Frustration with smoke smell in a car doesn’t have to be a problem. We explain the basic steps to remove cigarette smoke odour from a car, which products really help and which ones should be avoided.
You’ve bought or borrowed a second-hand car and either it turns out to be a former smoker’s car after a short time, or maybe you noticed the smell when you bought it and thought “Oh, it won’t be that bad!” or “A few good airs and the problem is solved.” Unfortunately, it’s often not that easy.
The same also applies if you want to rent or sell a car in which you have smoked yourself. A non-smoking car definitely achieves better prices. A deep treatment can therefore literally pay off in gold.
How to Convert a Smoking Car to a Non-Smoking Car
Fortunately, it is not impossible to get rid of the annoying cigarette or smoke smell in a smoking car. It is even very easy, provided you have the right solution at hand.
First, you need to think about the condition of the vehicle. Some questions you should answer are:
- How long and often was this vehicle smoked in?
- Are the surfaces and dashboard clean?
- How breathable are the covers and upholstery? The car ceiling?
- Was the vehicle already thoroughly cleaned before?
Once you have at least semi-suitable answers to each of these questions, you can start planning your approach. Determine where the problems are. But first, there are a few basic things to mention.
Odour always has a source
Odour is not visible, that’s clear. This is also mainly the problem why it is often so difficult for us humans to locate the source of the odour. Especially in closed spaces such as in a vehicle. That’s where our patience in searching can run out quickly. The smell seems to come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Often, the impression is “There’s nothing to be done! The odour comes from nowhere and it will stay that way forever!”
Fortunately, the solution is a little less mysterious. The odour always has a source. The task now is to find and neutralize this source.
Smoke gets into every little gap. Smoke penetrates into the deepest corners of the upholstery and ventilation hose. It leaves behind an almost invisible layer of nicotine, tar, soot, and other odour-emitting substances. Thank you, smoke!
How strong is the smoke smell in the car?
Do you know how long or how heavily the vehicle was smoked in? If you at least have a rough estimate, imagine how deep this has penetrated the fibers of the upholstery and covers. Fabric covers and foam absorb odours very quickly and deeply. Car ceilings are also regular collectors of unpleasant odours.
If the vehicle appears to be perfectly cleaned and yet smoke smell is regularly perceived, it is usually deeply embedded in the upholstery or ventilation system. A cleaning company rarely deals with this. The smoke smell that sets in there is released through evaporation due to fluctuations in humidity and then finds its way to our noses.
First aid for smoke smell
Home remedies can sometimes provide a little relief. However, it is also a fact that if these really worked, there would be no commercial products.
If you want to save time and frustration, check out our selection of solutions for the smoke smell problem in a smoking car. You will find odour removers based on microorganisms and enzymes that can remove a large part of the odour immediately.
Leather should avoid products with microorganisms as the tanning agents in leather greatly impair their effectiveness.
If you still want to test home remedies to save money, here is a small selection of common methods (but be careful: I do not assume responsibility for any damage caused by them!):
I would generally advise against home remedies. Of course, you are now thinking “He just wants to sell me something!” and this statement is partly true, but also well-founded: You will rarely have success with home remedies and it will cost you a lot of time and also carries high risks. But of course, it’s your decision and that’s why I’ll list all the alternatives I know.
One more sentence before we start: So-called home remedies are unfortunately no longer as cheap as they are often said to be. Many home remedies for odour removal are only a good idea if you already have all the components at home. In addition, few people even consider the time loss when using them. Your time is surely worth more than nothing! Not to mention damage to the material if not used correctly or unexpected chemical reactions occur.
Smoking car: “Free home remedies” for removing odours
(Warning: Use at your own risk. These are unproven home remedies that will have unforeseen side effects on the vehicle and material.)
Baking soda/sodium bicarbonate/salt
Baking soda, sodium bicarbonate or salt can bind odours to some extent. However, these do not remove the sources of odours. So you can expect that heavily smoked cars will not become completely and especially not long-term odour-neutral.
To use, simply fill a bowl with baking soda/sodium bicarbonate and place it in the closed car (e.g. overnight). Dispose of the contents of the bowl afterwards.
Like baking soda, coffee grounds can apparently bind odours. However, it also emits its own odour.
