How to get rid of bad smells in your car

When you own a car, you realise after a while that even if you try your best to keep it pristinely clean, dirty and bad smells are inevitable.

Your car is your sanctuary on wheels. But sometimes strange smells may create an unpleasant atmosphere. It’s time for a cleanse before the cooler winter months arrive. Here are some cleaning products to help keep your car smelling fresh.


Most odours are trapped in the interior fabric. You can use the upholstery attachment on your vacuum to help you do a detailed clean. If you are still unsatisfied, steam cleaning will do the trick. For mildew and wet carpet smells you can use a dry/wet vacuum or get a dehumidifier.

Baking soda and kitty litter

When you are concerned about spilt liquid waste items, baking soda or kitty litter can be used as an inexpensive absorbent. All you need to do is sprinkle it on, rub it in and leave it for a few hours. It will then absorb any liquid and foul smells. A quick vacuum and the odours are gone.


Charcoal also absorbs scents. For this to work, simply grab a chunk of charcoal and leave it in the car for a few days. Activated charcoal (found in the aquarium section of a pet store) works best when you’re dealing with organic odours like sweat, food, or mould. The other, cheaper, alternative is using charcoal grill briquettes which don’t contain lighter fluids.

Natural air freshener

The most efficient, long-term tactic to avoid foul scents is to choose your favourite scent and keep it in the car at all times. Examples would be vanilla on cotton balls, a container of ground coffee or citrus oils.

White vinegar

White vinegar is the easiest solution for cleaning large surfaces. You need to mix one part white vinegar with two parts water in a spray bottle and spray the solution onto the seats (repeat process till the odour is gone). It is a natural, antibacterial and anti-fungal mix which makes it extra effective to fight against food or mould odours. Plus, you can use it on cloth (leave it to dry) and leather car seats (wipe it off). It also does wonders in cars with smoking odour.


Zeolite is another purchase from the aquarium section of the pet store. Even though a little pricier than other options, it is reusable. After you have allowed the zeolite to do its duty, place the tray in the sun and the absorbed odours will be baked out of it, allowing you to reuse it.

Ozone shock treatment

This is a method of last resort. The treatment actually kills bacteria and mildew and any other organic compounds that may cause odour inside the car.

But it needs to be performed by a professional. It is known to exacerbate asthma and increase susceptibility to lung infections if inhaled in high concentration.