Does car detailing remove smoke smells?

June 25, 2024 by Sam Schlem

Step-by-Step Guide on How Car Detailing Removes Smoke Odors from Your Car

Let’s be honest, smoke is stinky and annoyingly difficult to get rid of. Whether you’ve inherited a vehicle with a heavy smoke odor or are looking to freshen up your own car, professional mobile car detailing can definitely help. Let’s discuss what steps you can take to bring your car back to its factory state.

Understanding Smoke Odor Removal

First we need to understand the nature of smoke particles. These pesky particles cling to all interior surfaces, such as cloth seats, leather, rubbers, carpets, plastics, and even the ventilation system. So what can you do about it?

Step-by-Step Smoke Odor Removal Process

Initial Assessment and Preparation

Assess the Severity: Determine the extent of the smoke damage. Consider the type of smoke (cigarette vs. marijuana) and the age of the car to decide the next steps.

Prepare the Vehicle: Remove all personal items and trash from the car so every square inch of your car is ready to be cleaned.

Degreasing and Cleaning

Chemical Degreasing: Apply a high-quality all-purpose cleaner, to all interior surfaces. This will break down nicotine and tar buildup. Make sure to pay extra attention to heavily soiled areas like the headliner and sun visors.

Steam Cleaning: Use a vapor steamer to clean all surfaces, including seats, carpets, door panels, and even the ventilation system. Steam cleaning helps to loosen and remove smoke particles that are embedded in the fabrics and other materials.

Deep Cleaning and Extraction

Heated Carpet Extraction: For fabric surfaces, use a heated carpet extractor to ensure removal of all loosened particles.

Headliner Cleaning: Carefully steam clean and extract the headliner. Be cautious, as excessive moisture can cause the glue holding the headliner to deteriorate. Let’s not do more harm than good.

Ventilation System Treatment

Air Vent Cleaning: Use steam and blow out all air vents to remove any smoke particles from the ventilation system.

Cabin Air Filter Replacement: Replace the cabin air filter, as it is likely coated with tar, nicotine, and smoke odors. This will prevent the recirculation of that smoky smell through the car.

Odor Neutralization

Ozone Generator Treatment: Run an ozone generator inside the car for several hours. This will do wonders because ozone molecules neutralize any odor molecules, effectively removing any lingering smoke smells. Ensure the car is blown out after the ozone treatment to remove any residuals.

Optional Air Freshener Treatment: If you’re feeling like going the extra mile, consider a 15-minute air freshener treatment through the air vents to give the car that little something extra.

Final Inspection and Touch-Up

Inspect for Remaining Odors: After the ozone treatment and ventilation, check for any remaining smoke odors. If necessary, repeat the cleaning and ozone treatment process.

Detailing Touch-Up: Finish with standard detailing tasks such as polishing surfaces and conditioning leather seats.

Pricing and Considerations

The cost of smoke odor removal has a big range because it’s based on the severity of the damage and the specific services required. A general estimate includes the price of a complete detail (interior and exterior) plus an additional $300 for smoke removal services. But keep in mind this could vary wildly.


Removing smoke odors from a car's interior is an extensive ordeal and it requires specialized knowledge and equipment. While it is possible to significantly reduce or eliminate smoke smells, achieving a completely odor-free environment may require professional help. Consulting with a professional car detailer might just be your best bet.

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