How to Get Smoke Smell Out of Car Vents

If you’re someone who smokes cigarettes in your car or just purchased a used car from a smoker, you might be having trouble with the lingering cigarette smoke smell. Cigarette smell can seep into fabrics, clothing, and even your car vents. It’s not easy to get rid of it, but it’s definitely doable, and we are here to help you with that. 

In today’s article, we’ll talk about some ways you can get rid of the smoke smell out of your car vents. We’ll also talk about some different homemade solutions that you can try if all else fails.

How to Get Smoke Smell Out of Your Car

There are a couple of steps that you should take to get rid of the smoke smell from your car. In the following part of the article, we’ll go through the whole process, from beginning to end. So, here’s what you should do:

1. Empty Your Car 

The best way to start anything is with a clean slate. The first thing you should do is remove any trash and debris from the car. 

Cigarette smoke can seep into stuff and linger for quite some time. Cigarettes are infused with different types of chemicals, and it’s those chemicals that tend to be the reason behind the lingering smoke smell.

Empty the ashtray, remove the carpeting, empty the trunk, check every nook and cranny of your car, and get rid of any stuff that’s just lying around. 

Clean and empty your car’s side panels, glove box, and other storage areas. Remove anything and everything that doesn’t “belong” in the car. Get rid of spare clothing, jackets, shoes, cups, or whatever else you might have. Basically, treat your car like you’re trying to sell it 

2. Ventilate Your Car 

After you remove all non-essentials, it’s time to start the intense cleaning. Ideally, you’d have access to a power supply to use the vacuum. But before you do this, you should park your car outside or in an open-air space in order to properly ventilate.

Roll down all the windows, and get ready to start working!

3. Prepare for a Deep Clean

Before you start the deep cleaning, you should prepare everything you need. 

Now, keep in mind that not every method will work for everybody.  You might have to try different methods. So, we’ll go through a couple of them to give you an idea of what could work for your specific situation.

  • Get a shop vac. Shop vacs are great because of their amazing sucking prowess. With a shop vac, you should easily be able to vacuum up all the residual ash that might be causing the nasty smoke smell. Just make sure to keep the vacuum container outside of your car. You don’t want the bad smoke smell coming back to your car through the vacuum’s exhaust.
  • Steam cleaner is an excellent option for removing the cigarette smoke smell from the carpeting and upholstery of your car.
  • One of the easiest ways of getting rid of the smoke smell from your car is a simple homemade recipe. All you need is a spray bottle, some vinegar, and water. Mix equal parts of water and vinegar and fill the spray bottle with the solution. Spray the inside of your car and leave it there for a couple of hours to dry. Leave the car doors open to speed up the process and help with ventilation.
  • Get a couple of microfibre cloths for cleaning. It’s best to prepare at least 2-3 cleaning cloths in advance to get the best results and avoid cross-contamination.

4. Start Cleaning the Interior

Now that you’ve prepared everything you’ll need to get rid of the cigarette smoke smell from your car, it’s time to start with the deep clean.

 The first thing on the docket is vacuuming. Vacuum anything and everything that can be vacuumed. This includes carpeting, floor mats, seats, and all the storage compartments. 

The next thing that you should do is steam clean the carpets and upholstery. 

After you’ve steamed and cleaned your car, it’s time to spray the plastic or vinyl part of your car’s interior and clean them with a fiber cloth. 

Now, it’s finally time to clean the air vents. Follow these steps:

  • Remove the vents from the dash or try to access them from behind so you can clean them thoroughly. 
  • Remove the cabin filtering and wipe down the housing. 
  • Use the vinegar-water mixture to eliminate any tobacco residue that might have gotten stuck in the vents. If you don’t perform this step, the cigarette smoke smell will appear when you turn your cooling or heating on.

If you can’t remove the dash or air vents, you could try using the odor-neutralizing spray. This method is not as effective as the one above, but it could still do the trick. Here’s how you should go about it:

  • You should first figure out where your car’s air intake vents are. In most cases, they will be somewhere around the windshield wipers.
  • Get rid of the old cabin filter and thoroughly clean the housing.
  • Roll the windows and let the car ventilate.
  • It’s easier to start cleaning the outside intake vent first. Turn on your heater to the max and ensure all the vents are open!
  • Spray the odor neutralizer into the outside intake vents. Spray for about 10 seconds. Make sure you spray every outside intake vent.
  • Leave the car running for a couple of minutes and let the air circulate. After that, it’s time to clean the inside intake vents.
  • Turn your heating to cabin circulation. Repeat the same process again, but this time spray the interior vents. 
  • The second to last part of this method is to clean any surfaces that might have been contaminated with the spray. Clean your dash and windows from the inside and outside.
  • And lastly, install the new cabin filter. 

Some DIY Methods to Get the Smoke Smell Out

If thoroughly cleaning your car doesn’t get rid of the cigarette smoke smell, don’t worry; there are a couple of other things that you could try. 

  • White vinegar is great at removing lingering smells, including cigarette smoke smell. All you have to do is fill a bowl with white vinegar and leave it inside your car. It’ll soak up all the cigarette smoke smell. Do this method with the windows rolled down so the vinegar can do its job. After this, you should ventilate your car for a few days to eliminate the vinegar smell.
  • Another thing you can use to remove the lingering smells from your car is baking soda. Sprinkle the baking soda all over your car floor mats, trunk, and seats. Leave it to sit in your car for a couple of hours. After a couple of hours, vacuum your car.
  • You can use charcoal to get rid of the smoke smell from your car. All you have to do is to leave a couple of lumps of coal in your car overnight. By morning, the charcoal should’ve soaked up all the cigarette smell from your car interior.
  • Lemon, limes, and orange peels are great at removing bad smells. Put them in your car and leave them for a couple of days.
  • Put dryer sheets and place them over your car seats and floorboards and leave them for a couple of days. 


Removing the lingering cigarette smoke smell from your car vents is not an easy task. Depending on the level of contamination, you might need to try a couple of different things to get the job done. 

Start with emptying and cleaning your car. Assess the situation from there. If the smoke smell persists, it may be time for deep cleaning. 

Baking soda and white vinegar are great at soaking up the “bad smells.” You could leave a bowl filled with white vinegar in your car overnight to eliminate the cigarette smoke smell. Make sure to ventilate your car afterward properly. You don’t want to exchange the cigarette smell with vinegar.

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