How to Remove Odors From Your Car

Smell that? That’s your car.

No matter how clean or perfectly designed the interior of your car is, if it stinks, that will be the first thing you or someone else notices when you open your car door. Car odors can smack you in the face when you get into your car and simply rolling your windows down probably won’t make it go away.

There can be a lot of causes for odor in a car, whether it’s dropped rotting food, moisture that got in and started to cause mold or mildew, or something that spilled and didn’t get cleaned up right away, the list can go on.

But how do you remove these odors? That’s easier said than done.

Here’s 6 tips on Car Odor Removal

1. White Vinegar and Water for Hard Surfaces

Vinegar is great for cleaning due to the acidity it has, mixed with water, it can be a powerful cleaner for sticky or stubborn messes on hard surfaces.

Cars have a lot of hard surfaces such as the dashboard, door panels, steering wheel, glove compartment, etc. and while white vinegar and water are excellent cleaners, they most likely won’t take care of the odor in your car unless it is caused by something like a spill or a sticky substance on the hard surface.

For odors caused by things like mildew or tobacco smoke, white vinegar and water probably won’t affect them.

2. Vacuuming the Upholstery and Carpet

How great is it when your car has had a fresh vacuum job? The carpet looks like new, it even feels softer, but sometimes a good vacuum job can help take care of a bad odor too.

Especially in winter, carpets can get wet and get sand or salt on them and it can start to get moist and cause a bad smell.

This is where a deep clean with a vacuum can come in handy. While it can be time consuming, a detailed vacuum job can help bring life back to your vehicle. You suck up things from the cracks and crevices that you had no idea were trapped down in the depths.

While great for removing some odors, a good vacuum job is not the end all be all for removing odors from your vehicle. There are different odors that won’t be touched by a vacuum job.

3. Charcoal and Baking Soda

Charcoal and baking soda are known for their absorbent properties, this is what makes them a good tool to use when trying to combat odors in your vehicle.

With charcoal, you just have to leave some activated charcoal in an open bag in your car, the porous charcoal will then absorb anything that is floating around in the air.

Baking soda can be more effective with getting odors out of cloth interiors or other fabric surfaces than charcoal. To use baking soda, you sprinkle a thin layer of it all over your fabric surfaces. Wait about 10-15 minutes and then vacuum it all out.

While more labor intensive, this will leave your car cleaner than if you just left a bag of open charcoal in it overnight.

4. Essential Oils and Air Fresheners

If you are looking for the least amount of effort to try and cover up a smell, let me tell you about these great things called air fresheners and essential oils. While they will do nothing to get to the root source of the odors, they can temporarily cover up the odor.

This is a great option if you just need your vehicle to smell good for a little bit, like for example, going on a date. You wouldn’t want to have your date get into your stinky car, would you?!

5. Odor Eliminators or Bombs

Now we are getting down to the serious stuff, the nitty gritty might you say, but odor eliminators and bombs are for the most stubborn car odors.

Odor eliminators can vary, but some are in purifying bags, some come as a spray, some are more like a detergent and others are like a fogger or bomb.

These are made to help break down molecules that create odor, unlike a standard air freshener, they do more than just mask the scent temporarily.

Using substances like chlorine, these bombs can be dangerous to humans or animals if not done properly. They must sit in a vehicle with the windows closed for up to 24 hours and then you have to let your vehicle ventilate with the doors open for at least a half hour.

6. Replace Cabin Filter and Deodorize AC System

Cabin filters are typically tucked in behind the glovebox of your vehicle. The purpose of a cabin filter is to filter that air that is in the cabin, aka the interior, of your vehicle. Like almost any filter, they need to be replaced in regular intervals.

It is said that the general rule of thumb is to replace your cabin air filter every 15,000-30,000 miles, which would be about 1-3 years for the typical driver. While they aren’t always replaced on time, if you are buying a used vehicle, this is a good thing to change after buying.

Typically not the cause of odor in your vehicle, it is still good to change out, because it affects the air you breathe.

When running air conditioning, the air has to go through the cabin filter. Even with a brand new filter, you can still be breathing in harmful air if there is mildew in the air conditioning lines of your vehicle.

Air conditioning in a vehicle condenses the humidity and turns it into a liquid and the liquid will drop from beneath the vehicle. Since there is water involved, that means there is a chance for mildew.

Sometimes the condensation in the air conditioning lines can build up and have nowhere to go and that can lead to mildew. To combat this, you can have your AC system flushed and recharged, but that can get expensive. Another alternative is to spray an antiseptic deodorizer into the exterior air vents of your car (where the car pulls in outside air) and let the spray work its way through the system and lines.

Call a Professional

Not only are the professionals like Crystal Clean Auto Detailing pros at getting rid of tough odors that you can’t take care of yourself, but they are also top-notch at making it easy on you!

Professional detailers use a tool called an Ozone Generator to help tackle stubborn odors. This is what car dealerships use to take a trade-in from stinky to showroom ready, they help absorb odors and neutralize the remaining odor molecules, then leave behind a clean scent. 

Ozone generators are known to tackle odors such as mold, mildew, body odor, smoke, pet odor and more. They are top-notch at odor removal from vehicles and at-home methods will never compare to this method. 

To make it easier for you, Crystal Clean Auto Detailing offers a hassle-free experience for customers like you. With our special Fly ‘N’ Shine program, we will do all of the hard work, while you are gone on your travels. 

Simply drop your keys into our dropbox on your next flight out of GRR Airport and come home to a vehicle that looks and smells like new. We will pick your vehicle up from the airport, clean it, deodorize it, make it shine, and then store it safely at our facility until you return. Then your car will be waiting for you in the parking ramp at the airport. 

Crystal Clean professionals will do a deluxe detail of your vehicle, which will feature the use of our specialized Ozone Generator tools, that can tackle car odors and eliminate them. The deluxe detail won’t just have your vehicle smelling good though, through an extensive interior and exterior detailing, your vehicle will be Crystal Clean inside and out. 

The Deluxe Detail at Crystal Clean will leave your vehicle completely refreshed and cleaned from top to bottom. This includes, but is not limited to, detail every crack, crevice and panels, shampoo and hot water extract all carpets, a complete exterior hand wash and steam rinse, apply a durable wax sealant, and more! 

Prevention Tips

To keep your vehicle smelling fresh and clean, there are some tips and tricks you can follow. 

  1. If your vehicle does have an odor, try to find the root cause first
  2. If there are any spills in your vehicle, clean them as soon as possible
  3. Do a weekly or monthly checkover of the cracks and crevices in your vehicle for anything that could’ve fallen down there that you aren’t aware of
  4. Clean your vehicle regularly 
  5. Ventilate your vehicle occasionally
  6. Park in the sunlight sometimes, sunlight can naturally disinfect your vehicle, at least partially

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