How To Remove Bad Odors From Your Car: A Complete Guide

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Did you ever have to deal with an unpleasant odor moments after you have opened your car door? And nothing seems to get rid of it, not even driving with the windows down. Whether it be stale fries damp fabric or anything else, bad odors can be a major turn-off for you. Fortunately, it isn’t too tough to remove such smells. In this guide, we will show you some of the easiest and most uncomplicated ways to remove bad odors from your car, making your automobile smell great again!

Identifying the Source of Odors

Before you can work out how to get rid of the smell in your car, it’s important to figure out where it’s coming from. Source identification is the first step to making your car smell fresh again. In this section, we’ll guide you through where these stinks are likely lurking and how to pick out exactly what’s making your ride reek.

Food and Drink Spills

  • Check under seats and between cushions for old food wrappers or spilled drinks.
  • Look at upholstery for any stains that could be the cause of the smell.
  • Clean up any new spills immediately to stop the smell from setting in


  • Notice a lingering smoky scent? It might come from cigarettes.
  •  Smoke can stick to almost anything—carpets, seat covers, and the ceiling.
  • Consider banning smoking inside the car to stop the smell from getting worse.

Pet Smell

  • Pet hair, vomit, and urine can smell.
  • Look for pet hair on the seats, stuck to the floor mat.
  • Use seat covers or blankets to seat your pet. Wash them in the washing machine.

Mold and Mildew Smell

  • Mold and mildew smell musty
  • It shall increase in damp weather
  • Check the car mats and peek under them.
  • Make sure your car is dry.
  • Use moisture to get rid of moisture if your car is too humid.

Forgotten Items

  • Old gym bags, forgotten food items, or wet clothing can cause bad odors.
  •  Do a regular check of all storage areas like glove compartments and trunk spaces.
  •  Remove and clean any forgotten items that may have started to smell.

Everyday Solutions for Removing Odors

By now you know where that unpleasant odor is coming from, and it is time to get rid of it permanently. You do not need highly sophisticated equipment or expensive methods. Many simple and household elements can give you the desired remedies.

Regular Cleaning

  • Vacuuming and wiping the surfaces regularly are very important.
  • It helps to remove particles of dirt, melted candy bars, sand, and other things that cause bad smells.
  •   Wiping the surfaces, especially the ones that are touched quite often helps to avoid the build-up of grime and stinks at home.
  • The appropriate products to use are given below:
  •  A good upholstery cleaner for seats and carpets.
  •   A suitable soap-and-water solution or a good dashboard cleaner for hard surfaces.

Natural Odor Absorbers

How to Use Baking Soda, Charcoal, and Coffee Grounds:

  • Baking Soda – Spread some baking soda on the carpets and the seats. Keep it for a few hours or overnight and then vacuum it up. Baking soda absorbs the smells naturally.
  • Charcoal – Keep 2-3 charcoal briquettes in a breathable fabric bag. Leave these bags in your car. Charcoal absorbs the odor.
  • Coffee Grounds – Keep some fresh or used coffee grounds in a breathable container under the seats to neutralize the odor.

Air Fresheners

Choose from various kinds of air fresheners such as hanging cardboard, vent clips, or under-seat fresheners depending on what you prefer.

DIY Air Freshener Ideas

  • Make your own freshener by putting a few drops of your favorite essential oil onto a wooden peg and then attaching it to one of your air vents.
  •   Fill a small jar with baking soda and add 15-20 drops of essential oil. 

Deep Cleaning Techniques

Sometimes, our everyday cleaning isn’t cutting, and you need to deep clean your car. When your dusting and vacuuming are not cutting, it is time to break out the deep cleaning tactics. Deep cleaning goes beyond the superficial to remove those bad smells that refuse to go away. These techniques pull out the deep-rooted stinks in the interior of your vehicle for a complete cleanse.

Shampooing Carpets and Upholstery

Step 1: Begin with hoovering the interiors completely to get rid of the loose dirt from the car’s insides.  

Step 2: For washing the carpets, select any automotive carpet shampoo which is meant specifically for the vehicle so that it does not ruin the insides.  

Step 3: Use the shampoo pitting it uniformly and scrub decently with the sponge or brush. Do not scrub the fibers too firmly. 

Step 4: After you complete scrubbing, clutch the unwanted lather wiping with a dump cloth, or you can use a wet vacuum to clutch excess foams along with the embedded dirt.  

