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Discussion Starter #1
I did a search ("cigarette smoke") and didn't find anything.

I picked up my used '06 AWD LX today from a private seller. When I test drove the vehicle last week, I could tell that the seller had smoked in it but the smell was very minor. Before I could get home (less than 10 miles) I had a raging headache. It reeks.

I'm looking for recommendations from folks. I've done some research online but want to know what you folks have actually tried that worked. I've been told to put some white vinegar in a couple of bowls and leave it in there for 8+ hours. I'm doing that now. I'm looking for other ideas because I'm not convinced this will work.
 

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Cut an apple in half and put one half in the interior and the other half in the engine compartment up close to the firewall.

This was shown to me by an old neighbor in PA., many years ago, it worked!
 

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There is no quicky cure because the smoke is permeated into the materials of the car. Since you can't wash it out like you can do with clothing you need to do something hard core. Rent an ozone generator. You can still try to wash and clean everything inside though.
 

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I've been told by numerous people that Ozium works great. I just picked some up at Walgreens. We'll see.
Personally, I hate the smell of Ozium. It's used in the aircraft industry a lot to cover up odors from the lavatory. Of course then it smells like someone pulled a dozen fake roses out of their a$$.

As previously mentioned, you can rent an ozone machine and they work awesome, especially in such a small area. I've also used dryer sheets between the seat fabric and foam. Each time you sit down it forces the air from the foam to go through the dryer sheets. Call it ghetto or redneck, but it worked for me.
 

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Thud,
When I was shopping for my Element, I tried to remember to ask the seller if there was any evidence of a smoker in the car. Of course a dealer would never own up to this, even if they knew it. So, I asked my nephew who runs an auto detailing business and does a lot of detailing for local dealers, how he removed tobacco smoke odor. He said it was difficult because the soft materials absorb the odors then put them out like a squeezed sponge when you sit in the seats or the car vibrates as it moves. He said the ozone generators helped a little, but were no magic bullet.

Here are my ideas:
Keep in mind that the Element has cabin air filters that you could replace.
They're not cheap but, after doing everything else that folks here have mentioned, replacing them may be a good next-to-last step.
I say next-to-last, because I'd consider replacing with a second set after awhile if the new ones seem to make a difference and absorb the pollutants.
In fact, one nice looking '05 MM EX MT RT4WD I test drove with 51K odo miles had an odor kind of like a combo of sulfur, B.O., and poop, when you turned on the air conditioner. The service tech that was doing the inspection said this was because the cabin air filters simply needed to be replaced.
Check HandA and other online Honda parts sources for better than dealer retail prices on filters.

The cloth interior items and surfaces and cushioning materials have been permeated with those microscopic droplets of burned tobacco resin and smoke and aren't likely to give all of them up easily, all at once. And there is the rub.

If the smoker was the daily driver, I'd concentrate first on areas near and especially in front of and above the driver's position and around the driver's window.
If you can identify where the smoker put the butts or ashes (as I don't recollect the (my) Element having any ash trays per se) I'd consider replacing the nearby or surrounding plastic parts. They may not be too expensive or technically difficult to replace.

I'd wipe down all the hard (metal, glass, plastic, and rubber) surfaces I could reach with vinegar and/or alcohol then while wet, with a clean and dry cotton or microfiber cloth. Test-clean a hidden spot with hydrogen peroxide solution and if no problems, wipe down with that too.
Keep an eye out for obvious adverse chemical reactions. You're looking for a mild solvent that would break down those tiny smelly bits so they can be removed without breaking down the Elemental materials.;-)

Baking soda (cheap) and activated charcoal are the best odor absorbents around. The charcoal can be had at some good hardware stores and laboratory supply houses.

Stuff like Febreze seems to work pretty well around the house and comes in a spray form that could be applied to the headliner a little more easily.

I'd buy about a dozen boxes of Baking soda, dump them into several of those plastic shoeboxes (99¢ ea. @ Home Depot) and leave them with lids off in the car, every chance I got. Put the lids on before driving and remove lids when the car is parked. Change out the soda when needed. Wash out the plastic boxes as needed. If the seats are very dry, you may be able to actually sprinkle baking soda on them and leave overnight, then vacuum up.

After all this, change out the cabin air filters... again.8)

I hope some of this might help a little.
Cheers and "Let's Roll!"
John
p.s.: Post a pic of you're new ride!
p.p.s.: When my mom's Yorkie got sprayed by a skunk, we found that a solution of liquid dish detergent and hydrogen peroxide was the only thing that removed or at least reduced the odor from the hairy little beast.
Something about oxidizing or ionizing the stinky resin molecules...
 

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We use the ozone machine at the dealer, works great. Also works great on the ones with wet dog odor.
 

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Baking soda helped mine and I got the cabin filter changed at the dealership (it was $95) which helped a ton! I also used Fabreeze about once a day for two weeks. Also have "New Car" air freshners under the seats.

All of this has helped a lot it seems.

Good luck!
 

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Thudstaff - Yes. $95.00! They're expensive via the dealer. If you know how to install yourself, go for it! I'm not a very mechanical person. :(
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I just popped out my cabin filters to see if they're dirty. They are. I'll likely order a set from HandA or maybe check the local auto parts store and change them once I get the smell out.

So...

I put some vinegar in there yesterday for about 6 hours yesterday. I've sprayed it several times with Ozium. Today I put a sock filled with fresh ground coffee in there and left it for about 6 hours.

When I got home from work tonight, I checked it out. It's definitely better. I'm now trying something else. I picked up some volcanic rock. It's supposed to be a natural filter that excels at removing odors. I'll see in the morning!
 

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Having had to remove the cigar odor from a car once, I learned that Baking soda in solution sponged on to the interior, worked best. Remember to wash the inside of the windows with Windex !! That will kill the smell of smoke fast.

Wait for the interior to dry, then sponge rinse with water. Don't forget the headliner !!! In fact pay special attention to anything in front of the driver. Steering column, Gauge faces, radio face, all Ducts, sun-visor.... Well you get the Idea.

If it worked for Cigar's it will work on anything.

Dom
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I checked the HandA site for the cabin air filters. They're $9.50 each plus shipping and are not Honda filters but another brand. I checked with a local auto parts store and I can get two STP/Fram replacement filters for $13 plus tax. This is on my list for tomorrow.
 
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