Ask-A-Pro: Smoke Smell in Carby Greg Nichols
“I just bought a vehicle that had been smoked in. I took out the entire interior and scrubbed it with soap and water, odor remover, and 303. I think most of the smell is coming from the leather seats. How can I get the smell out of the leather?
Thanks for the question Zack D!
Smoke is the detailers nightmare! The particles are so dang small they get everywhere, so you must clean everywhere. You can mask the smell with other pleasant smells, but that is temporary. I have not found a surefire method, so I try different ones. I share…….
If you have a cabin filter, replace it.
If the smell is coming from the seats, it’s likely in the cushions, not the leather, which is nearly impossible to clean.
Extract the carpets and seats with a strong alkaline cleaner, extract again with a acid base to help neutralize the alkaline. Your professional carpet cleaning supply store can help you.
Your headliner will hold tons of the smell, so you need to wipe down (several times) with a damp rag (changing sides often) using the same stuff you used on the carpets.
All hard surfaces need to be decontaminated with a good APC.
You might need to remove the seats and clean them very well, and allow them to dry.
A product called Odoban can help, you can find it at Sams Club or Costco.
You will likely never totally remove the smell, or it will take several cleanings to minimize.
I wish I could have giving you a perfect answer that would work the first time.
Nice post Greg.
Zack…if you think that some of the smell is still coming from the leather, you could also try a complete Leatherique treatment as it gets deep into the surface. Worst case scenario, you end up with very clean and properly conditioned seats!
Another option if the car still smells is to rent an ozone generator.
An ozone machine is used by smoke and odor restoration technicians. They are very expensive machines. Ozone can be extremely dangerous though.
Another possibility is using a fogger. These can be obtained through a carpet cleaning store. Again, this is also a very expensive machine.
Bottom line is, don’t smoke in your car.
I didn’t mention Ozone machines because of the health risks and costs.
@ TIM H what is the process for fogging a car, what is the chemical used? Cost effective?
One thing i would add is to be extremely careful with the headliner. dont spray anything on it and make sure the cloth you are using to wipe is damp at most. you do not want to saturate the headliner which may cause it to seperate from the roof. and use very gentle strokes. good luck
Good point about the headliner, Mo. I bought a car that was smoked in and found some of the smell was coming from the vents/ducting. I removed all of the vents and cleaned the ducting as far as I could reach which seemed to help.
That’s a great question about cost effectiveness. You know, if you can truly remove smoke odor from a vehicle and word get’s around it could be very lucrative. I’ve seen foggers for as little $250. You have to buy the fogging chemical separate. Email for the link to the one I found. The description of the product says:
This versatile fogger creates a dry fog, similar in nature to the smoke created by fire. This dry fog follows the path of smoke & neutralizes the odor.
Hope this helps.
please contact me about these foggers.
What about something like Auto Vaccine? Does it work?
I have never tired Auto Vacc, give it a try and let us know? Its Dioxide based so in theory it just might.
Will do, thanks.
I used the Auto Vaccine back in May as part of a process I used to attack a moldy interior. It did what it claimed to do. I used it to help kill airborne and surface mold (along with other products) and remove the residual smell caused by the mold. I also applied the Klima Cleaner from Einszett to attack the mold and residual smell in the air ducts and heater core. I checked back with the client three months later and the smell had not returned (and neither did the mold). Another suggestion would be to use a steamer. Steaming the interior and into the vents does wonders for neutralizing interior odors in my experience.
I’ve contacted Auto Vaccine for some info. While the chemistry behind it makes sense, practical application is everything. I’m hoping to test and report back to several forums on my findings.
I’ve picked up some Auto Vaccine to test, now just to find a stinky car??
I have one-my husband has a new (to him) truck with heavy cigarette smoke smell. What would you charge?
I through interior cleaning is a must, then try and remove the smoke particulates. This type of cleaning can range from 150-250 depending on many factors. Lots of places will do it cheaper, but I’ll bet the process is uses a masking product that will ware off in time.
If you are local visit my website and contact me at http://www.reflections-detailing.com
As a follow on to this topic, is there anything that can be done for ash marks/tiny burns on the headliner caused by inaccurately attempting to ash the cigarette out the window?
If the headliner is burned, you can LIGHTLY clean it with a slightly damp towel………don’t get the liner wet as it can sag. if the burns are deep you can only replace…….
Sorry to hear
Okay a follow up…….
I’ve tried some new treatments: Auto vaccine and drive pur
Auto Vaccine didn’t work out in the long run, I just don’t think It can for heavy smoke the product has to come directly in contact with the smoke and tar. The product freshens up the car very nicely!
Drive Pur did a great job in removing the smell for the long haul. The trick is getting the product in contatct the the tar and smoke molcules. this treatment is not for the DIY type you need to seek out a professional odor removal detailer. I’ve become pretty darn good using the system, so if you are seeking out a smoke or odor remover in the state of utah reflections detailing of utah can help.