Step 5: To dry, let the car open for a few hours. If it is sunny, park near sunlight or any good ventilated area, let the door be open for the whole day.

Steam Cleaning

Steam cleaning not only removes bad smells but also sanitizes and kills almost all allergens and germs hiding in your car odor fabric.

How to Find or Rent a Steam Cleaner

  • Some local hardware stores near you may have one for renting.
  • You can also check local stores over the net to find and order a steam cleaner.
  • Find a steam cleaner specifically made for the vehicle and not a regular one as the excessive heat may damage the inside odor.

Cleaning Air Vents and Replacing Filters

Vent Cleaning Instructions:

  •   Step 1: Use a soft brush or a can of compressed air to clean the vents of dust and debris.
  •   Step 2: Wipe them with a soft, damp cloth that doesn’t have any chemicals or a mild cleaner to get anywhere that is caked on.

How to Change Cabin Air Filters:

  •  Step 1: Find the cabin air filter; it’s usually behind the glove box, but it can also be under the hood.
  • Step 2: If the air filter is disposable, then you should take out the old filter and insert the new one.
  • Step 3: You should replace it every 12,000 to 15,000 miles to keep the air in your car fresh and clean. 

Unconventional Yet Effective Methods to Eliminate Odors:

The solutions you sometimes don’t expect are probably the ones that work best. When regular cleanings cannot make a difference, and fragrant air fresheners aren’t useful either, it’s time to switch to some unconventional solutions. These surprising and effective tricks can help you remove persistent odors using things you might already have at home most likely.

Using Kitty Litter

      Absorbing Wetness and Smells: Kitty litter is made to absorb moisture and smell fast. Here is how kitty litter works, and here is how you can use it.

      How to Use: Place a small pot or a sock-filled with unscented kitty litter under the seats in your car. Replace it monthly, or as needed.

Essential Oil

  • Natural deodorants: Essential oils smell good, and they are also capable of neutralizing odors.
  • DIY freshener: Add some drops of reliable essential oil to a wooden clothespin. Attach it to the car air-conditioner vent.

Vinegar Solution

  • A Vinegar Neutralizes Strong Odors: Vinegar due to its strong smell is able to offer a solution for neutralizing strong odors.
  • Application: Equally mix water and vinegar in a spray bottle. Gently spray the solution over the tough surfaces and wipe them to remove the strong odor..

Sunlight as a Natural Odor Eliminator

  • Sunlight act as a  natural odor neutralizer.
  • To use it, park your car in direct sunlight with the windows slightly open and allow the odor to fade away.

Technological Solutions for Odor Removal

When regular cleaning techniques aren’t totally effective, technology can help to finish the job. Advanced tools for example ozone generators and ionizers are valuable to remove stubborn smells that refuse to leave. Both work in different ways to clean the air and eliminate bad odors at the beginning. To know more about these modern alternatives, have a look to keep your vehicle fresh and clean.

Ozone Generators

  • Purpose and Effectiveness: Ozone generators produce ozone gas that reacts with and destroys odor molecules, successfully eradicating odor from sources such as mould, smoke, etc. that are strongly obstinate.
  • Safety Precautions: Ozone can cause harm if breathed in large amounts; therefore, always use ozone generators when the vehicle is empty and keep it ventilated well after treating it and before using the vehicle again.
  •   Recommended Usage: Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely while using them, but most cars can be treated in a few hours.


  • How they work: Car ionizers clean air by releasing negatively charged ions that attract to positively charged dust, pollen, smoke, and air molecules to fall from the air.
  • Benefits: Besides cleaning smells, ionizers clean the air from allergens and pathogens, thus making your car environment healthier.
  •  Usage tip: place the ionizer in a worthy area to which airflow will not be blocked, commonly on the dashboard. Keep it sporadically fresh according to the manufacturer’s instructions to keep it effective.

It’s important to understand where these bad smells come from. By doing that, you can then apply the most efficient methods to get rid of the bad smell in the car. Whether it’s food leftovers, pet smell, or something else, knowing the root cause, helps you tackle with it.

Keep Your Car Free Of Bad Odors!

We would like to suggest you go through the tips mentioned above and see the difference. Follow these approaches to make your car smell better. Please also share your experience and some tips that work for you. Let us combine our ideas and help everyone keep their cars in the best-smelling places.