How to Remove the Smell of Smoke from a Car

Posted Wednesday, Mar 10, 2021

You may need to know how to remove the smell of smoke from a car if you just bought a used car or if you’re about to trade-in your own. Although air fresheners can mask the smell, they don’t actually remove it. So, they are helpful but not the best solution. Below are steps to remove the smell of smoke from a car.

to remove the smell of smoke from a carFirst, you need to remove anything that may be adding to the situation. If cigarette butts and ash are sitting inside a container or ash tray in the car, empty it out. If some butts have fallen under the seat or in recesses and crannies, remove them as well.

Next you need to trap the scent and remove it from the car. The easiest way to trap odors is with baking soda. You may have seen an open box in the back of someone's fridge before; it’s commonly used in that fashion to trap odors in refrigerators. In the car, you can trap the odor by sprinkling the baking soda on any fabric surfaces; so, sprinkle it on the carpet, floor mats, and seats if the latter two are cloth. However, make sure these surfaces are completely dry before adding the soda. Allow the soda to remain on these surfaces for some time so that the odor can absorb into the powder. Now, you simply vacuum up the powder along with the smells trapped within.

Just so you know that this isn’t an entirely foreign concept, it wasn’t uncommon to see someone using baking soda on the home carpeting back in the ‘80s. In fact, Arm and Hammer sold some specially scented and packaged baking soda just for this purpose.

Now that you’ve removed the smell from the soft surfaces, it’s time to address the hard surfaces. Smoking can leave a build-up on the windows, dash, and door panels; since this film can emit a scent itself, you need to wash it off. Obviously, you can use a window cleaner on the glass, and you can probably use it on the other hard surfaces. But I recommend you use a cleaner designed for these surfaces.

Now that you’ve removed the odor from both the hard and soft surfaces, you’re finished, right? Nope. Every time you’ve recirculated the air through the heat or A/C,
it’s passed through the in-cabin air filter. This filter removes particulates from the air inside the vehicle, and it obtains an odor, too. So, if you were to use your heat or air now, you would re-contaminate your interior; hence, you should replace the in-cabin air filter now. Accessing this filter is accomplished in various ways depending on the vehicle, so search it on YouTube.

If your vehicle still has remnants of a smoky smell, you may need to leave an open container of baking soda, coffee grounds, or kitty litter in the vehicle overnight to absorb more of the odor. Or you may need to use an ozone generator to finish the job. You can rent these, but you may already own one: some air purifiers have the ability to produce ozone. Either way, place the ozone generator in the vehicle with the windows up. Also, let the engine run with the A/C set to recirculate so that the ozone bathes the vents and ducts as well.

At this point, your vehicle should be odor free; this is the time to add an air freshener if you’d like. That’s the proper way to remove the smell of smoke from a car. Since you’ve learned how to deodorize your car, you should learn the 5 other things all drivers should know. Now you’re ready to enjoy your new purchase or to trade it in.

Photo by Philippe Goulet on Unsplash

Tags: ,