How To Remove Bad Odors From Your Car or Truck

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Published: 06th March 2012
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What to do when your car smells like last weekís lunch. So many options to make your head spin, but which car odor eliminator techniques, tricks and tips really work? Odors in the car can come from countless sources, from a buildup of dust in the air vents to a dead animal in your tailpipe. I know you donít really care WHAT is causing the smell. You simply want it gone...NOW. With that in mind, here is a list of the popular car odor eliminator methods that actually work. As you should with all tasks, Iíve started with the easiest solutions first. So, do these car odor elimination methods in order, and hope, after you try each technique, that it will be the last one you need to do. Good luck!

1. Hang An Air Freshener In Your Car. The most popular, commonly used and easiest method of eliminating odors from a car is using a good, old fashioned hanging air freshener. This simple car odor eliminator is usually just a piece of cardboard coated in scented oil. Hang the air freshener from your rear view mirror to allow the scented oil from the cardboard to envelope the car. Unfortunately, this will only cover up small odors.

To cover stronger car odors, try this more modern car odor eliminator: a car vent air freshener. These are usually tiny, plastic containers of scented oil, that clip or hook on your air vent, with a miniature fan on the front. Every time you run the air conditioner, or the heat, the air blows from the vent, and turns the fan, distributing the scent throughout the vehicle.

2. Use A Car Odor Eliminator Spray. Air freshener sprays are designed to remove odor from the air. For a quick fix to cover a car odor, keep a can of air freshener under your seat. Hey...you keep one in your bathroom, right? Now that valet wonít wrinkle his nose at you anymore!
3. Use Extracts and Essences To Cover Odor In Your Car. Buy these items in the baking aisle of grocery stores. The most effective seem to be vanilla extract and essence of mint. Get some cotton balls, place several drops of extract on them and place them inside the car. After a few days, your car should smell as nice as your kitchen!

HINT: If you need to REMOVE CAR ODOR, rather than cover it, use orange peal, lemon peal and baking soda. The acidic and aromatic qualities found in citrus are utilized in many organic sprays and cleaners. Put pieces of the peals in cheesecloth and hide them in various locations inside the car. You can also put open boxes of baking soda on your seats and floor overnight. It works to eliminate food odor from your refrigerator!

4. Clean Out The Inside Of Your Car. Start by simply clearing everything out of the car. Throw out the trash and stack up the rest in a safe place. Next, consult the car's manual for advice on which cleaning products are safe to use on it. HINT: If you donít have the manual, ask your local car dealer for advice. Armed with the proper products for your vehicle, start washing and shampooing your car's carpet, upholstery, dashboard, etc.

5. Wipe Down All The Carís Surfaces. Wipe down every plastic, wood, glass, and metal surface in the car. Warm water works fine for this, but you may use a mild detergent for most surfaces, glass cleaner for glass, and leather cleaner for leather seats. Your local car store will also offer interior car cleaner. If youíre working outside, and itís really hot out, be sure to leave the doors and windows open to let the car cool down first or it'll be smelly AND hot inside. HINT: Donít forget to clean inside the glove compartment.

6. Vacuum The Inside Of The Car. The fabric in the car absorbs all the smells of everything, and everyone, thatís every been in it: people, animals, food, drinks, smoke, etc. Start by brushing out the carpet, to loosen up all dried materials, so they will vacuum up easily. Remove any floor rugs that you can, shake them out vigorously, and vacuum them. Then vacuum your carís carpet thoroughly, and seats too, if they are cloth. Use the vacuum nozzle for car seats, opening the seat cushions up to release the dirt from their cracks.

7. Steam Clean The Inside Of The Car. Use an appropriate car shampoo/enzymatic odor remover and an extracting machine (steam clean, steam extraction, or hot water extraction) to steam clean the carpet, and cloth seats, if applicable. Remember to use clean water and change it frequently, wringing out all excess water as you go, so that there is never water pooling in the car.

8. Deodorize The Air Intake Vent Of The Car. Open the hood of the car in a well-ventilated location (preferably outside). Start the engine and put the parking brake on (to be safe). Turn the air-conditioning and fan on and all the way up. HINT: Set the "fresh air/recirculate" to the "Fresh Air" (outside air) position. Go to the front fender side of the car (typically on the passengerís side) and take a look in the engine compartment to find the AC/heater "Air Intake" or ďcowl vent.Ē It should be located just below the bottom edge of the windshield and all have some sort of screen, grid or levers covering the intake.

Using a bottle of a odor neutralizer, which can be purchased at most grocery and department stores, spray directly into the intake screen. After a few sprays, smell the inside of the to check if the deodorizer is circulating through the carís AC system. If the odor is still present, repeat this process. This removes odors from the air conditioning evaporator, blower, and ducting, which are places where smoke and odors collect in a car. Next, switch the carís AC/heater control to "Full Heat", leave the engine running, the air control on the "Fresh Air" position and the fan on full blast. Get out of the car and repeat the spray treatment process of the air intake you did earlier. By switching the AC/heater to the ďFull HeatĒ position, the deodorizer will now remove odors from the heater core, blower, and ducting, which are other places odors can collect in the car. If the bad odor is still present, repeat this spraying process again.

9. Give The Car An Ozone Shock Treatment. Use an ozone generator to kill bacteria, mildew and denature odorous organic compounds. Look up how to do an ozone shock treatment on a car on the Internet.

10. Pay A Professional To Deodorize The Car. There are people who specialize in removing odors from cars, through professional detailing outlets and specialized cleaning. Search online or call a local car dealership for their advice on a specialist in your area. If they canít recommend anyone, call the local police, who should have contact information for companies who do difficult cleaning jobs. There are commercial cleaning solutions that you can use to remove specific odors. but they might only be obtainable from professional detailers or auto shops. Before you call one, make a list of details about the carís odor.

If you think 1-10 is too much work, then clean up all spills in your car promptly. Everything is much easier to remove when itís still fresh. The faster you clean it up, the less odor it will leave behind. Regularly remove food left-overs, drink bottles, and any materials that have entered the car on animals, people (hands and feet), clothing, and equipment.

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