts are more prone to gathering the smell of smoke than other car interiors because they are closer to you. The best way to clean them is by wiping them with a wet cloth. 

Make sure to clean the belts on both sides – front and back. If the smell persists, spray warm water and baking soda or use a solution of warm water, dish soap, and vinegar on the belts and scrub them gently. Use a dry towel to pat the seatbelt and seat later on.  

  • Car seats 

The best way to clean your car seats and rid them of the smell of smoke is to use a solution of bleach and water. 

You can also use alternatives like vinegar and water or hydrogen peroxide and water to shampoo the seats before steaming them. Once you are done, check for the cigarette smell; if it persists, repeat the process.  

If your car seats are wrapped in leather or fabric, make sure you use an upholstery cleaner to get the best results. Please note that it entirely depends on the severity of the odor inside your car that should decide whether you need a steam cleaner for your leather seats.  

  • Trim 

Many people forget to clean the trim of their car but shouldn’t. So, ensure to wipe the trim to rid your vehicle of cigarette smell completely.

Vacuum the Cargo Area

Many people miss the cargo area as well because they think the smoke would not have reached there. You can spread a spoonful of baking soda on the carpet and let it stay for about 20 minutes. Now, vacuum the area and suck in the baking soda along with the remaining smell of the cigarette. 

Vacuuming the cargo area

Sponge All Windows

Do you know that the odor of cigarettes or cigars can stick to the glass of the car’s window? So, ensure you spray the cleaner on the glass and use a sponge or a cloth to wipe it off. 

If streaks show up, repeat the process. We recommend you choose an ammonia-free cleaner to clean the windows. 

Clean the Vents

A good streamer is the best way to remove the smell of smoking cigarettes from the vents. Use one of the vents to take in the steam, which will naturally flow into the entire vacuum system.

Once the steam flows through the air ducts, turn on the air-conditioner in the highest mode while rolling down the windows. 

When the A/C is on full, air travels through all the vents until it reaches the windshield and drives the smoke residue and odor out of the du

ct surfaces. Keep the A/C running for 10 to 15 minutes or until the cigarette smell eliminates. 

Now, thoroughly clean the front of the vents with a small brush and spray a good quality odor neutralizer into the system. 

Cleaning the vents

It will help remove the leftover smell of the smoke from the A/C. Finally, turn the ignition off and let the neutralizer settle in the car but remember to leave the windows open.

Change the Cabin Air Filters. 

The purpose of cabin air filters is to cage residue, contaminants, or dirt in their traps. Since its function is to hold the unwanted material, it does the same with smoke residue. 

Thus, it is essential to replace the cabin air filters. If you avoid changing them, your car will not be completely free from the cigarette smoke since the air filter will be complete with a smoky odor and, thus, will pump it back to the cabin. 

Leave a Bowl of Charcoal or Cat Litter. 

Once you are satisfied with the cleaning and eliminating smoke residues, put a bowl of charcoal or cat litter in your vehicle for at least 2 to 3 days or overnight, respectively. 

It will help reduce the smell of tobacco and cigarette from the car if still left in your car’s interior. You can also use coffee instead of charcoal to clear the residue smell of the cigarette from your car.


We hope this guide has helped you learn how to remove cigarette smoke odor from your car completely. Take the time out to follow all these steps thoroughly otherwise, your car will continue to smell of cigarettes.