Nobody likes a smelly car. It’s unpleasant to sit in your car and Smell a bad aroma, and you may feel embarrassed if you’re giving friends a ride. Fortunately, in most cases, it’s relatively simple to Remove a bad smell from your car. Start with taking out trash from the car, then vacuuming the interior and wiping away any stains. If the smells linger, you may need to shampoo the interior surfaces or reach out to professional car cleaners.
EditCleaning Your Car to Eliminate Smells
- Clean trash and other garbage out of your car. Start with the basics by clearing everything out of the car and removing all trash. There may be an old piece of food or other garbage stinking up your car. Check under the seats and remove all rotting food, trash, and junk items. Check back pockets and remove all trash items.
- Be careful if you have children as there may be sticky candies, or unidentified blobs of food stuck within the pocket. Don't forget to clean the back or trunk of the car as well.
- Wipe the interior surfaces to remove stains that may produce odors. Use a soft cleaning cloth and an all-purpose cleaning spray to wipe down every plastic, wood, glass, and metallic surface inside the car. Look for any spills or stains that could be causing the odor. For example, a child may have spilled pudding on the seat.
- For leather seats, use an appropriate leather cleaner. Alternatively, you can ask for a suitable interior car cleaner at your automotive store.
- If your upholstery is not leather, remove stains by vacuuming or shampooing the surfaces.
- Remove and clean the floor mats or rugs. In most cars, the floor mats (where the driver’s and passengers’ feet rest) can be removed. Pull these out, and use a few rags and hot, soapy water to clean them. Stains may have accumulated over time, which may be producing the foul smell in your car.
- Use clean water when you’re cleaning off the floor mats. Wipe off all excess water from the mats so no water pools up in the car once you put the mats back in.
- Vacuum the car to clear out any grime worked into the carpet. Vacuum the carpet and the seats to remove excess dirt. Besides dirt, food crumbs or leftover bits of trash may have been worked into the carpet. Vacuuming these out should improve the smell of your car. Run the vacuum nozzle over all seat and floor surfaces.
- If you’re sure that the car’s carpet is the problem, you could sprinkle carpet deodorizer over the carpet. Leave it to sit for the time recommended on the package instructions (usually about 5-10 minutes) before vacuuming it up.
- Shampoo the inside of the car if vacuuming didn't remove the smell. If vacuuming failed to remove the smell, you’ll need to take a more aggressive approach towards cleaning the carpet. Purchase a car shampoo from your local car store and use a clean sponge for scrubbing. Mix the car shampoo with water as the package directions suggest. Scrub the shampoo deep into the car upholstery and carpet to release the dirt trapped inside the fabric folds.
- Work the shampoo deep into any existing carpet or seat stains. Stains may be a source of odor, so removing them is crucial.
- Once you've finished scrubbing the car's interior, you'll need to rinse out the shampoo and let the interior carpets and seats dry.
- When purchasing a car shampoo, select one that is designed to treat the type of materials used in your car.
- Sprinkle baking soda over odorous stains to remove the smell. Baking soda absorbs unpleasant odors. Buy a box at your local grocery store, and use your fingers to sprinkle a pinch of the powder over a smelly stain in your car. Let it sit for 4-5 hours and use a regular household vacuum cleaner to vacuum up the baking soda.
- Only sprinkle baking soda onto dry surfaces. If you sprinkle it onto a wet stain, the powder will form a tough-to-remove paste.
EditRemoving Smells with Specific Causes
- Wipe interior surfaces with water and vinegar to remove cigarette smell. Mix a 1:1 mixture of white vinegar and water in a large bowl. Wet a clean rag in the mixture, and use the rag to wipe residue from smoke and tar off of the car’s interior surfaces. Since smoke tends to work its way into every surface of a vehicle, you may also need to spray a deodorizing spray into the car’s vents and air intake.
- If you or somebody else regularly smokes in the car, though, the odor will always be present, so the best thing to do is to stop smoking in the car.
- Remove mildew or mold by vacuuming out any moisture. Use a wet-dry vac to vacuum out any moisture from your car’s upholstery or carpets. Once you’re done, leave the windows open for 8-10 hours to allow the car’s interior to fully dry out. If you cleaned removable rugs or mats, let them dry in the sun to kill mold and mildew. Once the interior is dry, the mildew smell should be gone.
- Prevent future mildew in your vehicle by checking for any leaks in your car. You can check for leaks by parking your car over a sheet of clean cardboard overnight. If you find that your car has leaks, take it to a mechanic for repair.
- If leaks aren’t an issue, the mildew or mold may have occurred because of a spilled drink or wet gear being placed in the car and left there. Remove any contaminants such as rotting food and clean the area of the car with an all-purpose cleaner or shampoo.
- Clean out vomit by scrubbing stains with a water and vinegar solution. Vomit is an odor source that should be cleaned up immediately, because the stomach acids in vomit cling to the fiber and can damage it. Mix vinegar and water at a 1:1 ratio in a large bucket. Then, dip a rag into the mixture and scrub at the vomit stain. Keep working over the stain until you’ve removed it from the surface it’s on.
- Once you’ve scrubbed all of the residual vomit out of the carpet, use a wet-dry vac to pull all of the remaining water and vinegar out of the carpet.
- Remove urine stains by scrubbing with a stain remover. Urine has a strong odor and should be removed from the car as soon as possible. Visit an auto shop and buy a stain remover that is suitable for car upholstery or carpet. Blot the stain remover onto the car upholstery or carpet rather than rubbing it in. Let the stain remover sit for the time suggested by the packaging.
- Allow the wet patch to air-dry. If you use a hot dryer source (like a hair dryer), the urine may adhere to the carpet and start to smell very bad.
- If this doesn’t work, you could try using a pet urine odor removing spray. You can purchase this product at most pet stores.
- Seek professional help if the odor continues to linger. There are professionals who focus specifically on removing odors, either through professional detailing outlets, or through specialist cleaning. These agencies will have plenty of experience removing stubborn odors and deeply-ingrained stains from cars.
- Search online for a specialist car cleaner near you, or call a local car dealership for their recommendation.
- While you can hang a scented air freshener over your rearview mirror, these only mask bad smells rather than actually removing them. However, if you’d like to try an air freshener, you can purchase them at most gas stations and grocery stores.
- You can rent or purchase a wet-dry vacuum at most local hardware stores or home-improvement stores.
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