How to Eliminate Smoke Odor From Your Vehicle
By Robert Roundtree
Smoke is a very offensive smell and can linger for a very long time in fabrics and on surfaces. Removing cigarette smoke odor from your vehicle requires all interior surfaces to be cleaned, either professionally or at home. The level of intensity depends on which way you choose to get it removed. A car with terribly bad smoke odor is usually best served by a professional cleaner. If you choose to try and rid your vehicle of the smoke odor yourself, you must remember to clean every square inch of the interior surface.
First, start by removing any and all traces of cigarette smoke. Empty out the ashtray and thoroughly wash it with soap and water, if possible. After it has dried, fill it with baking soda or fresh ground coffee beans. Allow the ashtray it sit full for 2-3 days before emptying and washing one more time before returning to the car. Thoroughly vacuum up all of the ashes in the carpets and seats. Be sure to pull apart wherever the seat is sewn together and vacuum the seam carefully. Ashes are very fine and can get into every little crack and crevice in you car. We typically use a set of detail brushes to clean out your entire dash, vent and door panels. If doing this yourself, an old toothbrush or fingernail brush will work as a substitute.
After the carpets are vacuumed and free of debris they need to be cleaned. There are several ways to do so. You can rent a carpet cleaner, hot water extractor, or use a bucket of water and scrub brush. Which ever you choose be careful to not leave too much water behind. For most interior carpets and cloth seats we use diluted (30:1) C-49 Heavy Duty Interior Cleaner made by Pro Wax or another upholstery cleaner. Which ever cleaning reagent you use, you will want to test the cleaning agent on a small area of inconspicuous carpet. This is to make sure it doesn’t stain or bleach the carpet. Be sure to let the spot fully dry before deciding to clean your entire carpet. Floor mats are a little easier to clean because they can be taken out of the car and thoroughly washed. However, if you decide to clean the carpets do not seal up the car after wetting the interior, this will cause bacteria to grow and give your vehicle a foul organic smell. Make sure to leave the windows cracked and preferably the car in a sunny place until the carpets dry.
The next step is to thoroughly wash and condition every square inch of vinyl or plastic in the interior of your car. Gently scrub down all surfaces with a cleaning agent of your choice, wipe with a clean damp microfiber and allow it to dry. For most interior vinyl we use C-84 Frank’s Special Cleaner made by Pro Wax. Once the surface has dried you will want to treat it with a water-based protectant. The same procedure applies to leather seats except you will want to use a cleaning agent that is specifically designed for leather. When cleaning leather be careful to use a soft bristle brush or cloth, nothing abrasive, and use mild pressure to clean the leather. Last you will want to clean all of the glass surfaces in the interior. Smoke will leave a haze on the glass that can be cleaned of with any standard glass cleaner and a lot of elbow grease. Often you will have to clean the window 2-3 times to remove all of the film.
The hardest part but often most crucial for removing smoke odor from a car is cleaning the headliner. If your headliner is old and brittle you may want to look at getting it replaced. If it is in relatively good condition it can be cleaned like the rest of the interior. The only difference is that instead of using a scrubbing motion you want to blot. Blot or spray the cleaning reagent on with a microfiber or towel, blot with a damp towel, and then blot 2-3 more times with a dry towel to soak up the moisture.
Once your car’s interior has been completely cleaned and wiped down you will want to change the cabin air filter on the AC & heating system. This will be in a different location for each car but is generally located near the firewall that separates your interior from the engine. This filter is meant to clean the air and will trap the smoke odor. You can get a replacement yourself from your local auto part store or have a professional change it for you.
This process will eliminate 90% of most smoke odor within a vehicle. If the odor persists after following this detailed process of cleaning the interior you may wish to look at using an ozone generator. Ozone generators use electricity to create ozone, an unstable oxygen molecule. These machines can be bought or rented. They are used to eliminate the odors such as smoke, skunk and mold from homes and vehicles. If you do choose to use an ozone generator be sure to follow the directions because it can be harmful if inhaled.
About the Author
Robert Roundtree is the owner and operator of Gainesville Detailing located in Gainesville, FL- USA. To learn more about their business and services, visit www.gainesvilledetailing.com .