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Old 16-07-2017   #1
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A guide to removing stale ciggie, Dog & other smells from a car.

Hey all,

Having had a discussion with a friend recently who quit smoking, I helped him remove the smell from his car by doing a full once over on his motor. Now it smells as good as the day he brought it. As I fully know how hard getting rid of the smell is, having done the same in my old car when I quit a few years ago, I thought I would write a little guide. It's quite easy when you know how and all you need is readily available to do so.

Some of these steps seem quite easy and anyone would do them as a matter of course but it's all about the products and in what order the steps are taken that makes the difference. Works with a lot of the manky shtick that can be a problem for the inside of a car too (Spilled milk is the big one).

Things you need to do the job:

2 x Buckets of clean water, hand hot is best for the job.

2 x Interior Shampoo. Personally I recommend Autoglym interior Shampoo (Trigger Spray) and 1 x Autoglym Hi Foam interior Shampoo aerosol can. The reason for the two different products will become clear shortly.

10 x clean microfibre cloths (if new wash first, you don't want dye transfer on your fabrics) DONT use those upholstery brushes or those plastic scrubbers you get on the lids of turtle wax, they will not do the job and will do damage.

1 x bottle of odour eliminator spray. Best for the job I have found are Carplan Ecocar odour eliminator spray or Autoglym Odour eliminator. Both do great, don't waste your effort with Fabreze, it's not as effective as you may think.

1 x air freshener spray. Don't bother with hanging fresheners, they don't do the job as needed on this task. Autosmart Blast or Autoglym autofresh are good for this and I haven't found anything more effective.

A hoover and a power supply.

1 x air con cleaner aerosol. Even if you don't have air con this is a useful tool on this case.

1 x cabin filter/pollen filter if fitted.

1 x plastic dressing. Turtle wax essential Matt spray or Autoglym vinyl and rubber are the best I have found.

And of course, some graft. This can take a few hours but the rewards are worth it.

Right let's get started.

1) First of all it's time to get the car Interior stripped. Take out as much of your items and stuff as possible, clear our door bins & cubby areas, clear any rubbish, fag packets, mints or chewing gum that you may have in there. Strip out any boot liners and floor mats. We shall deal with them later.

2) Now the part most expect. Hoover time. Get into ever crevice and corner. Big place to work on which sometimes get overlooked, under the seats. As anyone who smokes in a car will know, ash gets blown around and often ends up under there, this leaves a lot of odours and also when the air re-circulation is turned on, most cars have a vent to suck the air back in under the seat, which then blows the ash and smell around. Hoover the boot and the parcel shelf, do the mats too.

3) This step is a good one to take at this stage. Put air recirculation on, fan on maximum and air con on If fitted. Then use the air con cleaner as per instructions. In most cases it's requires engine on, fans on full, air recirculation on, windows closed and put the air con canister in the passenger footwell. Activate and close the door, as the car is running have a cuppa and chill for ten mins outside. The reason for this step is a lot of ash, bacteria and stale fag smell can sit inside of the ventilation system. You want this gone, but if you have given your car a total go over and then do it, you may find your vents pump some of the smell back in, buggering your work up, as well as blasting ash and dust in. Once the allotted time on the product is over, turn the car off. Open the doors and let any fumes escape for a few mins before carrying on with the next stages.

4) Change the car cabin filter if possible/if fitted. This will likely smell of any smells that are trapped in the car and we want a clean slate to start with. Your ventilation system is now clean, start as you mean to go on.

5) This is where the fun starts. Work methodically and you will find it's fairly simple to do. Let's start by cleaning the head lining. Have you ever noticed how the walls of a pub became coated in nicotine and tar, slowly yellowing? Despite not being able to see it to the same degree, this is exactly what happens to the head lining. Often you will see someone attempts to get rid of a smell and cleans the entire interior and miss out the headlining, then wonder why it still smells.

In the what you need section you may have noticed the 2 different types of Interior Shampoo. This is why. If you spray on a liquid cleaner, it will sink in quickly, taking a lot of the gunk with it. Because it doesn't sit on the surface for long it doesn't work well and needs retreating & leaves the headlining damp. They are more difficult to dry than most interior parts. This is why a foam cleaner is the king, it dwells for longer, knocking out the staining and smells with it.

Spray on the product in a overlapping fashion, getting even coverage. Do the front half of the car first then the back. Leave to dwell for 5 or so mins. Now dunk one of the microfibres into the warm water and wring out very well, Leaving it only damp. Slowing wipe down the headlining avoiding heavy pressure which may damage the suede effect or fabric. Rinse cloth in the bucket regularly and work over the area you have just wiped again. Then move on to the next area.

6) Now the roof lining is done you can move downwards, don't do what I've done in the past and clean the seats then have to sit in to do the roof lining. Wet backside is no fun.

