How to get rid of that nasty cigarette/ashtray smell from a TDI you just bought?

pkhoury

That guy with the goats
Joined
Nov 30, 2010
Location
Medina, TX
TDI
2013 JSW, 2003 Jetta Ute, 2002 Golf, 2000 Golf
Just like the the title says - what can I do to get the nasty smell out of my car (in this case, my 2000 Golf)? It smells like a combination of Big Lots cologne and an ashtray. I'll probably end up swapping out the seats, but what else could I do to try and neutralize the smell? It still smells strong, even after having the windows open to the atmosphere for about a week!
 

prsa01

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 16, 2000
Location
mpls,mn usa
TDI
14 jsw 6m, 96 B4v, miss my a4 :(
The boating world, as well as others that deal with storage related smells, use ozone generators to deal with difficult smells. Don't specifically know how they do with smoke.

They aren't cheap but you can rent.

Be VERY sure to heed the safety instructions. You'll need to completely open the car for a bit outside after use before spending any time in the car
 

TurboABA

Veteran Member
Joined
Jul 24, 2010
Location
Kitchener, ON
TDI
RIP-2010 Jetta 6spd 2014 Touareg Execline
Sprinkle baking soda all over the carpets, seats, any cloth surfaces.... let it sit to absorb as much of the smell as possible, vacuum up.
Repeat multiple times if really nasty.

Sometimes, you can use upholstery cleaning machines like a Bissel or whatever to "wash" seats or carpets. Febreze probably helps too.
 

turbobrick240

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Nov 18, 2014
Location
maine
TDI
2011 vw golf tdi(gone to greener pastures), 2001 ford f250 powerstroke
Steam cleaning the interior followed up by ozone treatments should do the trick. I only paid about $50 for my ozone generator. I've used it a couple times after leaving my windows down before a rainstorm- very effective. I only run it for a half hour at a time so as not to impact any of the interior plastics too much.
 

kjclow

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Apr 26, 2003
Location
Charlotte, NC
TDI
2010 JSW TDI silver and black. 2017 Ram Ecodiesel dark red with brown and beige interior.
I think it's Zep cleaner at the big box stores. Helped with the stink in the kids' apartment. Just spray and let sit and then spray again. Maybe a combination of this and the baking soda. Although don't get the baking soda wet or you'll have a real mess to clean up. My daughter had a sunroof leak in her passat followed by musty odor. Without checking if the carpets were dry, she just dumped the baking soda on the back floors.
 

DivineChaos

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Jul 27, 2019
Location
Minnesota
TDI
mk6 jetta sportwagen tdi
What I found to work is spray it with a good deodoriser. (They make a good one for smoke) use a good carpet cleaner machine with deodoriser cleaner. Spray it again and vac the crap out of it to dry everything. Then steam clean it. Wait for it to dry. Then use a neutralizer fogging spray with the HVAC on recirculate. Then I spray all cloth with an anti stain spray. I charge $500 on a standard sedan.

That's a full interior shampoo to remove any trace of cigarette smell. It's a full day just on the interior. Before you say that's too much. My steamer was 200, vac was 230, and I spent enough making the wand.
 

kjclow

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Apr 26, 2003
Location
Charlotte, NC
TDI
2010 JSW TDI silver and black. 2017 Ram Ecodiesel dark red with brown and beige interior.
DivineChaos makes some good points on the HVAC system. There will be smoke and odors in all your duct work too. Don't forget to replace the cabin air filter. I know they make some with activated charcoal but not sure if those fit the VWs.
 

2004LB7

Veteran Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2013
Location
California
TDI
2006 Jetta
I use ozone at the hotels I work at to deal with smoke. sometimes takes days but in the end is the best at permanently eliminating the smell with no residue or chemicals. Chlorine Dioxide is also quite effective at removing it too
 

ZippyNH

Veteran Member
Joined
Apr 22, 2015
Location
Southern NH
TDI
2015 JETTA TDI SE
Ozone generator.... seriously.
Close the windows, let the machine do it thing... might take a couple hours of sitting...
But it THE way....other things just cover it up or absorb the smell...
Ozone will attack and deactivate the ashes/nicotine residue for lack of a better term. Many used car places, rental car agencies and hotels use them regularly for the purpose of getting rid of odors like this.
 

snakeye

Veteran Member
Joined
Dec 13, 2009
Location
Montreal, Canada
TDI
2003 Jetta and Wagon, GLS 5sp
Soap/degreaser
Hot water
Shop vac
Large soft brush
Compressed air

That's enough to clean and detail most cars to perfect condition, which should eliminate the smell as well. Most other products are a waste of money and time. Ozone could work, but if you get rid of all the smoke deposit, which is the cause of the smell, most likely you won't need it.

