How to Remove a Smoke Smell from a Leather Car Interior

Written by lois lawrence
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Smoke odours--particularly cigarette smoke odours--are notoriously hard to eradicate. Chances are, the smoke odour in the interior of your car was not caused by a one-time indiscretion, but by weeks, months, or years of repeated exposure to smoke and over-filled ashtrays. To make matters worse, leather is notorious for absorbing odours and cleaning leather can be a delicate matter.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Soft cloths
  • Baby shampoo
  • Fabric softener
  • Saddle soap
  • Spray bottle
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Old socks
  • String
  • Ozone generator

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  1. 1

    Dissolve a capful of baby shampoo and about 1/4 cup of liquid fabric softener in a quart of warm water. Dampen a clean cloth with this solution and massage it into the car seats, rinsing and drying each seat as you go. The soap will remove the smoke residue while the fabric softener will attack the odours.

  2. 2

    Wash the upholstery with saddle soap according to the package directions if smoke odours remain. Let the seats dry completely before proceeding further.

  3. 3

    Put a solution of 1/2 cup white vinegar to 1 qt. water in a spray bottle. Spray the interior of your car. Remember to spray the carpeting and interior roof upholstery as well as the seats. Let dry overnight.

  4. 4

    Place a generous amount of baking soda in a knit sock and attach the packet to the rear-view mirror with string. Baking soda absorbs odours.

  5. 5

    Rent an ozone generator if all else fails. This is the device used by hotels for removing smoke odour from rooms. Ozone generators are available for short-term rentals at reasonable prices--generally less than £65 for a small unit. Rent the smallest unit required for a space the size of an automobile interior.

Tips and warnings

  • Remember that your leather interior is only one of the elements of your car's interior that has absorbed and is holding on to the lingering odour of smoke. Vacuum, clean and treat carpets and other surfaces as well. Even glass coated with smoke residue can diffuse odour.
  • Cleaning leather or any other delicate material should be done in stages, beginning with the most conservative, until the desired result is achieved. This requires patience, but is the best way to protect your investment.
  • The EPA warns that ozone generators uses incorrectly can produce unsafe levels of ozone. Follow the manufacturer's safety instructions carefully.

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