How to Get The Smell of Smoke Out of Your Car

Smoke can deeply permeate the materials inside a car, making it very difficult to remove its smell. The seats, mats and other soft, interior components of the car are excellent at absorbing scents and particles and holding them in. Our guide will walk you through several different methods you can use to deodorize your car and get the smell of smoke out for good.

Recommended: Cheap and Quick Fix

Many people are just looking for a cheap and quick fix. If that’s what you’re looking for, then get the Extra-O Car Air Purifier. These are a life (and car) saver. Just start your engine, blast that A/C on the best re-circulation setting, and let this miniature smoke eater do the trick. Be sure to let your AC circulate the air in your car for at least 10 minutes. The issue is many people don’t wait long enough, and then their car still smells the same. If they gave it more time, their car would be smelling fresh and clean. Before you buy Febreeze to try and cover up the smoke smell (which won’t work), you have to try this air purifier. This actually ionizes the air, meaning you’re not covering up the smell, but actually eliminating it.  Try it out for yourself!

If you’re not willing to spend $20 to remove the smoke smell from your car, read on.

Start Simple

If the smell of smoke is rather faint, then it may not have permeated yet. You may be able to simply air out the car and spray a deodorizer. Just roll down your windows and spray some Febreeze or another deodorizer on the seats and mats.

Of course, this is only going to work if the smell is faint and if it hasn’t settled in. If some serious smoking has been done in the vehicle, you will have to resort to more extreme measures.

Before you get there though, make sure the ashtray is cleaned. This should be a no brainer, but it can be a forgotten part of the car, especially if there are multiple ashtrays throughout the car and they can easily be covered or concealed. If they are removable, you can just lift them out and dump them out then wipe them down. Otherwise, you will need to vacuum them out or pull the particles out with a cloth.

Clean Out Permeable Materials

For serious smoke smells, you will need to get down and dirty a little. Start by vacuuming everything- in all the crevices, under all the mats and the seats. Then take out the mats and any other removable fabrics. You will want to clean them down with warm soapy water. Once they are cleaned, you can let them dry in the sun.

The upholstery- the seats and floors, will be a bit more difficult to get clean. You can wipe them down with a solution of Murphy’s oil, which is part oil and part water. Just follow the instructions on the container to find out how much of each you will need. Then you can wipe down the seats and floors lightly. You don’t want to apply a lot of the solution to them, as that will just permeate them with a different smell.

Alternately, you can use an upholstery spray cleaner. You can usually apply this directly to the materials or to a cleaning cloth. Let it sit for a few minutes before drying it off.

To make cleaning easier, you should remove any items from the car that you can. Any removable seats should be taken out. This allows them to air out, but it also allows you to get to many hard-to-reach locations and to clean the carpet under the seats.

Get Rid of Nicotine Collections

Nicotine tends to collect inside your car in some odd places. The most common location is around the edges of your windows. You can wipe them down with a window cleaner. If you see any yellowed areas, you should concentrate on those.

All glass and other hard surfaces need to be cleaned. And be sure to roll up your windows all the way to get all the corners and edges of the glass. You should also clean along the grooves of the window, as nicotine will collect there as well. 

Remove any Lingering Scent

coffee groundsIt’s possible that all your cleaning efforts have still left behind a slight smell. If that’s the case, you should place an air freshener near the vents and allow the vents to operate on high for about half an hour. Just let the air circulate, with the windows open to cleanse your car of the smell. This not only removes the smell of smoke that may still be left behind, but it also gets rid of the smell of the cleaning chemicals you have used, making your car smell fresh again.

If you want to replace or overpower the scent of smoke, you can use coffee grounds. After you have completed your cleaning, you can place a pan of coffee grounds inside your car, with all the windows closed. Leave if for a few hours, and your car should be permeated with the new smell quickly. Of course, if you don’t like the smell of ground coffee, then this won’t really be an option, but there are other strong-smelling scents you can use to replace the smell of smoke.


  1. You won’t believe how many people forget to clean the ashtray of there car when they start to clean the odor out of it. This holds the most smoke odors out of anything I’ve seen and yet people forget to clean it. Glad you mention it!

  2. Change out the cabin filter in your car! This is normally in the glove box and is inexpensive to change out yourself. Look up a walk through video for your car on YouTube.

  3. We have a 2015 Subaru Outback that we bought used about 3 months ago. It has a relatively intense smell. My wife smells like the car when she gets out of it. We’ve done ozone treatments (for 2 hours at a time), had the carpets and all interior surfaces cleaned and the smell is the same as the day we bought it. My wife thinks it’s smoke, but I can’t really nail down what it is. We’re at our wits end and may just have to return it to the dealer. Other than the smell, she loves the car. Can you offer any advice?


  4. People forget you can use dryer sheets too! Place them under your seats, in the glove box or wherever else you feel the need.

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