Cleaning weed smoke out of upholstery

First thing that should be known about smoking weed in your car is that it’s both illegal and not allowed on campus. If you’re caught smoking or vaping marijuana in your car and you’re found by an officer of the university police department, you could face severe consequences ranging from confiscation of your recreational herb and appliances, to a hefty fine.

If your keys are in the ignition, there’s marijuana in the car (possession) and the officer in question is in the mood for the ultimate punishment, you could earn yourself either a large fine or a shiny new pair of handcuffs. After all, the laws for driving (or intent to drive) under the influence of marijuana follow the same protocol as a DUI from alcohol. It’s federally illegal to have it on campus since our college is held to federal standards – despite it being legal for recreational use across the state.

With that out of the way, let’s focus on how to revive the depreciated upholstery in your car. We’ve all seen the scenes from movies, tv shows or even music videos about drivers that aren’t visible in the driver’s seat due to a thick cloud of marijuana smoke. The windows are rolled down and smoke billows from the vehicle – then the driver’s face is finally visible with a goofy grin. For most of us, it’s laughable or even relatable. Though something I feel is kept from the cards of consideration is the hit your upholstery takes from filling your car (or hot boxing) with smoke.

Like cigarette smoke, it’s a stubborn, lingering smell that never seems to go away no matter how much Febreeze or cologne/perfume you soak into your seats. Some rely on dangling air fresheners from the rearview mirror, but that’s a temporary fix – only masking the smell, not getting rid of it. Obviously, the best way to save your car from smelling like a pastime you might be trying to keep from your sober family is to just not smoke there. Having your car smell like weed can make trips a little awkward and trying to sell a car that smells like stale marijuana is not easy, considering how many people look specifically for cars that have not belonged to a smoker.

Let’s get down to business: cleaning

What makes the smell so hard to get rid of are the chemicals and particles present in smoke. The particles stick to the fabric of the seats, carpets and headliner of the vehicle, and the chemicals soak into and contaminate it. Have you ever been around a bonfire or a campfire and then walked away with everything you wore around it (including your hair) smelling like burnt wood? Same concept here. The only way to get the weed smell out of your car is the same way you get the campfire smell out of your car – a good wash.

Carpet shampooers can be expensive (the shampooer I have was almost $200), but they’re single-handedly the most effective and efficient way to rid your car of the lingering pot smell. All shampooers come with a high-powered vacuum with bristles designed for mixing the shampoo into the fabric. After letting the shampoo settle and soak into the foam underneath, the user then deploys the vacuum to suck up the soap, and thus, the smell. It’s a large job, since you’d have to shampoo all the seats, the carpets on the floor, sides of the doors and the headliner. Depending on how much carpet is actually in your car, it could be an all day job.

A cheaper alternative to a shampooer is using upholstery foam cleaner (my favorite brand is TuffStuff) and then using a vacuum capable of sucking up liquids to function the same way a shampooer would. You spray the foam cleaner onto the carpeting and seats, rub it in with a soft bristle brush (cannot be coarse or you risk damaging your upholstery), let it soak for around 30 seconds and then vacuum up the foam. Having cleaned the interior of my SUV multiple times due to the consequences of off-roading, one can of upholstery cleaner will most definitely not be enough.

What’s nice about using foam cleaners like TuffStuff is a shop vacuum isn’t necessary since the instructions are based on the assumption the user doesn’t have a shop vacuum handy. With TuffStuff, you can spray the foam, rub it in with a soft brush, wipe it down with a damp towel and then allow it to dry on its own. The only downside to doing it without a shop vacuum is that sometimes drying can take up to a full 24 hours and if the windows aren’t left cracked open to aid in evaporation, the interior of the car can develop mildew and smell worse than the weed smell you’re trying to get rid of.

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