Car Care

Five ways to remove unwanted smells from your car

Many of us spend several hours in our vehicle every week and, over time, our cars can accumulate numerous odours and stains, many of which we fail to notice until someone else points them out.

Cars are full of tight spaces in which food, dirt, animal fur and more can become trapped and out of reach. After a few weeks the smells generated can become extremely unpleasant if the source isn’t found, especially in hotter weather.

Eating, drinking or smoking in your car can all lead to a foul-smelling cabin, all of which can make your car a lot harder to sell when it comes around to upgrading.

Here are some ways to hopefully eliminate that nasty odour engrained into the vehicle interior upholstery:

1. Remove obvious sources of bad smells

Make sure to empty your ashtrays, and remove and vacuum all floor mats and interior carpets to get rid of pet hair, food scraps and any other dirt that’s accumulated over time.

Cheese and milk, often consumed by children on the back seats, can be a particularly unpleasant, long-term odour.

Whilst the carpets are out, now would be a good time to treat with some carpet cleaner or sprinkle on some wash-n-vac powder.

In extreme cases, the seats may need to be removed in order to get to those areas that are particularly hard to reach. Note that it may be best to get a professional to do this, particularly if your vehicle has airbags or sensors fitted.

2. Use fabric cleaners or deodorisers

These can now be applied to your seats and trim to help flush out the engrained smells and neutralise odours. You may also find a pet odour eliminator or fabric shampoo than can do the job effectively.

3. Check your pollen filter

If you have one fitted, check and replace the vehicle pollen filter as it could be clogged up with years of atmospheric dust, leaves, and pollen. This will help to re-introduce fresh outside air back into the cabin and stop leaves being sucked into the heater fan and into the cabin.

Note: Do not spray any deodorisers onto your air filter.

4. Use natural remedies

Baking soda, for instance, is a natural deodoriser that can be sprinkled on and brushed into the seats and carpets, left to sit for up to a day, before vacuuming up.

Another good example is vinegar, which can be mixed with water and sprayed onto interior panels and windows.

A diluted solution of water mixed with white vinegar at a recommend ratio of 1:8 parts water works very well. This wipes away stains on glass and fabrics, leaving a pleasant, light scent.

Coffee beans can also be a great natural way to replace unwanted odours. Simply pop a handful of beans into a cupcake dish and store under the seats of your car. What better way to start the morning than with the smell of coffee?

5. Use air conditioning odour eliminators

These are available from most automotive supply stores and vehicle manufacturers and come in an aerosol form. They are designed to be sprayed into your vehicle’s air vents. This helps to deodorize and clean the vents, whilst also removing bacteria in the form of mould and mildew. 

A cheaper, temporary solution in the meantime would be to place an ordinary, run-of-the-mill air freshener into a compartment in your car to gently release the scent and improve the overall smell of your car right away.


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