Simple Tips for Removing Pesky Car Odors

posted 12 October, 2021 by Jackson Balling
Education, Car Care

There aren’t many experiences as immediately unpleasant as getting into a car that just smells gross.

Whether it’s smoke or something rancid, having unwanted odors in your car’s interior can be a stressful experience. The lingering odors can feel entirely pervasive, perhaps never-ending, leading you to wonder if you’ll ever be able to rid your car of the foul smell. In some cases, it can sometimes even stick to clothes or even your passengers, resulting in a less-than-stellar experience for all involved.

Fortunately, if you’ve come here searching for how to remove car odors, there are effective ways to get the job done. When working to remove those pesky car smells, there are several factors to consider — whether the source of the odor is known, how long it has been present, and more — to most effectively get the job done.

What Is the Source of the Odor?

If you know where the smell is coming from, the job tends to be easy. Sometimes eliminating an unpleasant car smell is as simple as finding a rotting piece of fruit that’s stuck under your seat. 

When looking for an odor, do a quick but thorough search to find any source — old food, dog waste from a shoe, remnants of a spill. Be sure to check the engine to make sure it isn’t a mechanical problem that’s producing a bad smell. 

If you cannot find it, you will have to adopt some different techniques to remove the smell.

How Do I Remove an Unknown Odor?

In many cases, odors may have an unknown cause that you can’t track down. It also may be due to a known cause that you can’t fix immediately. Either way, let’s break down some of the most common causes of car odors and how you can deal with them.

Musty Smell

A musty smell can have many causes, but the most common one is mildew. Mildew is a type of mold that typically forms in wet and humid environments - for instance, if a window was left open in the rain. 

Like identifying the source of your car’s odors, you need to pinpoint where the mildew grows. Typically, your floor mats are a safe first bet. If you have cloth or fabric seating materials, then it’s essential to check those as well.

When removing these musty smells from your, the most important thing to do is dry out the interior. The easiest method would be to air it out on a particularly dry and sunny day. If the weather doesn’t want to cooperate, you can use a wet vacuum or hairdryer to dry out seats and floor mats. 

If you’re still experiencing a musty smell in your car after cleaning the fabric and letting it dry, then you may need to consider a professional service. However, there are some additional measures you can take in the meantime. Try leaving baking soda in the car or using a basic air freshener like Febreze. Both can help cover the smell while you wait for an in-depth interior cleaning.

Smoke Smell

Cigarette smoke is one of the most common smells that people look to remove from cars. The smell of smoke is pervasive and can be a little tougher to remove, but it can be done. 

Start by airing the car out and using a car odor remover. Both are essential to get rid of any smoke smell in your vehicle reliably. However, they can’t remove the odors on their own.

To thoroughly remove the smoke smell in your car, you need to get to work on cleaning the cabin as meticulously as possible. If you’re a routine smoker or drive someone around who is, then you likely have ash and cigarette residue throughout the interior. Address this by vacuuming and wiping down all surfaces - especially the vents.

Beyond addressing the smell of smoke, you will also need to remove tar, which is left behind after smoking cigarettes. A homemade solution of water, vinegar, and dish soap can make an effective scrub for taking on tar. By attacking the smoke smell and tar residue together, you can have your car’s interior smelling fresh once again.

If you’re still noticing the smell of smoke in your car after cleaning, then you may need to replace your cabin air filter. This filter is crucial for capturing pollutants in your cabin, such as pollen, mold, and (you guessed it) cigarette smoke.

Sick Smell

One of the most unpleasant smells to deal with is the aftermath of a sick passenger or pet. It’s a unique combination of a foul acid and instant stain generator, which can make clean up a hassle.

Ideally, you will clean up as much as possible right when the incident happens, preventing it from seeping into the car fabrics. But if more cleaning is called for, using a vinegar and water solution can be helpful, along with spreading baking soda on the affected area.

If you’re noticing that the smell isn’t going away with the initial DIY remedies, then a steam cleaner is your next bet. While it’s a bit more heavy-duty, a thorough cleaning goes a long way to removing the gross smell of vomit from your carpet or seats.


What’s the Best Odor Eliminator for My Car?

In general, there are a handful of DIY solutions that can be excellent for dealing with car odors. 

As suggested above, baking soda can be great at neutralizing foul smells. Distilled white vinegar mixed with water can make an effective DIY cleaner for dealing with mold and other scents. Some people prefer air fresheners like Febreze, but more often than not, they end up masking odors rather than removing them. 

Ultimately, you may need to turn to a professional service to get that bad smell out of your vehicle. Sometimes it can be done quickly — but it often takes a bit of work. That’s where our team at Spiffy can help.

Our professional technicians come to you and can handle your car maintenance needs, from unpleasant smells to advanced detailing. We have multiple odor elimination services that can target the foul scents in your car. If you’re looking to make your car’s interior smell clean and look like new, then you can’t go wrong with a mobile detailing service.

See what sets Spiffy apart by booking your first service today, and get $20 off in the process!

Save $20 Spiffy

Posted in Education, Car Care

Written by Jackson Balling

Jackson was Spiffy’s Content Marketing Manager from January 2019 to July 2022 and freelances for us now. Jackson brought over five years of professional experience in creative copywriting, audio production, and video editing to the Spiffy Marketing team.
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