Destinkify Your Car With Charcoal And Baking Soda

A cigarette smoke-soaked car is a pretty gross thing (to most humans) and getting it out is a chore. But by sprinkling a few common household ingredients around it, baking soda and charcoal powder, you can cut it down pretty effectively and cheaply.

You can spread the charcoal powder and/or baking soda around the car and let it sit in there for a few days, sucking up the odors. Then hose it all up with a vacuum when you’re ready. You can also let the powder(s) sit in a coffee filter or something for a less messy cleanup, but it may not be as effective if the stinks have seeped down into cracks and embedded themselves in the upholstery.

Remove the Smell of Cigarette Smoke in a Car [Wired via Lifehacker]


Edit Your Comment

  1. slim150 says:

    I think that people that smoke in their car are addicts

    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      You think so? Thanks for the insight. I think people who smoke are addicts.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        Having been a smoker who had to use Chantix to finally get off the stuff, I agree with you.

        • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

          My insurance company has a neat game they play with Chantix. My doctor wrote me a prescription – actually, 2 prescriptions: 1 for the starter pack, and one for the rest of the treatment. Insurance company paid for the first, and denied the 2nd prescription. Why?

          “We only pay for 1 treatment every 3 years with Chantix”. The considered my prescription for the starter pack to be my entire “treatment”. Too late, smegheads, I already filled and used the starter pack, what now? “Sorry, it should have been on one prescription” And where, in their rules, in print, or online, did it tell ME that? Nowhere.

          NICE, and no amount of logic could change their mind. Even, “If I don’t quit, and get cancer, THEN how much will it cost you?” left them quoting their rules.

          Total smegheads.

    • Me - now with more humidity says:

      And some people are addicted to be judgmental.

    • aloria says:

      People who smoke are addicts? Amazing.

    • denros says:

      feeble, feeble addicts.

      • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

        Do you reeeaaaalllly have any clue as to how addictive tobacco is? Think Heroin, or crack, but cheaper, legal, and available 24/7 pretty much everywhere.

        I grew up in the 70’s, I did about every substance you can eat, drink, smoke, snort, or rub in your belly button – no needles, though – and I can honestly say its harder to quit smoking than anything else I have ever given up.

        But thank you for your comment anyway.

        • Gramin says:

          Clearly you don’t. Tobacco isn’t addictive. Nicotine is. Maybe you should get your facts straight before you rail against another commenter. You just sound really ignorant right now.

          • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

            Oh, cut it out, grow up, and stop being a sphincter.

            You know exactly what I am talking about, your only purpose here is “TROLL”. Kiss my ass, Gramin.

            • Gramin says:

              My purpose was to point out your ignorant comments directed at denros. You’re being an ass and I intended to let you know (and everyone else) that your comment was stupid and uninformed.

              • wjstone says:

                So i guess you must smoke Nicotine free tobacco huh? Don’t be an asshat Gramin

              • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

                The only source for nicotine is tobacco. Even the pharmaceutical companies get nicotine from tobacco, and have agreed in the past not to “DIS” each other’s products. It is the use of tobacco that is banned and taxed, not the use or sale of nicotine in and of itself.

                I suppose we should legalize pot, as long as it doesn’t contain THC.

                I grow weary of arguing with someone who possesses the intellectual agility of a small tea cup.

                BTW, how does “Gramin” get a user name with no link to a profile?

          • tbax929 says:

            I think you’re the one who looks stupid, but thanks for playing.

          • The Porkchop Express says:

            where does one find nicotine? just asking.

    • lawnmowerdeth says:

      Where else are they supposed to do it?

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      as a smoker who smokes in my car, i agree

  2. Blueskylaw says:

    And pray tell, what will happen when my snow covered boots come into contact with my baking soda and powdered charcoal infused carpets?

    • Saltpork says:

      You should do it during nice weather. It will take days to remove the smell, so driving is probably not the best idea.
      Think weekend in the summer. You do it after work friday & clean up sunday afternoon.

      On a sarcastic note, the melting snow will turn into a dirty bomb and cause the charcoal to catch fire, making your vehicle even smokier.

