Get Smoke Smell out of Your Car – It’s More Important Than you Think

There are many reasons why your car can end up smelling like cigarette smoke. Whether you bought a used car from a friend who smoked, you drive with people who smoke, or you used to – or still – smoke, there are reasons why you should remove the smell of cigarettes from your car. Not only is it embarrassing and even offensive to some, if your car smells like cigarette smoke, then it is occupied by what is known as third-hand smoke. This can be dangerous, and should be dealt with immediately.

blond woman smoking in her car

Why is Third-Hand Smoke Dangerous in Your Car?

According to the Mayo Clinic, there is cause for concern. Third-hand smoke is the residue that second-hand smoke leaves behind. It settles on hair, carpeting, clothing, and other surfaces. Once the air around this residue is disturbed, the chemicals are once again redistributed throughout the air, settling again on any surface it comes into contact with. This effect is compounded each time smoke is introduced to the same environment.

Third-hand smoke has been linked to many tobacco-related health hazards. Infants, children, and adults are put at risk when they inhale the air exposed to third-hand smoke, when they ingest substances which have been tainted by third-hand smoke, or when they touch surfaces that have been exposed to third-hand smoke. This is why it just may be imperative to remove smoke smell from your vehicle right away.

How to Remove Smoke Smell From Your Car

  • First off, if there is an ashtray in the vehicle – remove it. Don’t just empty it out. If the ashtray cannot be removed permanently, bleach the inside. Let it soak in bleach water for a few minutes before reinserting into the car.
  • You may want to look into replacing your car’s cabin air filter. Its material may capture smoke particles, and redistribute the smell throughout your vehicle. Using an air compressor – even the one at the gas station for tires – to blow any smoke residue out of your air conditioning/heating vents can help cut the smell drastically.
  • Next, you will want to give cup holders, steering wheel, dashboard, center console, and glove compartment a good cleaning. Armor All is a great option for cleaning the hard surfaces, and helping them to stay protected longer.
  • The carpeted floors should be cleaned by first loosening dirt and grime with a stiff-bristled brush. An air compressor can be used to blow the unwanted particles loose – and out. Any left overs can be vacuumed up. After vacuuming, a shampooing is going to be needed. You can either do this yourself, or you can take it to a professional – in any case, shampooing will greatly reduce any remaining smoke smell.
  • Last, but not least, is air fresheners. There are many options for types, and you may want to use several. One quick remedy for the carpets is fabric softener sheets. Yes – the ones you use for the dryer. These sheets will help keep your carpets smelling fresh for a long, long time. Simply place them under the car seats, or under floor mats. You can also use air freshener sticks, which you place in your air conditioning vents. Finally, you can hang a nice standard air freshener from your rearview mirror.

These tips will help to ensure your car will smell as good as new. In fact, these tips for removing smoke smell from your car will help to ensure your car smells smoke-free for a long time to come. It is imperative to remove these unwanted odors, because its presence could spell possible hazards – especially for young children.


Published: August 13, 2015 Updated: April 5, 2019


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5 comments on “Get Smoke Smell out of Your Car – It’s More Important Than you Think

  • Jeffrey Colon

    June 21, 2018 at 7:48 am

    From my dogma, the nagging smell of cigarette smoke can make anybody anxious, including the smoker himself. Woefully, it’s a tough task to get rid of this annoying odor unmitigatedly. Normally, you repaint the walls to remove the bad odor from your room. However, this alternative does not exist when the snuff is present in your vehicle. Here, the author has discussed some quick hacks to remove the smoke smell from your car. I truly agree with the author. I just wanna say that apart from implementing these above cleaning clues, you can also vacuum and detail your vehicle’s interior taking the help of a tactful car professional to toss out that smoky smell.

  • Kat

    June 2, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    My tip: I had a bottle of milk spilled in my car I cleaned the mat but still being bothered by the smell. I found a kind of air freshener bag on Amazon, which is called Nano Mineral Crystal Activated Carbon, that does a lot of help to absorb the odors. It is a brown linen bag containing black activated charcoal balls, and the package came with a small cute pink heart shape card.

  • Dmplmp

    April 12, 2018 at 11:32 pm

    Great point Trish. And why are they using a picture that looks like its promoting cigarettes for this nature of an article???

  • trish weis

    July 28, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    While this article presents important information about the dangers of 3rd hand smoke, it is misleading people to think those dangers can be removed from a car by following the cleaning & deodorizing steps outlined. The dangers of third hand smoke CANNOT be cleaned away- in a car, a home or anywhere else! Getting rid of the smell is not the same as getting rid of the toxins!

    • Marc

      May 9, 2018 at 8:34 pm

      I fully agree with this. Getting rid of the smells doesn’t get rid of the toxins. In fact, some ways of getting rid of smells, by using other chemical products, compounds the problem IMO> This is a trick car dealers use and it’s deeply dishonest, especially towards those people who for health reasons like asthma can’t use a car that’s been smoked in.