Remove Any Bad Smell From Your Car In 7 Easy Steps

Remove Any Bad Smell From Your Car

Published on January 24th, 2023

Whether you commute to work each day or work at home and only drive when you’re running errands, there’s a good chance that you spend time in your car almost every day – so you’d better enjoy it. If your car doesn’t smell good, though, that’s not likely to be the case. No matter how nice your car might be, a persistent bad smell can completely ruin the experience of driving it.

Luckily, it’s entirely possible to remove just about any bad smell from a car without a great deal of work or expense.

After all, when you look at a used car at a reputable dealership, you never notice any foul odors. People do all kinds of things in their cars, and a good dealership can still make any car smell almost like new. That means you can do the same thing.

Here’s how to remove any bad smell from your car.

Stop Doing Things That Cause Bad Smells

If you’re the one creating the unpleasant smell in your car, there’s no point in trying to remove the odor until you stop doing the thing that’s causing it in the first place. A car is a small enclosed space, and something as seemingly insignificant as a French fry dropped on the floor can create an absolutely intolerable odor in a very short period of time. If you want your car to smell as good as it possibly can, these are the things you absolutely must do.

  • Stop smoking in your car – or better yet, quit smoking entirely. If it’s not possible for you to stop using nicotine while you drive, start using nicotine pouches in the car or buy a vape kit and some vape juice. Unlike smoking, vaping doesn’t smell bad at all.
  • Stop eating in your car. It’s almost impossible to avoid making a mess in such a small space, and it’s very easy to drop crumbs in locations that are hard to reach with a vacuum cleaner. If you frequently take lunch breaks in your car, bring your lunch to an outdoor park instead.
  • Vacuum your car regularly. If you clean your car often, bad smells won’t have an opportunity to fester.
  • Don’t ever leave trash in your car. Always remove empty cups, wrappers and other garbage at the end of every drive.

Change The Cabin Air Filter

Did you know that automakers usually recommend replacing your car’s cabin air filter about once per year? The cabin air filter is responsible for filtering the air that circulates throughout your car’s interior – and during the course of a year, it’s going to collect a lot of dust, pollen and other contaminants. Many cabin air filters use activated charcoal to minimize odors, but charcoal doesn’t last forever – so buy a new filter at your local auto parts store.

They’re usually around $25, and they’re very easy to replace. Your car’s cabin air filter is probably behind the glove compartment, but you should check the instruction manual to be sure.

Use Baking Soda To Absorb Foul Odors

Have you ever put a package of baking soda into your freezer to get rid of musty odors? It works extremely well because baking soda is an excellent odor absorber. Many of the things that cause foul odors are acidic – and since baking soda is basic, it neutralizes those compounds.

To use baking soda in your car, spread it liberally on all of the car’s floors and seats. Don’t forget to put some in the trunk as well. Wait about 24 hours for the baking soda to work its magic before vacuuming it up.

Detail Your Car Thoroughly

Once you’ve done the basics, it’s time to give your car a deep cleaning. Since you’ve already put baking soda on all of your car’s surfaces, you have an excuse to give the car a thorough vacuuming. Vacuum all of the hard-to-reach places – under the seats and floormats, for instance – that you usually skip when you’re just doing a quick cleaning.

Buy some cleaning wipes and clean the dashboard, center console and doors. If you formerly smoked in your car, clean the interior surfaces of the windows because smoke always sticks to glass.

Check For Water Ingress

If your car has a persistent musty odor that’s difficult to track down, it’s possible that water is getting into your car and causing mold growth. After a rainy day, investigate your car for signs of water ingress. Check for wetness under the floormats. You should also examine the trunk to see if it is wet.

If water is entering the passenger area – and your car has a sunroof – it’s very likely that the sunroof is the source of the ingress.

Solving that problem could be as simple as removing leaves and other debris from the drainage channels. You should also check the weather strips around your car’s doors and trunk.

Rent An Ozone Generator

If your car isn’t completely odor free after you’ve done all of the things mentioned so far in this article, it might be necessary to take a more drastic step.

If you’re wondering how professional detailers, rental car companies and car dealerships remediate foul-smelling cars, the answer is that they use ozone generators. You most likely have a local equipment rental company that has one available. Rent it and run it in your car overnight.

Ozone neutralizes odor-causing molecules via oxidation, and it’s extremely effective. Ozone is also hazardous to humans, though, so it’s important to follow the instructions carefully. Once you’ve removed the original source of the foul odor, an ozone generator will leave your car smelling almost as good as new.

Place Activated Charcoal Under The Seats

Once you’ve finished removing the bad smells from your car, the final step is to make sure that those odors won’t come back – and the best way to do that is by putting bags of activated charcoal under the seats. Activated charcoal has an extremely high surface area.

When air passes through the bag, odor-causing molecules are trapped in the charcoal and can’t escape. As long as you maintain your car properly by cleaning it regularly and avoiding activities that cause foul odors, a bit of activated charcoal will help to ensure that your car never smells bad again.

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