  3. Me - now with more humidity says:

    I enjoy a good cigar in my car from time to time, and I’ve found that leaving both halves of a cut apple on the console overnight gets rid of most of the smell.

  4. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    Best to use “activated” charcoal, it can be found at pet stores.

  5. fsnuffer says:

    It would be great if people could find a way to keep the smokers from throwing their nasty, tar infused, spit soaked, lipstick covered cigarette filters out their car windows. Now that would help everyone.

    • not-gonna-tell-ya says:

      There already is. It’s called the law. If you don’t like that the law against littering isn’t being enforced, please feel free to contact your local law enforcement and ask that they start enforcing it. If they don’t, feel free to run for Sherrif, or chief and put out a memo to have your subordinates begin enforcing the law.

      • captadam says:

        Trouble is, littering cigarette butts–while illegal–remains a socially acceptable behavior. How do we change that?

        • not-gonna-tell-ya says:

          IDK. Generally speaking the social engineering of acceptable practice has historically taken a generation or more to move into the intended direction. Things like seatbelt use, institutionalized racism, sexual harassment, etc. I also believe that such examples have only made the progress due to the enforcement of the laws that combat them..

        • Erika'sPowerMinute says:

          I glare. Baby steps!

    • lawnmowerdeth says:

      I throw them on the ground to annoy people like you.

    • ovalseven says:

      That’s one of my biggest pet peeves. I’m especially annoyed by people who throw them out of car windows while driving in front of me, or when driving through the forest.

      My apartment building burned down a few years ago because somebody threw a butt off of the balcony.

      An interesting site on the topic:

    • YokoOhNo says:

      I’ve always used ashtrays and haven’t thrown a cigarette on the ground in 15 years…but the ashtray made my car stink more so now i keep a soda bottle.

      i’m not concerned about the ashes i flick out the window and I’m less concerned about anyone’s opinion of that action.

      i used coffee in a sock and it really worked…also, never use the recirculate option on your heat/ac as that is really difficult to remove the stank.

  6. ca_little says:

    For generally pleasant smells you can also stash a fabric softener dryer sheet under the seats. It doesn’t do much for removing odors, so use them *after* the baking soda/charcoal.

  7. savvy9999 says:

    as a former pack-a-day guy (Merit Lights, thank you), retired now from the habit for several years, I can only say, if you don’t want your sled to smell like an ashtray come, don’t smoke in it. Dropping a box of arm n’ hammer all over the fur isn’t going to cut it.

    Or, if you’re fully committed to the activity, be like I was and epoxy a real freakin’ glass ashtray to the dashboard. Listed it and sold it as a smoker’s dreamcar.

    I have to laugh at the sneak-smokers at work. I see them in the parking lot in the morning, sucking the last molecule of tar out of a butt before popping in some gum and heading into the building. At the end of the day, racing to their vehicles, nearly smashing the window open to get in and fire up in a most-satisfying ahhhhhhhh before they even turn on the ignition. Sweet, blessed, leaf.

    My guess is, they are the ones trying to hide the smell of their secret Virginny Slims, with a bag of charcoal.

  8. Bagels says:

    Does this technique work for spilled hot chocolate as well?

  9. Trioxin says:

    Ground coffee works better IMO. It smells better, too.

    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      IF you like the smell of coffee

    • neilb says:

      Coffee grounds is what a used car dealer/friend told me is common protocol among their profession.
      I roast coffee directly into my car (well, in the garage, then I let it smoke/cool in the car). Even with no odors to cover up, it is awesome.

  10. dush says:

    It sure would be nice if smokers used their ash tray instead of littering.
    Why are smokers such litter bugs?

    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      Whaaatt? Dirty our clean ashtrays?

    • ALP5050 says:

      Because you touch yourself at night.

    • HB says:

      LOL — I’m sure all non-smokers are perfect and never litter.


    • lilacjive says:

      My car doesn’t have an ashtray. Most don’t nowadays.

