How to Remove Bad Car Smells

29th Apr 2022

By Ellie Brown

Removing Nasty Odours

There's nothing quite as pleasant as that new car smell, but when the delightful smell of a valeted car disappears, it can leave you with the not so delightful odours left from the previous owner.

Dropped food, spilled drinks, cigarette smoke, and transporting pets are the most common car smells that can be extremely tough to get rid of.

Don't worry, nasty car odours are hard to remove, but thankfully they're not impossible to eliminate. Whether you've been left guessing what the source of the unpleasant smell is, or you're simply looking for a remedy for your own mishap, here are some ways to cleanse your vehicle and make it smell great once again.

Find the Source

Deep Clean of Car

The first thing you'll need to do if you're unsure of the cause of the bad smell is grab your bin bag and gloves and start checking your car for anything that could be causing the odour. Don't forget to check your glove compartment, boot, and all other areas that are tricky to reach.

Dust and dirt may be accumulating in tiny spots that can be easy to miss, and that one piece of food that once missed your mouth could be hidden underneath your seat, so make sure your search is thorough.

If you're positive that your car is completely free from unwanted waste and the bad smell is still lingering, it's time to get your vacuum and cleaning products out, beginning the deep cleanse.

Deep Clean

Hoovering Car

Most odours tend to become trapped in the fabric of the interior, so it's important to start your deep clean with a thorough hoover to eliminate them. Hard to reach nooks and crannies can be almost impossible to clean, but various attachments that come with most vacuums can make the job an easier one.

Opening your vehicle's doors while cleaning will allow fresh air in and any lingering odour to dissipate. For really tough smells on upholstery or floor mats, use a carpet cleaning spray, and any areas that are too small for a vacuum can more than likely be targeted with a quick wipe with a wet cloth.

If you've done all the hoovering and cleaning you can, and it still isn't enough to remove the odour, you may find that steam cleaning will do the trick. Steam cleaners are a great non-chemical method to kill mould and spillages, both seen and unseen.

Air Conditioning

Air Conditioning

Surprisingly, using your air conditioning every once in a while, even in the colder months, can reduce moisture and aid the elimination of foul odours. Smoke, mould, and mildew can travel and settle itself into vents, causing an unpleasant smell that's challenging to remove.

Air conditioning odour eliminators can be purchased from car supply shops and can be sprayed into your car's air vents to emit a pleasant smell every time you use your air conditioning. Not only do odour eliminators mask nasty odours, they also clean and remove bacteria in the form of mould and mildew.

Do It Yourself

Cleaning Car

When used appropriately, many everyday items you can find in your kitchen cupboards can work well as natural remedies for unpleasant car smells:

  • Baking soda: If you've spilled something on the carpet and the smell lingers, a sprinkling of baking soda can do a great job of absorbing these odours. Let the baking soda sit for a couple of hours before hoovering up any excess.
  • White vinegar: Pour some distilled white vinegar into a bottle and spray the solution around your car - this will absorb strong odours during its evaporation process.
  • Coffee: Place coffee grounds in a pot overnight to help absorb and mask the smell. If you're not a big fan of the scent of coffee, the strong aromas of citrus peel and cinnamon also do a great job in acting as a natural air freshener.

Air Fresheners

Air Freshener

Affordable, easy to find, and a quick fix for bad car smells, car air fresheners are great for covering up those stubborn odours that just won't go away.

Unfortunately, air fresheners only mask unwanted odours, but once you've done everything you can to rid your car of these odours, air fresheners can act as a last resort in making your car smell fresh once more.

Frequently Asked Questions

Vacuum In Car

How can I get rid of the smoke smell in my car?

There are several types of surfaces in a car that smoke can cling to. Start by vacuuming all carpets and upholstery to remove old ash that may have settled. After hoovering, you can use a white distilled vinegar and water solution along with a microfibre cloth to wipe down any surfaces left with cigarette residue. The final and most important step is to ventilate your car. Roll down your windows, start up your car, and turn your air conditioning on. Spraying odour eliminators into your vents will cleanse your vents and release a fresh smell that will circulate throughout your car.

How can I get rid of the milk smell in my car?

Baking soda can help to remove the sour odour caused from spilt milk by simply sprinkling it over the affected area. Leave this overnight to absorb the unpleasant smell and vacuum the excess; if there's still a sour smell, repeat these steps once more.

How to get rid of the damp smell in my car?

If your car smells damp, chances are you have a mould and mildew build-up. Vinegar and baking soda are odour neutralizers that can help remove damp smells. Use a combination of white distilled vinegar and baking soda on the affected area to absorb the stubborn musty smell. To eliminate stale smells from your air conditioning system, you can spray a mould and mildew spray into your vents to kill the bacteria causing the nasty odour.

How can I get rid of the dog smell in my car?

Travelling with a dog in the car is often necessary, but can leave your car with a lingering smell that gets more unpleasant over time. To remove these odours, simply do a thorough vacuum of your car's upholstery and carpets to remove any hair and oils left from pets. Scrub your surfaces down with a multipurpose cleaning spray, wash anything removable, and invest in a good quality air freshener to bring back that fresh new car smell.

Why does my car smell of petrol/burning?

There are various reasons why your car might smell of petrol or burning. Petrol smells could mean that something is leaking in the engine or near the exhaust. Burning smells can be caused by a warn-out electrical fuse, burnt out brakes, or air conditioning overheating. Any of these problems can be seriously dangerous when left untreated, so make sure to book a vehicle health check.

Stay Fresh

It's important to keep your vehicle smelling fresh all year round. Regular cleaning, choosing the right products, and keeping on top of food and drink spillages can make sure you're prepared when an unwanted smell strikes.

When your vehicle comes into an Evans Halshaw dealer for service work, you'll receive a complementary valet to leave your car feeling nice and fresh.