How to Remove the Smell of Smoke From Your Car’s Upholstery (2024 Guide)

Steam Cleaning Car Front

Does your car smell like an old ashtray, or did you recently purchase a used car with a persistent smoke odor? Worry no more, because we have compiled this comprehensive guide on how to remove the smell of smoke from your car’s upholstery.

We will walk you through identifying the source of the smoke smell, pre-cleaning steps, upholstery cleaning techniques, addressing hard surfaces and air quality, and finally, persistent smoke and tobacco smell and solutions. With these tips and tricks, you’ll be well on your way to a fresh-smelling car in no time.

Key Takeaways

  • Identify the source of the smoke smell in your car for effective cleaning
  • Utilize pre-cleaning steps, and upholstery cleaning techniques, and address hard surfaces/air quality to remove smoke odors
  • Consider professional services or replacing carpets/upholstery if traditional methods fail

Identifying the Source of Smoke Smell

Bad Smell in CarFrom my personal experience, removing the smoke smell from a car can be quite a challenge. I remember when I bought a used car that had been owned by a heavy smoker.

The smell of smoke was so strong that it was almost unbearable. However, with patience and the right techniques, I was able to completely remove the smell.

I used a combination of professional cleaning services, and home remedies like baking soda treatments, and replaced some parts of the upholstery. It took some time, but eventually, my car smelled fresh and smoke-free.

Before commencing the cleaning process, make sure to pinpoint the source of the smoke smell in your car. Knowing the origin of the odor will help you target your cleaning efforts more effectively and ultimately remove the smell from your vehicle.

The two most common sources of lingering smoke smell in cars are cigarette smoke and vehicle fires or electrical issues.

Cigarette Smoke

Smoke Inside CarCigarette smoke is the primary culprit of smoke odors in vehicles, often causing an unpleasant car smell. A trio of pre-cleaning, upholstery cleaning techniques, and addressing hard surfaces and air quality will help eradicate this lingering smell.

Vacuuming the car helps remove trash and debris from both hard and soft surfaces, while products like Turtle Wax Power Out! Leather can remove cigarette smokey smell even from leather car interior surfaces.

Keep in mind that cleaning the trim also plays a key role in eliminating the car overnight remaining smoke smell. Steam cleaning, shampooing carpets and seats, and using baking soda treatment will also help get the smoke smell out of the car.

Vehicle Fires and Electrical Issues

Vehicle fires can cause burning, melting, or charring of the upholstery, including leather car seats, as well as smoke and soot penetration, leaving behind a persistent odor and staining the fabric. If you detect a sudden burning scent in your car, pull over and exit the vehicle immediately, as this may indicate an engine fire.

To prevent vehicle fires and electrical issues, regularly check your car’s wiring and electrical components for any signs of wear or damage, and keep your car’s engine clean and free of debris.

Pre-Cleaning Steps

Some pre-cleaning steps are necessary before you can successfully remove the smoke smell from your car’s upholstery. These steps involve removing trash and debris from the car and vacuuming the interior to prepare for a more thorough cleaning.

Clearing out any loose trash and items from your car, and cleaning both the floor mats and car mats guarantee a targeted and effective cleaning process.

Removing Trash and Debris

The initial step in pre-cleaning your car is extracting all trash and debris from the vehicle. This process will make it easier to clean the interior and eliminate potential sources of smoke smell.

So, gather and dispose of all the trash from the seat covers and upholstery, and then utilize a vacuum cleaner with attachments to completely vacuum the upholstery. As a car enthusiast and former smoker, I can personally attest to the effectiveness of these smoke odor removal techniques.

I remember the first car I bought used had a strong smoke smell. Despite the vehicle being in excellent condition, the lingering odor was a significant downside.

However, with patience, persistence, and the methods outlined in this guide, I was able to completely remove the smoke smell from my car’s upholstery.  It was a process that required time and effort, but the end result was a fresh, smoke-free vehicle that was a joy to drive.

Vacuuming the Car

Vacuuming CarVacuuming the car, a key step in the pre-cleaning process aids in removing smoke particles from upholstery, carpets, and other surfaces prior to the application of cleaning products.

Start by following these steps to clean the interior of your car:

  1. Remove any large waste or trash.
  2. Clean the floor mats.
  3. Vacuum the entire interior, starting from the top and working your way down. Pay special attention to tricky areas such as crevices, corners, and seams.

