How To Remove Smell From Car (Handy Guide)

How To Remove Smell From Car (Handy Guide)


A great car doesn’t just look pristine, but also smells pristine. 

We’ve compiled together smell eliminating solutions from Google’s top search results on the topic. This will provide you with a wide range of cleaning options to get rid of that awful smell in your car. 

In this post, we’ll cover: 

  • Common causes of car odor and how to fix them
  • 4 Bonus odor eliminating solutions for your car
  • How you can stop the smell from developing before it starts

Now take a look at these effective solutions you can try at home. 

Car Odor Sources

Is the funky smell in your car irritating to smell? 

Does the stench make you shy away from inviting others to ride with you? 

Does the unique aroma ruin your day before you even leave the driveway? 

Car Stench


It can either be because of: 

  • Cigarette smoke stench
  • Pet odor
  • Mildew smell from forgetting to close the window during a rain
  • Condensation on the car’s air conditioner evaporator
  • Compromised catalytic converter (smells like a rotten egg)
  • Funky smell of hot brakes
  • Transmission fluid leaks
  • Food leftovers

If you want a fresh-smelling odor-free car cabin, here’s how to find the sources and how you can fix the odor problem in your car.

1. Hidden Odor Sources

Be a Sherlock Holmes or Nancy Drew for a while and check around the car to find that awful smell. 

You can look into:

  • Pockets and under seats where wet tissues, wrappers, and other garbage-worthy papers and plastics are “temporarily” stored. (Then you forget it’s there for years!)
  • Floor Mats that gets damp, transferring the moisture to the built-in carpeting underneath it
  • Glove compartment and back seats for moldy fruits and stenchy baby bottles

The solution to these kinds of odors is quite simple, to begin with. 

You just have to take out all those trash and open all the car doors to dissipate the lingering smell. 

If that’s not enough, you can start a thorough clean of the interior using a car cleaning gun. It uses compressed air, nozzle brush, and cleaning solution to remove not just visible dirt but also concealed smells. 

Want to know more about what a car cleaning gun does?

Recommended Reading: What Is A Car Cleaning Gun?

Tip: Check the engine bay too. A car’s bad smell can also come from an overheating engine. It might be time to clean the engine and change the oil too. 

2. Carpet And Upholstery

We have in-depth posts on how to clean carpets and car seats. If you want a more thorough guide, you can check those out.

In a nutshell, the material type used in car seats and carpeting is prone to trap odors.

You can use a car vacuum all around these areas to reach nooks and crevices. If that doesn’t work, some recommend steam cleaning. 

A better alternative is to use a car cleaning gun. It reaches all the nooks and crannies.

It also lets the cleaning solution seep through the deepest parts of the interior to counter the funky smell it might have developed over time. 

This can be true for spills on car seats that get absorbed into the foam underneath. The car cleaning gun cleanses those areas without leaving them too wet to develop an unwanted mildew smell. 

3. Smoke Smell

If you or a family member is a smoker, it will almost immediately be evident when someone rides in your car. 

This might mean you can make other passengers secondhand smokers. Worse comes to worst, they might develop lung complications from these. 

So how do you avoid that from happening?

First, empty ashtrays regularly, if possible, after every end of the day so it doesn’t stay in the car overnight. 

Second, open car doors or windows regularly. Cigarette smoke gets into vents. Increased airflow will release the smell. Additionally, you can spray an odor eliminator on the vents and through the intake valve. 

Third, wipe down interior upholstery and panels with a 1:1 ratio of water and vinegar solution. This removes the tar smoking leaves behind. 

If the smell lingers, a car cleaning gun with a designated cleaning solution will do the trick. 

4. Car Air Conditioner Smell

Another source of mildew is the car air conditioning. You can figure this out by finding the mats under the air conditioning wet or damp. 

If you smell something funky coming from the air vents, open the cover and remove the filter.

