Ugh, dreaded car odors! Bad car smells can range from slight to horrible depending on the cause. Fortunately, you don’t have to continue driving around in a car with a bad odor. Learn how to remove car odors without using harmful chemicals in the process.
Car air fresheners and chemical sprays that try to reduce or mask odors can be worse than having a bad car smell in the first place. Not only can the scent smell horrible, but synthetic fragrances and the chemicals used in deodorizers can be harmful. Some of the symptoms you might encounter are headaches, allergies, sore throat, and skin irritations. Now imagine using those fragrances in a confined area such as your car. Yikes!
Fortunately, you don’t have to resort to toxic air fresheners. There are many natural ways to remove car odors.
How Do I Get Rid of a Bad Smell in My Car?
First off, this should go without saying, but open the car windows to begin airing out your car.
1. Clean Your Car to Remove Odors
If you have trash in your car, be sure to throw it out. Look in the seat pockets, under the floor mats, and between seats and under seats for trash that might have accumulated and been there a while, such as old food.
Use a rag to clean up any liquid that might have gotten on the seats or carpet.
If you have leather seats, use a natural cleaner to wipe the seats down as well.
Use a Vacuum to Remove Car Odors
Use a shop vac, car vac or a hand-held vacuum to vacuum out the vehicle. Make sure you vacuum the seats, carpet and floor mats. Use any special vacuum tools or nozzles that you can in order to get down in between the seats and cup holder.
If there is still a bad smell in your car, or if you’re dealing with fragrance or a new car off-gasing, you will need to take additional action.
As someone who has Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, I have personal experience of having physical reactions from car odors such as “new car smell”, off-gasing, or the cleaners that rental companies use. Anytime my husband and I rent a car, I have to air it out before we drive it someplace. Actually, I first call the rental company to ask them not to spray added fragrances in the car we will be renting. However, that’s not always an option as they might detail the cars as soon as they are returned. If that’s the case, I try the following natural options to remove car odors.
What Can Absorb Bad Odors?
There are some natural alternatives when it comes to absorbing odors. Baking soda is a natural absorber. Also, charcoal or coffee can be used. Another thing I have tried is an onion.
2. Use Baking Soda to Remove Odor
Baking soda, yes, the same baking soda you can cook with is a great natural odor absorber. Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, has a low pH level. Since many odors tend to be acidic, or are of a higher pH level, baking soda can lower the pH level. This will neutralize an odor and cause it to be removed.
Sprinkle some baking soda over a dry surface, such as your car floor or seats. For stubborn odors, you might need to rub the baking soda in. Let the baking soda sit for a few hours then vacuum it up.
You can also leave a few boxes of baking soda in your car to act as a natural air deodorizer.
3. Use Charcoal to Remove Odor
Charcoal is another great natural odor absorber. Charcoal is a form of carbon with a porous surface area that can trap odors, bacteria, and chemicals. It can also help to remove allergens, harmful pollutants and excess moisture from the air.
Charcoal is odorless, but it can be messy with its powdery dark black color.
Activated charcoal has oxygen added to it to increase its porosity. Either activated charcoal or regular charcoal can be used to reduce odors. I have used charcoal briquettes in my car to absorb odors. I lay them in the trunk or under the seats.
Moso bags that are filled with bamboo charcoal are also great to keep in your car. They are non-toxic and can freshen air for up to two years! To keep the bags working their best you should set the bag outside once a month to rejuvenate. The sun clears the pores of the charcoal.
Activated charcoal is great for many other things other than reducing odors. One thing that Moso Natural recommends after you have had the bag for 2 years is to sprinkle the charcoal over the soil of your garden. The charcoal helps the plants absorb moisture and nutrients.
4. Coffee and Onions Can Neutralize Odors
Both coffee grounds and onions help to eliminate odors. I wouldn’t use them at the same time though! Each has a strong scent of its own. Their strong smells can either overpower or neutralize the bad car odors.
You can leave either coffee grounds or an onion (cut in half) in a bowl in your car overnight to see if it does the trick.
More Serious Car Odors
If the above suggestions don’t reduce your car odors, the odor might be something more serious.
If the odor smells like gas inside your car, you will want to immediately take your car into a repair shop for service. The mechanic will be able to identify if the odor is caused by a leak.
Have you accidentally left your windows down in the rain? Has it been a while since you have changed your air filter? Has it been a while since you have had a car tune-up where they checked your air conditioning system?
5. Car Mold Removal
It’s unfortunate, but one source of an odor in a car could be mold. Your air conditioning system can house mold, just as your carpet or cloth seats could too.
If the smell is mold-related, you need to try to find the source of water exposure. Once you stopped the moisture entry and have dried out the area, you can do a few things to get rid of the mildew smell and decrease the mold spore count.
According to the Toxic Mold Summit, if you suspect you have mold, you can test your car. Put a mold testing plate on the driver’s seat. Run the heater or air conditioner on recirculate for 30 minutes. Then turn off the car engine. Keep the test plate on the seat for an additional 30 minutes before seeing what the test results are.
In order to get rid of the mold, use a natural botanical, or another natural mold killer such as essential oils. Don’t use bleach! Spray the seats or carpet if you had water damage there.
Turn on the car with the heater or air conditioner on to suck air in from the outside. Spray the natural mold killer at the base of the windshield where the air gets pulled in from the outside. Then spray the air conditioning/heater vents to treat those.
6. Use an Air Purifier to Remove Car Odors
They actually make air purifiers which work nicely in cars. I’ve even run the air purifier that I use in our home overnight in our car when needed. With the small size of a car interior, it works quickly.
As you can see, there are many ways to naturally remove car odors without using harmful chemical products.
Let me know in the comments below how you remove car odors.
Happy odor-free driving!