Hu Greg, this post is a few years outdated but I thought I would attempt to get my question answered. I recently purchased a 2012 Jeep. After a few days their attempt to mask the cigarette smoke in the car wore off and I am now left with a very potent smelling car. I have a 4 year old that is very asthmatic and is super sensitive to any form of cigarettes 1st, 2nd and 3rd. I have noticed an increase in her need of a nebulizer over the last few days which I am directly linking to the vehicle. I brought the car back to the dealership and they are assuring me that the use of an ozone machine will rid the vehicle of any remaining smell and tobacco residule (sp?) … my question is is that a true statement or just another ploy by shady car sales men to have me remain in the vehicle? When you say they are not safe … is that in their application / use or the left over chemicals or particles in the air after the use?
Jesse take your car to signature detail in salt lake. They have drive pur technology which will rid the car of any smell. I tried everything in a smoky smelling car and this is the only thing that worked.
Ozone can take out the smell. You just don’t want to be around when the machine is going on.
if they ozone it for 8hrs or more it should work, if not then I can do a drive pur treatment.
We are looking to purchase a brand new car, and would like to use our old one as a trade in. Both my boyfriend & I did smoke in the car and we were wondering….what is the average cost for a private professional detailer to remove the smoke odor verses the dealership’s extra charges for their ‘detail’ work? This would be very helpful information to have when it comes time to sit at the table and ‘negotiate’ discounts! Presently, the KBB trade in value for our car is $2700. Yesterday at the local dealership, whom had seen the older car, after it was all said & done, according to them, our trade in value would only be $265. and….$1000. is what THEY would be paying to have it detailed! Other then the odor….the car is in tip top shape. I know when I saw that $1000. for the ‘detail’ they were talking about the odor, but $1000.???? Really? As for our brand new car we plan on buying…I already warned my boyfriend….we WILL be using the e-cig in the car at ALL times. Should we have the urge to smoke a real cigarette, we’ll pull over and get outside;-)
Your question about how much to abate smoke smell is a hard one, it varies greatly; how much odor, size of car, your location, and method needed. Usually a good detailer will do a good interior shampoo and cleaning before odor removal of Cigs, and then the process for cigs. I would have to range it from 250-600$.
Thanks for getting back to me so soon. However I’m happy to say, we got our brand new 2015 Chevy Traverse 1LT over at Phoenix, AZ’s largest Chevy dealership’s with everything we wanted. And….they gave us a trade-in value of $2500. for our 2004 Impala! What a huge difference from what the smaller dealership in Flagstaff was offering ($265.) for the trade-in huh? We drove 329 miles into Phx. got a room for 2 nights, and still managed to save over $6000. on the very same vehicle we test drove in Flagstaff!!! And, we got a full tank of gas, + when the deal was made (just under 30 minutes after we walked thru the door) I got to pound on the huge Bong in the dealership as our salesman had announced the sale to the entire staff and they ALL came out cheering us on and clapping away. How awesome is that?
As a former professional detailer and current vehicle sales professional I would like to congratulate you for your perseverance in finding yourself a great car. It sounds like your vehicle had a heavy smoke odor. Quality dealerships spend upwards of $500 on the average car for “reconditioning”, which includes a safety inspection and full auto detail at a minimum, excluding any repairs or required maintenance a vehicle needs prior to being made into show-quality condition.
Dealers know they will be charged an additional fee for requesting a smoke smell be removed from a vehicle by whoever does their detail work. Or, in the case of a dealer that pays an hourly employee to detail their trade-ins to make sellable as a used car, they have to figure the detailer will need to devote extra time to it. This will make for a slow turnaround time on prepping the car for resale on the used car lot and also tie up an employee for an exorbitant amount of time attempting to remove the odor, reducing overall productivity.
When vehicles are smoked in, as everyone seems to have indicated above, the smoke particles adhere to the different materials in your car. Cigarette smoke will deposit a tar-like resin on surfaces. Porous surfaces, such as carpet, seat fabric and headliners will absorb the tar into the backing material (foam seat cushions, padding above headliner, carpet pads between carpet and floorpan) essentially wicking the condensed smoke fumes into the backing material, locking them away deep. The issue is literally deeper than the surface.
There is no cure for cigarette smoke odor in a car. The dealer was only giving you a justified value based on their experience selling cars. Even when all measures to “de-smoke” the car are taken, a large portion of customers will complain and in many cases refuse to even consider purchasing the car based on even a faint odor. This can and will cause them reduced revenue from any particular trade in.
Glad to hear you found yourself the right car! Congratulations on your purchase, I hope its a vehicle that will serve you for many years to come.
As a FYI, there is some research done by Cal Berkeley that ozone generators could cause more harmful particulates when combined with the smoke residue as opposed to just leaving the smoke residue. It can be found here – http://newscenter.lbl.gov/2010/08/16/ozone-and-nicotine-a-bad-combination-for-asthma/.
Greg, I just sent you an email and look forward to you being able to help me. I’ll be sure to leave my comments after we work together as well.
Whenever you are doing smoking in the car, you should have to open the window of the car. Smoke can deeply permeate the materials inside a car, making it very difficult to remove the smell. So please do not smoke in the car.
Does anyone knows a company around Deerfield Beach FL 33442 area to take out the smell from a 2016 Jeep Cherokee I purchased recently. Thank you.
There is a company called Odor Masters USA that is out if Pompano/Fort Lauderdale area. They provide mobile service and remove all kinds of odor from boats, cars etc.
The guys name is Alex. You can Google it and it will come up.
Thank you. I will look for them.