What I like doing is a mixture of water and soap or degreaser, and using a large brush to rub it into the fabrics. Concentrating on small sections at a time, doing small circular motions, making sure I get a ton of lather, and then vacuum it up immediately.

Windows and surfaces can just be wiped down with a wet rag, and a little soap or degreaser if needed. Blowing compressed air through a wet rag works great to clean tough to get areas, like the vents, radio buttons cup holders etc.

Back seat's bottom part, and carpet can be removed and pressure washed. They both dry very quickly (the seat is just a foam).
 

TDNation

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 2, 2022
Location
Spokane, WA
TDI
2011 Golf TDI
I know this post is relatively old, but I've had good luck using charcoal briquettes in a one gallon bucket with holes drilled in the lid. Works well for removing mildew smells, also seemed to work well on a used motorcycle saddle bag where the previous owner ashed his cigs in it.
 

kjclow

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Apr 26, 2003
Location
Charlotte, NC
TDI
2010 JSW TDI silver and black. 2017 Ram Ecodiesel dark red with brown and beige interior.
Heck, this thread is only a month old. No shame in responding to it. Much better than those responding to a three or four year old thread telling the OP how to fix whatever.
 

Instigatr

Active member
Joined
Sep 4, 2016
Location
NE WA State
TDI
03 Golf 2 door MTM
20 years ago I bought a corolla that I swear had 5 guys smoking like a freight train for a year inside it. Asked a local detailer guru what can be done about it. She said take a 9x13 cake pan or something similar at least. Place it on the floor board and pour about an inch of vinegar in it. Close all windows and doors. Leave sit for at least 24 hrs. When I did it, I placed 2 pans worth and let it sit for 2 days. Afterwards, strong vinegar smell for about 3 days, then disappeared slowly over the next few days. Smoke smell was gone completely after that. Even on hot days when the interior got really hot. Of course it didn't get the nicotine and other gunk out, but it made the car driveable again.
 

Drewser

Veteran Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2002
Location
Mesa, AZ USA
TDI
'04 Jetta TDI Wagon, '04 Passat TDI, several in past
Like others have said, ozone system. Got ours for like $40 on Amazon and it's best money we ever spent on this car's restoration. I also agree with deep cleaning every surface...you have to get that ash and tar out. We stripped the interior...all seats out, center console out. There was ash EVERYWHERE. There was tar on the window frame where she would hold the cigarette by the window. It was nasty.

We started by watching a lot of YouTube detail videos...Stauffer Garage and The Detail Geek are 2 of our favorites. We used a rug doctor to deep clean all the seats and carpet, but any "extractor" will work. Put carpet and upholstery cleaner in a garden sprayer, spray it down, work it in with a brush, then used the rug doctor/extractor with JUST WATER in it to suck it out. Made multiple passes spraying water and sucking until we were just sucking water and no suds. Then another pass without spraying to extract water.

Then ran ozone system for about an hour at a time multiple times. Even had the car fan on recirculate once while doing it to circulate ozone through the vents. Worked beautifully. Every few months when it rains or gets hot we'll get a whiff, but another ozone treatment knocks it back down if it gets too bad. My wife is super sensitive to smoke smell and this is her daily driver.







 

pkhoury

That guy with the goats
Joined
Nov 30, 2010
Location
Medina, TX
TDI
2013 JSW, 2003 Jetta Ute, 2002 Golf, 2000 Golf
As an updated - I've used about 4-6 hours worth of ozone generator treatments. What finally did the trick? Found some Golf leather rear seats, and I changed out the front seats with black leather from a 2002 Jetta Wagon TDI at the junkyard. Now the car just smells like faint ozone generator and older worn leather. Couldn't be happier. I think the key was getting those nasty permeated cloth seats out. Best part? I got around a $9 core with tax and environmental fee after returning the old seats. :)
 

pkhoury

That guy with the goats
Joined
Nov 30, 2010
Location
Medina, TX
TDI
2013 JSW, 2003 Jetta Ute, 2002 Golf, 2000 Golf
Heck, this thread is only a month old. No shame in responding to it. Much better than those responding to a three or four year old thread telling the OP how to fix whatever.
I'm totally guilty of that!
 

pkhoury

That guy with the goats
Joined
Nov 30, 2010
Location
Medina, TX
TDI
2013 JSW, 2003 Jetta Ute, 2002 Golf, 2000 Golf
DivineChaos makes some good points on the HVAC system. There will be smoke and odors in all your duct work too. Don't forget to replace the cabin air filter. I know they make some with activated charcoal but not sure if those fit the VWs.
I actually did do that, and I thought about the ductwork later on. It needs to get replaced anyways, because of some blend door problems. When I rebuild my HVAC at the end of May or early June, I'm replacing all that crap with that from my 2003 wrecked Golf (because that stuff was still mostly intact and fully functional while in use), along wtih getting a new compressor, condenser and drier.
 