Clean the filter with a scrub pad or a car cleaning gun to remove the growing mold on the filter. 

Then use the air-only option of the car cleaning gun to dry the filter before putting it back. 

To make sure the filter is thoroughly dry, turn the car heater on. When you’re sure it’s dry, apply an odor absorber, enzyme cleaner, or anti-mildew solution. 

For the air vents, you can use the water and vinegar solution to remove musty grime or the car cleaning gun.

The car cleaning gun will do a more thorough clean because it will clean not just the edges of the vent but also the air conditioning blades. 

For the damp floor mats and carpet underneath the air conditioning, you can bring out the mats to dry or sprinkle them with baking soda for a day and vacuum afterward. 

Remove Car Smell Using Baking Soda

5. Vomit Smells

Kids and pets can get car sick. You might get unwanted vomits on the upholstery and carpets. Removing the vomit is one thing, getting the putrid smell it leaves behind is another. 

The fastest way to clean this up is after wiping the visible grime, use a car cleaning gun to seep through the fabric.

It exposes it to the cleaning solution to remove the smell, but it doesn’t get it too wet to make it develop mildew smells. 

You can also use the water and vinegar solution we talked about earlier if the vomit residue already dried up. It rehydrates the area so vacuuming to remove the smell will be easier. 

Another thing you can try is sprinkling baking soda on the spot to absorb the smell the vomit leaves behind. Baking soda is an alkaline and abrasive powder that can blanch stains. 

You can even put some baking soda in a sealed container with some holes, it can act as a natural air deodorizer. 

6. Mildew Smell

Mildew is caused by overlooked car windows during a rainstorm. Even a tiny opening on the window will cause condensation buildup for mildew to develop. 

To prevent or remove the mildew smell, you can use vacuum up the water left on carpets and upholstery. You can also use a hairdryer if you have it at home. 

But if you have a car cleaning gun, you just have to turn the dial to the air-only option so you can dry the surface off with the compressed air. 

So far, we’ve talked about how you can use the water-vinegar solution, baking soda, and car cleaning gun. 

Here are 4 more solutions you can try to remove the unwanted smell from your car. 

1. Charcoal

Charcoal is great for odor absorption. You can leave a chunk of charcoal in your car for a few days to get rid of any unpleasant smell. 


Remove Car Smell Using Charcoal


For organic odors like mold, food, or sweat, you can use activated charcoal found in pet stores. 

2. Natural Fresheners

To counter any smell naturally, you can use ground coffee. You can put it in the container and leave it in the car. 

You can also use vanilla on cotton balls or citrus oils. 

3. Zeolite

This is another thing you can find in per store, specifically, the aquarium section. It’s a bit pricy but the good thing is, it’s reusable. 

After letting it absorb the car smell, you can put it under the sun to bake out the absorbed odors. Then you can reuse it again. 

4. Air Fresheners

This is the easiest solution you can find in a hardware car section. You can choose the fragrance that suits you best. 


Remove Car Stench By Air Freshener


Tip: Don’t use fresheners to mask bad odor. It will worsen car sickness for your passengers and it will leave a bizarre smell you wouldn’t want for your car. 

Use it only after you’re sure the odor is completely removed. 

Stopping Car Odors Before It Starts

 This is what we call progressive housekeeping, or in this case, car-keeping. 

To cut down on the odor and stench development, don’t leave garbage in your car. Regularly take out milk bottles, wrappers, takeout food containers, and coffee cups. 


Your car is not a storage unit. 

The best way to deal with this is to put a portable trash can inside your car. It keeps the trash in one place and it makes it easier to take out. 

Plus, wash your car at least once a week. 

It’s not as exhausting as you think it is. If you have a car cleaning gun, you can clean your car fast and efficiently. 

Best of all, you’ll prevent the stench from developing in your car. Keeping it smelling as pristine as it can get. 

Try any of these tips and tell us in the comments section what works best in removing funky smell from your car. 

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