Your car interior looks absolutely fine: The upholstery wrapped in car seat covers are free of stains, the glass windows are spotless, and there’s no trace of dust on your carpet floors.However, there’s still something unpleasant with your interior: It stinks.
The thing is, unlike stains and dust, car odors are invisible, untouchable culprits that seems a bit difficult to overthrow. Air fresheners are quick fixes, but they only mask the car odor and not address the core of the problem.
Fortunately, you can do something about it. It may require an exhaustive work, but it will be worth it.
#1 Air it out overnight
It’s inevitable for bad odors to make their way to your interior over the course of your car ownership, especially if you smoke or tend to bring food inside. If you have a secure garage, let your car breathe by simply rolling down the windows and/or opening the doors.
#2 Do hardcore cleaning
When was the last time you inspected your car for trash? Can you recall the last time you washed your floor mats and replaced your car seat covers? Do you vacuum your interior regularly?
Before you seek professional help with that pungent problem of yours, make sure you’re not neglecting one of the basics of car maintenance: cleaning your vehicle.
Take out the trash – discarded food wrappers, empty beverage bottles, and even rotting food might be hiding in your compartments, pockets, cup holders, and under the seats. Check the trunk as well for the possible source of the stench.
Wipe down the interior surfaces
Get a cleaning cloth and an all-purpose cleaning spray ready. Wipe down every plastic, glass, wood, and metallic surface inside your car. There might be spills or stains causing the odor.
Remove and clean floor mats or rugs
The floor mats where driver’s and passengers’ feet rest (and where car odors are possibly coming from) can be pulled out in most cars. Remove them and clean using a few rags and hot, soapy water.
Clean your car seat covers
If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned and changed your car seat covers, the odors are telltale signs that you should do the daunting task ASAP.
Check for care instructions:
- For leather seats, make sure to vacuum them and use an appropriate leather cleaner and conditioner for spot cleaning.
- For fabric seat covers, it’s safe to put them in the washer on short, gentle/delicate cycle, using cold water. Don’t use hot water – this will shrink your covers.
- For sheepskin, most seat cover manufacturers recommend washing them by hand and NOT machine washing.
Grab your vacuum cleaner
Instead of constantly replacing your car seat covers to mask the underlying problem with your upholstery, target it with a vacuum cleaning.
Most car odors are trapped in the fabric, and vacuuming is an easy yet effective way to eliminate these smells. Don’t forget to use an upholstery attachment on your vacuum cleaner. If it isn’t enough, experts recommend steam cleaning.
Use a car shampoo
If vacuuming fails to eliminate the odors, consider scrubbing your car’s interior, from the carpet to your upholstery, using a clean sponge and a car shampoo. Rinse out and let the car seats and interior carpets dry.
#3 Spill some baking soda
Baking soda has excellent odor-absorbing properties. If there are spillages on the fabric seats, carpets, and cloth trim, sprinkling some baking soda on the spot will help eliminate the pungent car odors. Rub it into the affected area and leave it for a few hours. Vacuum the areas afterward.
#4 Store some ground up coffee
If the smell still lingers, store some coffee grounds, which absorb and neutralize bad odors in the car. The strong, yet fragrant scent can even overpower the unpleasant smell.
#5 Let charcoal do the work
For a scent-free alternative to coffee, use charcoal, which has the same odor-absorbing properties. They need to be crushed up to activate and do the trick. Aside from getting rid of car odors, charcoal can also prevent mold buildup in your car – like silica gels.
#6 Clean the air-conditioning unit
Litter, bodily excretions, and food residues aren’t the only sources of the unpleasant smell in your car – your car’s grimy air-conditioning system might be the one to blame. The A/C unit traps a lot of dirt and grime, which may lead to mold.
Get you’re A/C unit serviced and get an extensive clean-up. Replace your cabin air filter too. If the foul smell persists, chances are that a dead animal has made its way to the air-conditioning system.
#7 Hire professionals if the odor continues to linger
If all else fails, then it’s time to seek professional help.
There are areas you might’ve missed. The car odors may also be coming from an unusual hard to reach spot, like that of a dead animal in you’re A/C unit. Worse, there are smells, like the smell of gas, which pose a threat and require expert help.
Whatever that is, professional detailers are equipped to remove the interior panels, find the cause of the nasty smell, and remove them.