Car Odor Eliminators
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Let’s face it; if you have kids or enjoy eating on the go, chances are you’ll end up with food spills and food wrappers on the floorboard and seats of your car. These types of car odors will usually go away after removing the wrappers and airing out the vehicle for a couple of hours.
However, other types of odors never seem to go away. For instance, that hidden baby bottle under the seat dripping milk on the carpet for a week during the middle of summer. Getting back that clean-smelling car after milk has fermented in the mid-summer heat for a week will take more than airing out the vehicle.
This article will discuss some tough odors and what types of products to use for the odor elimination process. So let’s get started!
There are several kinds of odors that seem to take over the interior of a closed vehicle. However, some great products are available to help eliminate those foul odors quickly. Below are some of the most unpleasant odors I’ve experienced. Unfortunately, not every scent has a simple solution to remove it, but this article should help you get your car smelling like new again!
Baby Bottle Odor
This one is pretty obvious. A baby bottle left on the floor overnight will cause an unpleasant smell in your car if it’s been leaking on the carpet. Likewise, spoiled baby formula or curdled milk isn’t easy to remove once it’s in the carpet fibers and may require a steam cleaner to eliminate the odor.
Cigarette Smoke Smell
Cigarette smoke smells terrible and can be difficult to eliminate since it leaves behind a film on every surface the smoke contacts. I recommend taking it to a professional car detail service for cigarette smoke since removing this smell will require cleaning the carpet, headliner, seats, and the leather and plastic parts throughout the cabin.
Whether it’s a wet dog or cat urine, pet odors are often challenging to remove but not impossible. Start by removing all loose items such as the floor mats, then wipe down the interior surfaces with a product designed to clean and condition leather and vinyl such as Chemical Guys Total Interior Cleaner & Protectant. Cleaners like this are readily available at your local auto parts store or Amazon for less than $10.
The best way to deal with vomit is to use a product specifically designed for cleaning it out of carpets and furniture. You’ll need to start by cleaning all plastic, vinyl, cloth, and leather surfaces that were affected. Then, depending on how long the vomit was on carpeted areas or cloth seats, you may need to rent a carpet cleaner to remove the odor altogether. Be sure to leave the windows rolled down slightly on your vehicle after treatment to prevent wet carpet and upholstery from mildewing.
If you have leather seats, be sure to use a cleaner designed to condition the leather simultaneously. Some cleaners can dry out leather upholstery, leading to premature discoloration and cracking. If you have leather that is cracking, check out the article we wrote on how to fix cracks in leather car seats.
Odor Eliminating Products
Several types of odor eliminators on the market work well to remove unwanted smells and produce long-lasting results. Still, even some essential car care products work well to remove an unwanted smell. Here are some of the most popular product types to help remove those offensive odors.
- Bamboo Charcoal Bags – I consider these bags an excellent all-natural deodorizer because they absorb bad odors from the air. Place the bag inside your car and leave it for a few hours. The charcoal absorbs the odors while releasing fresh oxygen into the environment.
- Activated Carbon Bags – Activated carbon bags are another natural odor absorber that works similarly to bamboo charcoal. It’s made from coconut shells and other plant materials and is used to absorb many different odors, including cigarette smoke, body odor, pet odors, and more.
- Baking Soda – Often used to neutralize odors in our homes, this household staple is inexpensive and effective, so why not try using it to get rid of the stench in your car? Sprinkle baking soda around the area where the odor is coming from, then vacuum it up after 30 minutes.
- Car Odor Bombs or Foggers – This product contains a mixture of scented oils and fragrances to mask unpleasant odors and provide a fresh scent. Most people prefer these over sprays because they don’t require special equipment and last longer. Meguiars and Mothers are a couple of great bombs available at places like Lowe’s and AutoZone for less than $8.
- Odor Eliminating Gel – A gel is a thick substance that spreads easily and dries quickly. Many gels contain perfumes or essential oils that make them pleasant smelling when applied. They’re also highly effective at eliminating foul smells. Walmart, Lowe’s, and AutoZone have great gel options for under $5.
