If your car has a musty, mildew, smoke, or other unpleasant smell that you’d like to remove, there are a few methods you can try depending on the odor. Some odors might require a deep clean that involves disassembling the car’s interior, and other odors might involve a light cleaning that requires replacing the cabin air filter. Whether the smell is pungent or minor, this guide explains how to get a bad smell out of your car with fixes for common kinds of odors like smoke or smells from the carpet.
Easy and Simple Methods to Remove Bad Smells from Your Car
Steps for Removing a Bad Odor from the Car
- Remove Trash and Debris
Remove any debris or trash that might cause a dirty or unpleasant smell, like food containers
- Clean the Windows with Glass Cleaner
Clean the inside of the windows with glass cleaner
- Wipe Interior Parts with Interior Cleaner
Wipe the dashboard and plastic interior trim panels with interior cleaner
- Vacuum the Carpet
Vacuum and remove any sand and debris from the carpet
- Inspect and Replace the Cabin Air Filter
Remove the cabin air filter, which is usually located behind the glovebox, and inspect it for debris and dirt. If the cabin air filter is dirty, replace it
How to Remove Pet Hair, Gym Bag, and Coffee Stain Odors
Use the steps above to clean the car.
In addition to the steps above, clean and scrub the seats and carpet with an upholstery cleaner or carpet shampoo.
An aerosol car bomb or odor eliminator might also help remove any lingering odor from the air.
This video has some tips on how to clean a car’s interior
How to Get a Smoke, Mildew, or Musty Smell Out of Your Car
Some odors are stronger and might stay in the car even after using the cleaning methods listed above. These tend to be smells like sweat from the vents and smoke or mildew smells in the interior of the car.
Water leaks can cause mildew and moldy smells, cars routinely smoked in can carry a smoke smell, and some pungent fluids like gasoline might spill and leave an odor behind.
These smells are difficult to remove. You might need to remove parts like the seats, carpet, interior panels, the headliner, and clean all surfaces like the metal underneath.
You might also need to rent an industrial carpet cleaner to clean the seats and headliner, and you might need to replace the entire carpet.
How to Get Rid of a Smell in the HVAC System
A disinfectant spray might help remove a smell from the vents, and steps involve spraying into the vents, and spraying into the intake with the fan on. These steps might also include running the car with the cabin air filter removed.
After using a disinfectant spray in the vents, use an ozone machine. Since you don’t want to breathe in the air, park the car outside, put the windows up, and crack a window to run the wire. Run the machine for at least 30 minutes.
Why Can I Still Smell the Odor?
The smell might not be entirely gone, but these methods should help reduce if not eliminate it. If any of the smell still remains after cleaning your car’s interior or you want to add a smell to your car’s interior, you can always place one of the following inside:
- Air freshener
- Box of baking soda
- Charcoal without the accelerant or lighter fluid inside
- Coffee grounds
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