This thorough vacuuming will prepare your car’s surfaces for the next steps in the smoke-smell removal process.

Upholstery Cleaning Techniques

With your car prepped and vacuumed, we can now proceed to the upholstery cleaning techniques that will aid in removing the smoke smell from your car. These techniques include shampooing carpets and seats, steam cleaning, and using baking soda to absorb and neutralize smoke odors.

Applying these methods sets you on the path to a fresh and odor-free car interior.

Shampooing Carpets and Seats

Shampooing carpets and seats helps to remove embedded smoke particles and odors from fabric surfaces. Utilize a carpet shampooer or a handheld shampooer to apply the cleaning solution to the carpets and seats.

After shampooing, rinse the carpets and seats with a wet/dry vacuum cleaner or a hose, and then dry them using a fan or a hairdryer. This process will help to eliminate dirt and grime from the soft surfaces of your car.

Steam Cleaning Man Cleaning His CarSteam cleaning is an effective method for deep-cleaning upholstery and removing smoke smell from various surfaces. Using a steam cleaner, apply hot water and detergent to the surface of upholstery and carpets, ensuring that you set the pressure to low to avoid damaging the material.

After steam cleaning, vacuum the area once more to remove any residual dirt or debris. This technique will help you eliminate persistent stains unpleasant smells and odors in your car’s upholstery.

Baking Soda Treatment

Cleaning Car Seat With Baking SodaThe baking soda treatment is a simple and effective way to absorb and neutralize odors in your car’s interior. Sprinkle baking soda on the upholstery and carpets, and let it sit for a few hours or overnight to absorb the smoke smell.

Once the baking soda has absorbed the odors, vacuum all surfaces once more to remove the baking soda and get rid of any lingering smoke particles. This treatment is a natural and cost-effective solution to remove unpleasant odors from your car.

Addressing Hard Surfaces and Air Quality

Besides cleaning your car’s upholstery, addressing hard surfaces and air quality is equally important to guarantee the total elimination of the smoke smell. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Wipe down surfaces like the dashboard, steering wheel, and console to remove smoke residue.
  2. Replace the cabin air filter to improve air quality.
  3. Use air fresheners or odor eliminators to further reduce the smoke smell in your car.

By following these steps, you can effectively eliminate the smoke smell from your car.

Wiping Down Hard Surfaces

Removing smoke residue from hard surfaces in your car is a crucial step in eliminating the smoke smell. Using soapy water or a spray-on window cleaner, wipe down the dashboard, steering wheel, console, and any other hard surfaces in your car, taking care to avoid getting electronics wet.

Don’t forget to clean the interior of the glove box, the storage bin between the cloth seats of the driver and front passenger, and any other storage compartments. This thorough cleaning will help you eliminate any lingering smoke residue from your car’s hard surfaces.

Replacing Cabin Air Filter

A cabin air filter is responsible for filtering the air entering your vehicle, so replacing it can significantly improve air quality and reduce the smoke smell. Before replacing the cabin air filter, clean the housing with soapy water to ensure optimal performance.

By replacing air filters with this filter, you’ll enhance the air quality in your car and make it a more pleasant environment for you and your passengers. I remember replacing the cabin air filter in my old car, which had a persistent smoke smell.

The difference was astonishing. Not only did the smoke smell significantly reduce, but the overall air quality in the car improved dramatically. It was as if I was driving a different car!

Using Air Fresheners and Odor Eliminators

Air fresheners and odor neutralizers are designed to either mask or mitigate odors within your vehicle’s interior, including those emanating from vents or other areas. These products are available in various forms such as sprays, gels, or plug-ins, offering choices to suit your preferences.

For enhanced odor neutralization, follow these steps:

  1. Directly spray or apply the product onto the source of the odor.
  2. Use air fresheners and odor neutralizers as required, depending on the intensity of the odor.
  3. Always adhere to the product’s guidelines to prevent potential health risks.

Additionally, for a more natural and potentially effective approach, consider opening windows to facilitate ventilation, using fans, and exposing the interior to sunlight, which can significantly contribute to reducing smoke odors. Incorporating agents like baking soda, vinegar, and activated charcoal can also help in absorbing and neutralizing smoke odors on surfaces as they work by neutralizing odor molecules, thus offering a lasting solution to unpleasant smoke smells within your car’s interior.

Ozone Treatment

Ozone treatments are effective for neutralizing severe smoke odors as they oxidize and break down odor molecules, unlike other solutions that may mask odors.

