Deodorizing your car

Oct 03, 2016|

I bought my car new about five years ago. (I was so proud—it was my first purchase as a college grad.) Anyway, shortly after I purchased it, I drove to Idaho with my then 10-year-old sister who also happened to have the flu. Long story short, we made it into my parents’ driveway and were in the process of unlocking the doors when she lost it and threw up all over everything.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to get vomit stains out of car upholstery or carpet, but I will tell you that it was a nightmare. But the worst part was the smell. It was the middle of the summer, and even though I left my windows open 24/7, it still reeked. I tried shampooing, steam cleaning, scrubbing with cleaners, and what felt like everything in between. But in the process I did gather some valuable information about deodorizing a car, which I will now share with you.

Steam cleaning: Steam cleaning can work wonders. If you don’t have a steamer at home (I don’t), you can rent one from a local hardware or grocery store. Just follow the instructions for your particular machine and it should remove most, if not all, of the smell.

Baking soda: Baking soda is a jack of all trades substance. It can be used in everything from baking to science experiments. But it also makes a great deodorizer. There are a few ways you can use it. For more localized problems (like vomit), clean and wipe up the excess . . . stuff. Then simply sprinkle baking soda on the afflicted area. Let it sit for a few hours and then vacuum it up. For more universal smells (like cigarette smoke), put some baking soda in an empty yogurt cup or Tupperware container. Poke holes in the lid and set it underneath a seat or anywhere it won’t be seen. Then just leave it. It will act as a natural air purifier.

Vinegar: Vinegar works much like the baking soda. However, it’s better at getting strong smells out. For example, if you put white vinegar in a bowl or cup, you can set it next to the source (like an ashtray) and leave it overnight. In the morning, remove the cup and the stink should go with it.

On the off chance that the smell has seeped into your windows (I know, unlikely …), you can mix water, vinegar, and a few drops of dish soap together and wipe them down. It makes your car smell fresh and leaves your windows streak-free.

Charcoal and coffee grounds: It sounds weird, but both charcoal and coffee grounds absorb smells. With charcoal, just leave the bag open in your car overnight. The best part of the charcoal is that you can still use it in your grill afterward. The coffee grounds use the same method. A quick word to the wise: your car will most likely end up smelling like coffee instead of whatever spilled, so if you’re not a coffee-smell lover, I wouldn’t recommend this one.

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AC filters: Many times smells stick around because there’s improper circulation in your vehicle. Keeping your windows open will help with this, but to truly make a difference, change the filter for your AC unit. It will not only prevent musty, moldy smells that can emanate from the filter itself, but it will improve circulation and clear out nasty smells faster.

Air fresheners: My one word of advice on air fresheners is to be cautious. They do not actually remove smells; they simply mask them. Try to get all the smell out of your car first before moving on to the air freshening scent of your choice. If you don’t, you could end up with a mix of air freshener and vomit funk. It’s bad. I promise.

Photo by: [F]oxymoron

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