A lit cigarette inside a vehicle.

Whether you’re trying to determine what’s causing a smoke smell or you’re trying to get rid of the lingering cigarette smoke smell from your car, you have options. From car air fresheners to DIY methods, your car interior can smell brand new in just a few simple steps.

This guide highlights potential causes of smoke smell, different products you can consider to solve this issue, and how to prevent smoke smell in the future.

What’s Causing Smoke Smell In The Car?

Smoke surrounds a vehicle's engine.

There are a few causes of smoke smell in your car, the most common being cigarette smoke. This can be from a previous owner if you’ve bought a used car recently, or from a current driver if applicable. Smoke can penetrate different parts of your vehicle including cloth, hard surfaces, and air filters or vents, all of which can leave a lingering smell behind. 

However, if you smell a sudden burning scent in your car, you need to pull over and get out immediately, putting a good distance from yourself and your car because this could be a sign of a fire in your engine. This will often be paired with smoke, but it’s important to take precautions before you can assess where the sudden smell is coming from and you can address the broken car part or malfunction in your vehicle.

Focusing on the lingering smoke smell, by getting rid of this scent there are many benefits to both you and your passengers. Not only will your car smell better, but removing toxic smoke particles can improve air quality. Eliminating the smoke smell also protects your vehicle’s upholstery by removing and preventing smoke particles from seeping into your car’s surfaces.

Types Of Products To Get Smoke Smell Out Of Your Car

Vacuuming a vehicle's interior.

There are a handful of products you can consider to get the smoke smell out of your car. You have the option to use natural products, cleaning supplies, and even parts replacements for the most extreme cases of smoke smell.

Natural Products

Charcoal and coffee grounds are common DIY remedies to rid of the cigarette smell from your vehicle. These options are both environmentally friendly and less abrasive than household cleaners. This might be a good starting point if the smoke smell isn’t too strong. These products will likely work as odor neutralizers because they don’t have a strong scent themselves.

Cleaning Supplies

Deodorizers can help reduce smoke odor and other bad car odors like sweat or food. Most chemicals used to deodorize can be used on hard and soft surfaces, but it’s important to ensure that whatever chemical deodorizer you’re using is safe on all surfaces, especially if you have leather car seats. These cleaners are likely going to have a stronger smell than natural products – however, they’re more effective for odor removal and some cleaning products can even clean the car’s air conditioning system.

Replacement Parts

If the smoke residue is still lingering and these better budget options don’t work for you, there is the option to replace parts of your vehicle. To achieve a fresh air scent, you can get your cabin air filter replaced to help remove the smoke smell. Replacing your air filters can better neutralize negative odors and help clear out smoke particles in your air vents and on interior surfaces.

How To Get Smoke Smell Out Of Your Car

Steam cleaning the interior of a vehicle

After determining different products you can use to remove smoke smell and other poor odors from your car, there are a few solutions you’ll want to consider. Vacuuming, airing out your car, and cleaning surfaces with household products can help to keep your car upholstery clean and get rid of the smoke smell.

Air Out Your Car

Maybe the cheapest solution to getting rid of the smoke smell in your car’s interior is to air your car out. On a nice and breezy day, you can park your car outside, roll down the car windows, and let your vehicle air out for a few hours. This can help to naturally eliminate negative odors, though it can be time-consuming. Consider driving your car with the windows down to get better air circulation throughout your vehicle to speed up the airing out process.


For cloth upholstery, seats, or floor mats, vacuuming is the way to go. Some smaller car vacuums can reach crevices in between and underneath seats to clean all particles in your car. Shop vacs are also a great option for cleaning larger surfaces like car mats and seats. Vacuums can pick up and remove smoke particles to help eliminate residual cigarette smoke odors.

Cleaning Surfaces

Smoke particles can sit on any surface in your car, and while vacuuming can help this, there might be nooks and crannies in your car that require special attention. More sensitive surfaces, like leather car seats, also need to be cleaned with specific odor eliminators, making some handheld cleaners safer than vacuuming. You can also use car wipes and window cleaner with a microfiber cloth to clean your dashboard, cup holders, and windshield to remove smoke film particles.

Filtering Out Smoke Smell

Baking soda is a great alternative to filtering out the smoke smell in your car since it works as an odor-neutralizer. Sprinkling baking soda on your vehicle’s seats and surfaces should be left on for a few hours and vacuumed or wiped up after. If you don’t want to make a mess by pouring baking soda on your car’s interior, you can leave an open container of baking soda in your car overnight, though this may not be as effective.

The use of dryer sheets can also provide a fresh scent to your car while eliminating the smoke smell. Wiping your seats and hard surfaces with dryer sheets can help to get rid of the lingering smoke smell. This process won’t remove smoke particles from your vehicle, instead, it will just hide the odor.

Our Research Process

Our team has tested the best car air fresheners on the market, so our recommendations for keeping the smoke smell out of your car are backed by in-depth testing. To test each product, we installed the air freshener in the front seats of our vehicle and filled the trunk with sweaty clothes. When testing these air fresheners, we wanted to consider longevity, odor-masking abilities, and the overall value of the product.

  • Longevity: How long your air freshener lasts is an important factor when testing each product. While some of the best-smelling car air fresheners last only a day, others have the capability to last for several months before losing their scent.
  • Odor Masking: To eliminate the smoke smell, you’ll want an air freshener that can mask poor odors from your car. Our team noted how well each product was able to cover up the smell of dirty clothes in our testing vehicle’s trunk.
  • Value: We looked at the value of each car air freshener by comparing cost to longevity, so you can get the most out of your purchase.

Why You Can Trust Us

Each year, we test over 350 auto products on vehicles and in our testing lab. Our team of product testers thoroughly researches top products, unboxes and puts our hands on each component, and tests the items on real vehicles before making recommendations to readers.

We publish hundreds of product and service reviews to bring car enthusiasts detailed guides on automotive tools, detailing kits, car seats, pet products, and much more. For more information on our testing methodology and how we evaluate every product, check out our methodology page here.

Smoke Smell: Bottom Line

Smoke smell can lead to a poor experience for you and your passengers, especially with lingering smoke and cigarette particles circulating the air and sitting on surfaces. Getting rid of smoke smell doesn’t have to be a long or expensive process, and you have multiple DIY options to choose from. Hopefully, this guide has provided you with information and solutions to narrow down how you want to get rid of the lingering smoke smell and other bad odors in your car.

Smoke Smell: FAQ

Here are a few frequently asked questions about cigarette smoke smell in vehicles.

*Data accurate at time of publication.