To use ozone treatments:

  1. Ensure the car is well-ventilated and empty.
  2. Place the ozone generator inside, running it for a few hours based on odor severity and manufacturer’s guidelines.
  3. After, ventilate the car thoroughly to dissipate ozone before re-entering.

These treatments significantly reduce smoke odors, making the car interior fresh. Caution is crucial as high ozone concentrations can be harmful.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and ensure thorough ventilation post-treatment before reoccupying the vehicle.

Persistent Smoke Smell Solutions

If the smoke smell persists in your car despite trying all the cleaning techniques mentioned above, it might be necessary to consider more robust solutions to get the smoke smell out. These solutions include seeking professional cleaning services or replacing carpets and upholstery.

While these options may be more costly and time-consuming, they can effectively remove stubborn smoke odors from your car.

Professional Cleaning Services

Professional cleaning services can provide a more comprehensive level of cleaning and odor elimination for persistent smoke odors in your vehicle. These services typically encompass shampooing carpets and seats, steam cleaning, and baking soda treatments.

Though the cost of professional cleaning services may be higher than DIY methods, thorough cleaning and odor removal can be well worth it. To find a dependable professional cleaning service, research the company, review customer feedback, and request references to ensure the requested content meets your expectations.

You will receive the requested content shortly after completing these steps.

Replacing Carpets and Upholstery

Install New Carpet In CarIn some cases, replacing carpets and upholstery may be necessary if the smoke smell persists after trying other cleaning methods. This solution can be costly and time-consuming, but it will effectively remove the stubborn smoke odor from your car.

When replacing carpets and upholstery, follow these steps:

  1. Measure the area and cut the materials to fit the space.
  2. Install tack strips or carpet padding to secure the carpet or upholstery to the floor.
  3. Follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions.

How to Smoke in Your Car Without it Smelling

If you’re a smoker and want to continue smoking in your car without it smelling, there are some tips and tricks you can follow to minimize the odor. Here are some suggestions:

  • Use air fresheners to mask the smell of smoke.
  • Open the windows to allow fresh air to circulate.
  • Dispose of cigarette butts appropriately to prevent them from adding to the smell.
  • Maintain your smoking habit but with a twist by switching to vaping. We can assist you in selecting a stylish vape pen.


Following these tips can help reduce the smoke smell in your vehicle. Natural products like charcoal and coffee grounds can also be effective at eliminating smoke odor.

By following these tips, you can enjoy your cigarette without leaving a lingering smell in your car.

Frequently Asked Questions

How effective are charcoal and coffee grounds at combating smoke odor?

Natural odor absorbers like charcoal and coffee grounds can help to some extent in absorbing and neutralizing smoke odors. However, their effectiveness might be lesser compared to specialized products or treatments like ozone generation.

They are more eco-friendly and less invasive options, suitable for mild to moderate smoke odors.

How long should baking soda be left on upholstery for smoke odor absorption?

It is recommended to leave baking soda on upholstery for at least a few hours or overnight for effective absorption of smoke odors.

What precautions are needed when steam cleaning upholstery for smoke odor removal?

When steam cleaning, ensure the pressure is set to low to avoid damaging the material, test a small inconspicuous area first to ensure no discoloration or damage occurs, and avoid over-saturating the upholstery as it may lead to mildew.

Can UV light help in eliminating smoke odor from a car?

UV light can help to some extent in eliminating bacteria or other microorganisms contributing to odors, but it may not be as effective in neutralizing smoke odor molecules compared to other treatments like ozone generation.

What to consider when seeking professional cleaning for smoke odor removal?

Look for service providers with positive reviews, ask for references, and ensure they have experience with smoke odor removal. It’s also wise to get a clear understanding of the cost and the treatments they plan to use.

Final Words

This comprehensive guide lays down a structured approach to eradicating smoke odors from car interiors. By initially identifying the smoke source, one can tailor the cleaning strategy effectively.

Pre-cleaning to remove loose debris, followed by dedicated upholstery cleaning techniques such as shampooing and steam cleaning, are crucial steps toward a fresher vehicle ambiance. For stubborn odors, considering professional cleaning services or even replacing severely tainted carpets and upholstery may be necessary.

Additionally, maintaining clean air quality by addressing hard surfaces and replacing cabin air filters can significantly mitigate lingering smoke odors, making one’s driving experience more pleasant and odor-free.

All Posts


Related Posts