Sit inside and grab your bottle of Autoglym interior Shampoo trigger spray. This is a all surface product and works on fabrics and plastics very well. Spray your dash top and wipe down, rinsing the cloth regularly as to not leave residue everywhere. For the face of the dash, spray onto the cloth, then clean the surface. You may be surprised how many people just spray it onto switches and dials! Clean the entire dash and switchgear at this point. Remember the stalks and wheel too, lots of hands are on them, along with the bacteria and dirt that goes with it. Think of smoke, it permeates everywhere, so all surfaces need a clean. Now clean the pillars, door cards and fabric inserts, parcel shelf and so on, get in the cup holders and doorbins too. Leave the windows for now.

7) Now it's seat time. Use your spray to give the seats a fair spray down, once again leaving time to dwell. Get all sides and all surfaces, before wiping the surfaces down with a damp microfibre, remembering to rinse it often. Try not to get them too damp with water. Repeat for any stubborn marks or areas where the smell is worse. Remember to get the plastics and trim on the lower seats, they often get forgotten. Once the seats are clean pull out the seat belts and buckle them in. Clean them with a quick spray onto the cloth and a full wipe all over them, then again with the damp cloth. Leave them in that position.

8) Carpets. Either use the foam or the spray shampoo. Whatever is your poison. Follow the same process as the seats, getting into all areas and being careful to clean the carpet under the seats very thoroughly. Do the mats outside the car, don't worry about getting them dry, best to leave them out for a while so pop them inside the house and apologise to the lady or gent in your life for them being draped on the sofa or dining table.

Now it's time for a breather. Open the windows, grab a beer and chill for at least 90 mins. The longer the better. Get the air flow in. If you have wrung the cloths out well there won't be a huge amount of moisture to clear. It doesn't matter if the interior is totally dry when you go back. More than half is spot on.

9) Now check the carpet dampness level. If at least half dry we are ok to move onto the next step. Grab your bottle of Odour Eliminator. Now let's start from the bottom up. Spray liberally on the carpets, seats, seat belts and headlining, don't worry about overspray on other surfaces at this stage, unless it's on leather then a quick damp cloth will do the job nicely. Make sure to get the under seat area, the boot and the parcel shelf at this point. Now turn on the engine, fans on, mid temp on dial and on with the air con if it's fitted, air circulation on. This will help speed the drying process up and move the air around the car. Leave like this for 30 mins or so. Stay nearby so no donk tries legging it with your motor.

10) Repeat step 9, a lighter spray this time.

11) Now it's time to do a bit of cosmetics. Use the dressing on the interior plastics, excluding safety items as described on the bottle. Don't follow my sister and do the pedal rubbers 🥊. With the Autoglym rubber and vinyl, its best used by spraying onto the cloth and wiping onto the surface. For a gloss finish leave as is, for a more Matt look, wipe over with a clean dry cloth straight afterwards. This product also does a great job of refreshing rubber, so use it on the door seals too while your there to clean and protect them. TOP TIP, do this just before the winter and your seals won't freeze or split in the low temps.

Now the job is nearly done. By cleaning nearly every place the smell can permeate and also by removing areas where it can stay even after work, this will make a big difference. Leave the car to dry completely, Overnight is best.

12). Now the interior is dry and fresh, go sniff. 99% of the smell is likely to be gone. Now just a few more things to do. Firstly clean all interior glass, to remove any nicotine marks and crud that can be there with them. Likely spraying dressings and shampoos around means there is a bit of overspray on windows, so leave this until the last few steps.

13) This is the last job to do, more than anything it's to give the inside of the car a really fresh lasting fragrance.

Repeat the Odour eliminator step, apart from the headlining. Once again windows closed and fans on max with medium temp. Pay close attention to under the seats and hidden carpeted areas.

14) Once dry. Spray Autofresh into footwells liberally and onto rear carpet. Fans on and recirculating air too, no air con, close doors. Leave for 5 mins.

Now your done and I'll be sure you won't smell any stale fag in your car. Now I know the above steps seem like common sense and I hope no one assumes I'm taking the mick, but someone people have resorted to professional valeting services (who often can't get the job done due to time or lack of thoroughness) and massive bottles of fabreze to resolve the smell as it's one of those that's very invasive and difficult to get rid of if it's been long running. My friends 500L literally smelled like a Peckham brewery with just a cloud of stale fag and beer from a broken bottle in the boot a few weeks previously. Now I can honestly say it smells like a factory fresh car!

Hope this is helpful to someone out there, take care.
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Old 24-05-2018   #2
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Re: A guide to removing stale ciggie, Dog & other smells from a car.

Thank you for the helpful Guidline. Since I recently bought my Fiat 500, I can certainly use a few of your tips for cleaning. Because the previous owner had a dog and smoked, it sometimes smells a bit strange, despite the smell tree. Do you also have a hint for blood spots in the car? These are very persistent. I heard that this should work with washing powder and cold water. Thanks!
La bella vita
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Old 30-05-2018   #3
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Or you could wet vac the seats and carpets and then use this stuff. It's flipping fantastic 😀
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