- Will car odor eliminators stain my carpet or upholstery? Some car odor eliminators will stain the interior carpet and upholstery if misused. Be sure to buy a carpet cleaning solution specifically designed for carpets and cloth upholstery. We recommend taking your vehicle to a car wash or professional detail center if you’re nervous about the process.
- Will car odor eliminators remove the smell with one application? The number of applications needed to eradicate a bad smell depends on the type of odor. For example, some mildew or spoiled milk situations may require more than one attempt to eliminate the smell.
- Will Febreze carpet deodorizer remove bad smells from my car? Yes, but Febreze will only mask bad odors temporarily. For more thorough cleaning and to ensure the smell doesn’t return, we recommend following the steps outlined above to remove unwanted odors.
- How long do car scents last? Unfortunately, cardboard fresheners or a clip-on freshener aren’t long-lasting products and will only provide a clean scent for about two weeks which isn’t a perfect solution. In addition, these items only mask odors, so we recommend following the steps outlined above for a clean-smelling vehicle that lasts longer than two weeks.
- Is baking soda a good product to remove bad odors in a car? No, baking soda cannot effectively remove strong odors like cigarette smoke or body odor. It will only cover up the odor temporarily.
- Can coffee grounds be used as a car odor eliminator? Like Febreze, coffee beans or grounds are great for hiding odors like cigarette smoke, but it will take additional interior cleaning to eradicate the odor. Cigarette smoke leaves a film or residue on all the interior surfaces of your car, so to remove the smell altogether, you may need to clean all the plastic, upholstery, carpet, and headliner.
- Will tea bags remove bad smells from my car? Teabags work well at removing odors from clothes and carpets. However, they won’t work as effectively in a vehicle. You’ll still need to use a product designed to remove the specific smell.
- Can I use white vinegar for car odor? White vinegar has many uses around the house, but you shouldn’t use it to remove odors in a vehicle. Vinegar is acidic and can damage certain plastics and fabrics. If you want to try using vinegar for this purpose, make sure to cut it with water and test the solution on a hidden area first.
- How does an ionic anti-microbial car deodorizer work? Ionic anti-microbial deodorizers create negative ions (which attract positive ions) to neutralize any bacteria or germs that cause odors. This method is effective because it creates a barrier between the odor-causing microbe and the air molecules.
- What is the difference between a car freshener and a car odor eliminator? A car freshener is typically made of cardboard or paper and contains chemicals meant to hide odors with a fresh fragrance. Cardboard fresheners are an affordable solution but not designed to permanently eliminate the smell. On the other hand, a car odor eliminator will obliterate the source of the odor.
Recommended Car Care Services
Below is a list of services we recommend for keeping your vehicle looking new inside and out.
- Paintless Dent Repair – Removing minor door dents and other dings from the body panels will help keep your vehicle’s paint job looking smooth. Here’s what you should know about paintless dent repair.
- Wax and Polish – To reduce oxidation and protect against other harmful contaminants, we recommend applying a hand wax every three months. Check out this car wax guide for more details.
- Headlight Restoration – Plastic headlights can turn yellow and fade over time from the sun’s UV rays and other outside elements, which is why you should wax the headlights when you wax the car. If your headlights are hazy white, check out the article we wrote on the headlight restoration process.
- Protect the Leather – Like waxing the vehicle, the interior leather, vinyl, and plastic need to be protected. A good rule of thumb is to clean and condition all the interior leather and vinyl when waxing the car. Here’s some additional information on leather protection for cars.
- Clean the Engine Bay – This one isn’t as important as the others we’ve listed above, but cleaning the engine block and bay area will help uncover any hidden leaks that may lead to additional problems if left untreated. Check out these seven steps to clean an engine block.
I hope this article helped answer any questions regarding odor removal and keeping your car looking and smelling new. If you found this article helpful, please share it with friends and family who might benefit from reading it too!
Shawn LongmoreShawn is the founder of Auto Glass Locator and enjoys providing articles related to automotive parts and services. His mission is to make it easy for everyone to find all the information they need in one spot. Each year he continues to help more people find great deals on auto glass and other automotive services.
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