Vinegar can neutralize odours. To do this, add vinegar to a spray bottle and dilute with water, or clean surfaces with it. Unfortunately, it leaves a pesky vinegar smell.
Caution with vinegar: If you use vinegar or disinfectants to eliminate odours, products with microorganisms will no longer work for a longer period of time afterwards!
There are supposedly incense sticks that neutralize cigarette odour. Unfortunately, you are fighting fire with fire (or rather, smoke with smoke) and should not expect too much relief. But maybe there are people who like the combination of cigarette and sandalwood odours (Maybe it brings back memories? Who knows).
If you still haven’t found a suitable solution, I will now explain the complete cleaning of a smoking car and how you can best proceed.
Properly cleaning the smoking car
When it comes to cleaning a smoking car, people often think too superficially. As long as no dirt is visible, everything will be fine, right?
Smoking cars are a special case. Here, the pollution is not only visible, especially with long-term smoke exposure. Smoke (tar, soot) and nicotine move through fabrics and fibres, migrate into ventilation systems and even eat into plastics over time.
Cleaning a smoking car is not a quick process. Long-term smoke exposure must be systematically reversed.
Can ozone remove smoke odour in a car?
Generally speaking, it can, but there is a big problem with ozone. As the Berkeley Lab in California discovered in 2010, ozone is not risk-free and can be dangerous in conjunction with nicotine (and this part is often overlooked when someone offers ozone devices).
Therefore, we personally recommend against using an ozone device and this is also the reason why we do not offer ozone devices in our shop for odour control.
First, the obvious about smoke odour
First of all, all dashboard components should be thoroughly cleaned. Removable plastic parts should be completely clean.
Next, remove and thoroughly wash the fabric covers of the smoking car. Here, it is recommended to use a suitable odour remover in the fabric softener compartment of the washing machine. Whether a second wash is necessary is up to you. But wait before using it again. The fabric should be completely dry and the smell of the detergent should have disappeared. Only then can you timely perceive emerging odour again!
Once you’ve removed the covers, the seat cushions should now be thoroughly cleaned. In the picture above, you can see approximately how much the cushion in the seat consists of (may vary depending on the seat). It is best to clean with a suitable cushion cleaner for car cushions and (if possible) an extraction machine or carpet cleaner. Important: be thorough here. The worst smell is usually deep in the cushion. (And then comes out again when you sit on it… Urgh!)
Don’t forget the headliner! The headliner in smoker’s cars gets a particularly strong dose of smoke, soot, tar, and nicotine. It is likely that a visible and palpable layer has formed here. Take care of the cleaning using a cleaning deodorizer for textiles. Be thorough!
Don’t forget the trunk. There are often many surfaces here that can absorb odour as well. You should also consider the undersides of the seats. As mentioned before: Smoke is everywhere!
The less obvious part: the ventilation system
Lastly, it’s time to address the ventilation. Yes, we often forget about the ventilation. Even professionals in vehicle preparation often forget this part. The ventilation hoses and ducts of the smoker’s car must be cleaned. But how are these best reached?
You should use a sprayable odour neutraliser here. This should be particularly good at creating a mist. I personally recommend Destral here.
Turn on the recirculation of the car. Then lightly mist the inside of the car with 4-5 sprays and close the doors. After a few minutes, test the result. Repeat this process 2-3 times if necessary. Apply again every few days or weeks, depending on the need. The accumulated odour sources will be gradually eliminated. After a few weeks, if the cleaning was thorough, no odour should be detectable.
It is possible to turn smoking cars into non-smoking cars. But is not possible to undo years of smoke exposure without effort. However, equipped with the right tools and products, this task becomes very easy!
Eliminating odours in a vehicle is always worthwhile. Do you want to sell a smoking car? Turn it into a non-smoking car and increase its value! Do you want to save money when buying a vehicle? Buy a cheaper smoking car compared to a non-smoking car and easily eliminate the “unwanted smoke odour”.
Regardless of the circumstances, eliminating the smell from a smoking car will either make your wallet fuller or increase your quality of life.
Have you had any problems with smoking cars? Write it in the comments!
Share this post with your familiy and friends if you think they’d benefit from it!