Not only is cigarette smoke an unpleasant odor, it’s difficult to remove from your car – however not impossible.
Here’s what’s worked for us:

1. Dispose all cigarette butts and ash from the car
2. Clean the ash tray and every other surface that’s come into contact with cigarettes
3. Deodorize all fabric surfaces
4. Clean all glass
5. Treat the HVAC ducts
6. Soak up the scent using household products

Clean-up

It makes sense to start with the source of the smell, therefore helping to rid the odor as quickly as possible.

Remove all Cigarettes from your Car

Cigarette butts and ash will keep your interior lingering of smoke, despite any effort you make to mask the odor. Start by cleaning out your ash tray and vacuuming the whole car, removing the source of the smell.

Vacuuming and shampooing all Fabrics

All soft fabrics in your vehicle need to be vacuumed, as odor particulate will accumulate into the material. If you hire a professional to tackle the job, they will perform a complete shampoo of seats, carpets, door panels, headliner and Air Conditioning vents. Read our full guide explaining how to clean car seats.
Consider performing the same thorough cleaning to completely eliminate the scent from returning, expect to shampoo the interior multiple times if smoking heavily.

Glass Cleaning

Nicotine will cling to all surfaces relentlessly, including glass. Not a place you may expect to be causing bad smells, but it’s something that can be quickly remedied using a white vinegar in a spray bottle.

Spray the white vinegar on the glass avoiding any interior trim around the glass, and wipe away with a damp cloth. If this solution doesn’t work, you can mix ammonia and water in a 1:16 solution of ammonia to water. Spray onto glass and use a lint free cloth or newspaper to wipe the surface dry.

HVAC Duct

Your cabin filter which filters air before entering the cabin will need to be replaced. The filter will trap the odor and keep the smell lingering when you use your vents. Each manufacturer has a different procedure to replacing cabin filters, however it’s a common service item and should be easy to find online or in your vehicle handbook.

 

Absorbing the smell

Using Everyday Objects:

Ground Coffee

For decades ground aromatic coffee has sparingly been used to absorb smells by truck drivers in their trailers. Due to its absorbent properties it’s perfect for removing remove smoke odor from your interior.
Simply fill up bowl or two and fill with coffee. Leave in the vehicle with the windows and doors closed for 24-48 hours to absorb the odor. Depending on the cars exposure to smoke, this treatment may be more than enough to completely clear the smell, however it’s easy enough to repeat should your car require multiple treatments.
It’s not a good idea to drive with open bowls of coffee in your car, however you could fill up a few pairs of tights and tie the end to keep it secure.

Charcoal

Similar to coffee charcoal is excellent at absorbing bad odors, which you can use instead of coffee if you don’t like the scent. Simply leave charcoal or charcoal briquettes in a container and close all openings of your vehicle.
When you return 24-48 hours later your car will no longer smell, just simply dispose of the used charcoal.

Newspaper

Newsprint is another great way to absorb potent smells. Roll up a few newspapers and place them under your seats. Within a few days you will notice the smells fading away, and you can periodically change out the newspapers to maintain the absorbing process.

Cat Litter

Extremely absorbent and easily available, cat litter is very porous and will soak up bad smells quickly. A great alternative to the above method if you already have cats, and has the added benefit of absorbing moisture within your car too.

White Vinegar Spray

Not a personal favourite of my own, however white vinegar sprayed onto fabric surfaces will get rid of the source of odours. Mix a 50:50 spray bottle of water and white vinegar, then spray onto your interior fabric.
Be sure not to spray onto any electrical devices or suede interior. I personally can’t stand the smell of vinegar, you have been warned!

Baking Soda

Among bicarbonate of sodas many uses, a natural deodorant is one of them. Firstly sprinkle the baking soda over as many porous surfaces as possible (Floor Mats, carpeting, seats) and work in using a brush.
Then go ahead and wait between 30 minutes to a whole day before vacuuming up the baking powder. The longer you leave it resting in the fabric, the more likely it will deodorize your interior.
When vacuuming, take at least two passes to ensure all residue has been removed.

Commercial Products:

If using our household solutions haven’t killed the smell, turning to purpose made products will rid that odor once and for all!

Ozone Generator

A machine that creates ozone gas from carbon dioxide. Ozone will react with particulate and bacteria, therefore neutralizing the source of bad smells. These machines are available to buy or rent, and are used in many different applications to remove bad odours.
It should be noted that caution should be exercised when using an ozone generator, as they’re harmful to health. By breathing in ozone it can cause respiratory issues, and should only be used in uninhabited areas that are sealed off.

Dakota Odor Bomb

There are many products available that you can use to deodorize your vehicle. Press the button onto the can until it locks fully, put it on a flat surface in the car and shut all openings.
After 2 hours, ventilate the vehicle to allow the product to escape. There may be a chemical odor that lingers for a few days, however this is a great alternative to an ozone generator and easier too.