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Get Rid of a Cigarette Smell

new 6/10/03

(yeah, I'm still alive - and on "vacation" in Martinsburg, WV and you just wait... one of these days y'all are gonna be *so* updated you won't know which end is up when I get done with you... ;)

Years ago I worked at the headquarters of a national car rental chain here in Tulsa. All the top brass were reformed smokers, so that meant that even a whiff of cigarette smoke was unacceptable. First thing you learned was that if you smoked, you never did it in a company car... and if you did, you better be ready to clean it to within an inch of your life.

Nowadays, I'm one of those damned former smokers. As an FYI, the reason some of us former smokers can't stand the smell of it is because it's a trigger - 10 years later, and I'm never more than about a minute away from smoking again.

Anyway - to drag this back on topic, when we got SHO White, she had been smoked in. A lot. :( Today you can't tell. Here's how I cleaned her up - remember she has the highly coveted, very rare, and almost-unheard-of all cloth interior. <ROTFL> (Don Mallinson should just leave the room *now* so he won't get queasy at how I did this... ;)

First get some Simple Green. Available at all of your finer Wal-Marts, and at Lowe's in gallon jugs. Get the big jug - you'll find a million other uses for the stuff once you start using it. It's biodegradable, and easy on the hands, so you won't have to worry about gloves. You'll also want a nice sized bucket, and a big 'ol pile of clean, white cotton rags. 100% cotton underwear works great - or cotton dishtowels, or old cotton baby diapers. Finally, you need some HOT water. As hot as you can stand to put your hands in.

Fill your bucket with the HOT water, and add just enough Simple Green to make a lovely clear, pale green. Probably somewhere around 15 parts water to 1 part Simple Green. Don't get the solution too strong, or you'll spend time cleaning up the cleaning agent... Wring out your rag in the solution, and pick a spot. Rinse out the rag frequently in the solution, and be prepared to be grossed out by what shows up in the bucket. I personally prefer to start at the top and work down - do the headliner first, and go from there. If you have the rag wrung out sufficiently, the fabric should not get wet as you clean it, but just barely damp. Don't scrub too hard - as you wipe you are just trying to clean the residue from the individual synthetic fibers in the fabric, and pick up what you can everywhere else on the leather and vinyl surfaces. Wipe at least two directions. Keep the cloth clean, or you are just moving the mess around, ala "Cat in The Hat"... Don't forget to wipe down everything - all the vinyl trim, dashboard, EVERYTHING. Go back and condition leather after you are completely done. Pop off a/c vents in the dash, and clean as far back in as you can reach. Don't forget to change the interior cabin air filter, or all your hard work is for nothing... If you use a fairly dilute solution, you won't need to go back and "rinse", as the Simple Green doesn't leave anything sticky behind if you have it really clean.

As far as the smoke getting into the actual padding of the seats, that will depend on if they smoked with the windows up or down. If it is bad enough, pick a nice warm day, and set a small bucket of 50/50 water and Simple Green solution inside the car with the windows up for at least 6 hours. You don't need much, just enough to cover the bottom of the bucket.

Hope this is helpful...

Sarah :)


Yes, had to leave the room, but then I couldn't read my monitor, so had to come back in! ;)

The thing I learned from dealing with a company that made odor eliminator products, is that most smells are on the surface of stuff. With smoke, it gets everywhere, but pretty much just on the surface.

The problem with soaking stuff with cleaning solutions is you then drive that smell deeper into the material. you can eventually get all the smell out, or at least cover it up, but at what cost?

That is why I recommend that you can take the same Simple Green, or the Wurth Super Spray All I sell, and spray on the surface, work in with your fingertips, and buff lightly with a cloth and you should get the same results without having to dry the car for days after, and risk possible mold/mildew in the process.

don't forget to spray a very mild mixture of bleach/water in the HVAC intake while the fan is running on high, and someone is cycling it through all the modes (vent, floor, defrost). This will get stuff that has worked its way into the passages and also go towards killing any mold in the HVAC system.

Use stuff with a mild smell, or you may wind up hating the chem smell as much as the smoke!

Good advice to wipe down all other surfaces like vinyl, glass trim etc. Don't forget that the headliner if very fragile, so I recommend you lightly mist the surface, work in with fingertips, and lightly pat dry with a soft cloth.

Don Mallinson

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