Drewser

Veteran Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2002
Location
Mesa, AZ USA
TDI
'04 Jetta TDI Wagon, '04 Passat TDI, several in past
As an updated - I've used about 4-6 hours worth of ozone generator treatments. What finally did the trick? Found some Golf leather rear seats, and I changed out the front seats with black leather from a 2002 Jetta Wagon TDI at the junkyard. Now the car just smells like faint ozone generator and older worn leather. Couldn't be happier. I think the key was getting those nasty permeated cloth seats out. Best part? I got around a $9 core with tax and environmental fee after returning the old seats. :)
Yeah, ozone won't do anything if you don't get the tar, smoke, and ash out first, either by very deep cleaning or replacing permeated surfaces. Our seats were leather so we were able to really clean them. Nice work!
 

Mongler98

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Mar 23, 2011
Location
COLORADO (SE of Denver)
TDI
98 Jetta TDI AHU 1.9L (944 TDI swap in progress) I moved so now i got nothing but an AHU in a garage on a pallet.
#1 best way.
Ammonia
Humidifier fogger
10:1
Let car idle land this on with the car ac on and heat on full windows up
30 minutes to 1 hour.
Windows down for a day in the sun.
Done!
 

pkhoury

That guy with the goats
Joined
Nov 30, 2010
Location
Medina, TX
TDI
2013 JSW, 2003 Jetta Ute, 2002 Golf, 2000 Golf
#1 best way.
Ammonia
Humidifier fogger
10:1
Let car idle land this on with the car ac on and heat on full windows up
30 minutes to 1 hour.
Windows down for a day in the sun.
Done!
Every time I think of ammonia, I think of someone with over a dozen cats at home. I don't think I want my car smelling like anything reminiscent of cat urine.
 

Mongler98

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Mar 23, 2011
Location
COLORADO (SE of Denver)
TDI
98 Jetta TDI AHU 1.9L (944 TDI swap in progress) I moved so now i got nothing but an AHU in a garage on a pallet.
Every time I think of ammonia, I think of someone with over a dozen cats at home. I don't think I want my car smelling like anything reminiscent of cat urine.
Cat urine and ammonia are 2 completely different box of frogs
It works. The cig smell is caused by bacteria that is eating the tar and of course also the tar ect.... the ammonia is the only safe thing to use that will basically break that down into nothing.
You need to run the AC to pull the moisture out of the air and the heat as well. That's the trick. It will not work unless you have working AC and a working heater!

A lot of people say mixing vinegar and ammonia in hot water works with some soap to take cig tar off. And the issue is the vinegar is acid while the ammonia is a bass. So its pointless to use the two togeather.
It works so freaking good.
 

Drewser

Veteran Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2002
Location
Mesa, AZ USA
TDI
'04 Jetta TDI Wagon, '04 Passat TDI, several in past
With it warming up, our cigarette smell is starting to come back a bit. We can ozone it out again, but I'm thinking of trying the ammonia trick...
 

pkhoury

That guy with the goats
Joined
Nov 30, 2010
Location
Medina, TX
TDI
2013 JSW, 2003 Jetta Ute, 2002 Golf, 2000 Golf
The only Winston I have access to is my herd bull (yes, his name really is Winston; Anna is to the left and was in heat when I took this photo).


And these are the packs he likes to leave me.




Not exactly the smell I'm going for in my car LOL!
 

kjclow

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Apr 26, 2003
Location
Charlotte, NC
TDI
2010 JSW TDI silver and black. 2017 Ram Ecodiesel dark red with brown and beige interior.
It might smell better than that cigarette odor. As for the comment about cat pee, a cup of cider vinegar in the same room will help mask/decrease the urine smell. Also a bowl of baking powder. Just not the all in the same bowl.
 

J_dude

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2020
Location
SK Canada
TDI
2003 1.9l “Jedi”
The only Winston I have access to is my herd bull (yes, his name really is Winston; Anna is to the left and was in heat when I took this photo).


And these are the packs he likes to leave me.




Not exactly the smell I'm going for in my car LOL!
It’s a headless bull!!
Lol
 

pkhoury

That guy with the goats
Joined
Nov 30, 2010
Location
Medina, TX
TDI
2013 JSW, 2003 Jetta Ute, 2002 Golf, 2000 Golf
With it warming up, our cigarette smell is starting to come back a bit. We can ozone it out again, but I'm thinking of trying the ammonia trick...
I will say that when I replaced the seats with leather (ironically, all from the junkyard), that cut down the ashtray smell by maybe 90%. Now, it smells like stale diesel from the 11mm injection pump that's been leaking into a container all week (inside the car).
 
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