    • squirrel says:

      The ones that don’t just toss the butts out the window use them. But occasionally at stoplights I see car doors open and ashtrays dumped on the streets. So in the end, it’s a wash.

      I’m surprised that local money hungry municipalities are not enforcing the littering laws on people who toss butts out windows. Sounds like easy money.

    • MuffinSangria says:

      And where are these ashtrays? Nonsmokers successfully got car companies to remove ashtrays as standard equipment about 10 years ago. Try finding a used car with one. Not all cars have a spot for one of those ashtrays you can buy.

      • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

        And the “convenience outlet” doesn’t have a lighter, either.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        my 2007 toyota has an ashtray and a lighter… and cassette deck. yes, i said 2007, not 1997. actually i don’t think i’ve ever seen a car without an ashtray in it though. now i’m going to have to check out the cars of everyone i know out of curiousity

    • Red Cat Linux says:

      It’s not the littering that bugs me as much as the drivers flicking still lit smokes out the window. They do it during the hot summer droughts here and have started more than a couple mulch fires in our office complex. People who do that are careless knobs.

    • Cry Havoc says:

      If I did that, where would I keep my spare change?

      /doesn’t actually smoke.

  11. jimmyhl says:

    I hear you can soak towels in vinegar and leave them all over the interior until they dry out and that will deodorize a smoker’s car.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      That might be worth a try. I burned something in the kitchen recently, producing a really strong smoky smell. I remembered reading something in Heloise or somewhere that if you set out a bowl of white vinegar overnight, it would remove the odor. I tried it and it WORKED.

  12. certifiedfragrant says:

    This is a bunch of hooey. That will do nothing more than make you feel better. The baking soda in the fridge which this is based off is a myth and pretty much just a ploy by baking soda manufacturers.

    All it takes is a bit of basic science and thinking…….

  13. isileth says:

    Backing soda is also a very useful and cheap way to clean carpets, even the really nice and expensive ones (Persian carpets).
    You spread it on the surface of the carpet (if you want you can use a sieve) and let it work for half an hour.
    Then you vacuum it and you will find that the carpet is cleaner and its colours brighter.
    It’s useful also when you have to remove cat’s hair, because baking soda seems to attach to the fur on the carpet.

  14. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    This reminds me of the time I stashed Valerian Root tea bags in my Ex’s car. She parked it at school, and once the sun hit the car, it reeked of feet for days.

  15. SugarMag says:

    A car detail took care of my butt-out lifestyle once I commited to it.

    I did the charcoal, then coffee, then baking soda trick on a vintage purse I got for my mom for xmas. Worked fine, just took a bit of time with several rotations. A bowl of vinegar in a sealed box with item worked really really well.

    I put the coffee and baking soda in cut off panty hose, tied the ends to make a delicious sachet of stink catcher.

  16. thanq says:

    I did this few times – spread baking soda all over my seats (except the driver’s).

    I always wonder whether I should have a camera and a voice recorder in case I get pulled over and a watchful law enforcement official might not believe it’s not coke.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      got pulled over once with a friend in her car. she parked in the garage and left the windows open usually. and had just bought a bag of catnip. the cat got in the car overnight and ripped the catnip open all over the backseats. now, since the car was hand painted with daisies all over, we got pulled over pretty often for going as little as 6 miles an hour over the speed limit.
      the cop that pulled her over that day decided to do a full search of the car because he saw green stuff on the back seat. he kept going even after she produced the clearly cat bitten package of catnip and said ‘really? if we had that much pot do you think we’d be putting it in the backseat of the car and rubbing it into the upholstery?’
      he didn’t find a thing but we had a good time sitting on the curb watching him sniff every empty soda can and cigarette butt and go through the floor mats with tweezers. took about an hour. in the end he even forgot to give her the ticket for an incomplete stop on a right turn at a stop sign.

  17. Rhinoguy says:

    Nothing works on spilled kerosene except time and open windows. Gas is worse. I bought a gizmo that holds the can on a trailer hitch. Let the guy who rear ends me go up in flames, it’s his engine that will start the fire. Besides, he will hit me and pay to replace my clunker. Also stops people from tailgating!