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How to get rid of bad car interior odours

by Neil Allen /

Does your car interior smell bad? Perhaps you’re wondering why it does, and how to get to back to it being fresh again. Here are a few reasons why that might be so, and what to do a about it.

Causes of a stinky car cabin

Let’s go through the obvious stuff first. If you’ve not cleaned your car’s cabin for a long while, naturally it will start to gather dust and grime. The more regularly you drive your vehicle, the dustier it’ll be.

front seat interior

Even if you give the dash and centre console a wipe over, it’s the hidden stuff that create the musty smell; crumbs from food down the side of the seats and centre console which then go rotten, perhaps coffee that was spilt and never cleaned properly – the milk in it then sours, then there’s the stuff you’ve trodden onto your mats from the street walking to your car; chewing gum, traces of dog dirt, spilt food etc, and there’s also the mess under the mats you rarely see.

Whether you have leather or fabric seats in your car, they still get dirty, and after you’ve been sat on benches, restaurant chairs or perhaps a wall, that’s then transferred to your vehicle’s seats. Over time this builds layers, and even if you can’t see them it’s still there, and just like clothing, if you don’t clean them they get smelly. We’ll tackle cleaning seats properly in another article.

Another stinky area is the boot (or trunk) of the car. This is a heavy-use area, and especially so if you have a family. Just think of the stuff that gets goes in there; your dog after a walk, sweaty sports shoes, food from shopping, all the old stuff from a trip to the landfill site, drinks bottles and cartons that may have spilt their contents at one time.

I find it absolutely hilarious that people will keep their houses and the exterior of their car immaculate, but then you get in their car and you may as well by sitting in a rubbish tip; litter on the floor, crumbs in the footwells, thick dust on all the surfaces and smeared windows. It’s not exactly going to smell of roses now, is it? Oh, and that chemical-soaked scent thing you’ve got hanging from your rear view mirror – that’s only lightly masking the stink.

It all adds up to a car interior that ends up smelling a bit like an unwashed sock. So, what’s the answer to ridding your car of unwanted smells?

Here’s how to rid of bad smells from your car’s interior

front seat of car

Even if you give the dash and centre console a wipe over, it’s the hidden stuff that create the musty smell; crumbs from food down the side of the seats and centre console which then go rotten, perhaps coffee that was spilt and never cleaned properly – the milk in it then sours, then there’s the stuff you’ve trodden onto your mats from the street walking to your car; chewing gum, traces of dog dirt, spilt food etc, and there’s also the mess under the mats you rarely see.

Whether you have leather or fabric seats in your car, they still get dirty, and after you’ve been sat on benches, restaurant chairs or perhaps a wall, that’s then transferred to your vehicle’s seats. Over time this builds layers, and even if you can’t see them it’s still there, and just like clothing, if you don’t clean them they get smelly. We’ll tackle cleaning seats properly in another article.

Another stinky area is the boot (or trunk) of the car. This is a heavy-use area, and especially so if you have a family. Just think of the stuff that gets goes in there; your dog after a walk, sweaty sports shoes, food from shopping, all the old stuff from a trip to the landfill site, drinks bottles and cartons that may have spilt their contents at one time.

I find it absolutely hilarious that people will keep their houses and the exterior of their car immaculate, but then you get in their car and you may as well by sitting in a rubbish tip; litter on the floor, crumbs in the footwells, thick dust on all the surfaces and smeared windows. It’s not exactly going to smell of roses now, is it? Oh, and that chemical-soaked scent thing you’ve got hanging from your rear view mirror – that’s only lightly masking the stink.

It all adds up to a car interior that ends up smelling a bit like an unwashed sock. So, what’s the answer to ridding your car of unwanted smells?

Here’s how to rid of bad smells from your car’s interior

lexus tan interior

However, some smells may be more stubborn or permanent. This could be from spilt milk or food that’s now ingrained into the fibres of the carpets and seats, or perhaps water that has leaked into the vehicle in the past from seals that have failed.

For these sorts of problems, there are some brilliant products out there that kill the bacteria permanently, such as Valet Pro Enzyme Odour Eater, Autoglym Odour Eliminator, Odor Aid and ones such as these.

Hopefully, after you’ve done the above, you’ll have a car interior that’s clean and fresh as new!

Photo credits: Dirty interior, Michael Theis; Clean Porsche car seats (2 photos) Bryn Pinzgauer; Really clean car interior – 2012 Lexus RX270 interior, NRMA Motoring and Services;

Written by Chris Davies – an award-winning motoring journalist writing for CarProductsTested.com

 

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