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Removing Cigarette Odor: 3 Steps That Are Often Overlooked


You may be wondering, “why are smoke particles so difficult to remove?  Is there not a simple fix to this problem?”

Smoke particles are small and consequently easily permeable.  A small fraction of the size of a human hair, it can penetrate and embed itself in the many permeable surfaces of your car. When I offer a service I do not even fully guarantee the removal of cigarette odor.  If the remains are severe enough it can be a great challenge to 100% permanently remove the smell.  I am mentioning this so that YOU manage your expectations in addressing this problem.  I want to drive home a couple of key points, if the problem is moderate to severe.  First, if you have not already guessed there is no quick and easy method for this kind of odor removal.  To address this problem the interior of the car needs a thorough cleaning.  By thoroughly cleaning the interior the likelihood of eliminating the problem is very high.  The second point is there are three key parts of cigarette odor eliminating interior detail that are commonly missed.  If you do not overlook these three steps your chances of fixing the problem are going to be dramatically improved.



The most overlooked area of the car, the headliner. Remember to clean headliners with caution!  The fabric can easily separate from the adhesive with excessive moisture.  I also would lean towards not using a steam cleaner (too much heat) or using excessive force to clean the headliner.  My recommendation is to spray a dedicated fabric cleaning product directly into a microfiber towel, and clean the area with little to no pressure.

Ozone Machine

Ozone changes the molecular structure of air and consequently killing the odor molecules.  Once the inside of the vehicle is thoroughly cleaned, an Ozone treatment should not be overlooked.  The machine pictured below is the Jenesco DC-12 Ozone Generator.  This should never be used as a substitute for cleaning the inside of your car, but added at the end after a thorough cleaning.


Cabin Air Filter

Replace your Cabin Air Filer as cigarette odor molecules can be trapped in the filter.  Replacing the cabin air filter is often the most overlooked step to removing this odor, but can be the finishing touch after cleaning and an ozone treatment. Your local auto parts store should have the filter for your car’s make and model.

Rodney Tatum
Mirror Reflections Auto Spa
Gainesville, Florida
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7 comments on Removing Cigarette Odor: 3 Steps That Are Often Overlooked

  1. Wayne says:

    Great advice…a lot of people overlook!!!

    Hallstar Tint & Detail Inc

  2. Wayne says:

    Don’t forget once cabin filter is replaced, run the vehicle with heat on re circ setting while ozone is in the car for the initial 10 minutes to also kill smoke remnants in ventilation system!

  3. rlmccarty2000 says:

    For heavily smoked in vehicles the door panels need to be removed to get to the nicotine gunk that gathers behind the panels.

  4. Peter M Rudy says:

    Ozone Machine also for mold and mildew .

  5. Joe says:

    Always overlooked, I wipe down all vinyl, rubber, and dash board with a 50/50 mix distilled water and white vinegar.

  6. Peter Rudy says:

    How about using a steamer with some germicidal / bacticide ? added to the water . To steam out all the air vents inside the car . And the air intakes under the windshield .

  7. Kirk says:

    I have found that difficult cigarette odors can often be tracked down to a very well hidden cigarette butt or spilled dip cup.

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