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Mold and Mildew Removal for Your Car

Mold and mildew removal takes some work, but it's doable with spray cleaners, baking soda and sometimes professional auto detailing.

That new car smell doesn’t last forever. That’s natural. But if it’s been replaced by the smell of mold or mildew, you’ll want to address the problem. The good news is that it can be fixed. Mold and mildew removal takes some work, but it’s doable.

Prevention is the Best Cure

Mold and mildew are caused by moisture. If you have a leaky door, window or sunroof seal, you need to get it fixed. The heat of the sun isn’t drying out that moisture; it’s creating the perfect home for mold and mildew. Exercising caution when you have food and beverages in the car — and staying on top of spills when they happen — is also a good tactic for preventing mold and mildew.

DIY Mold and Mildew Removal

When you’ve found the mildew stain or mold in your car, get after it right away with a spray cleaner specially formulated to remove mildew stains. Wait until the mildew stain disappears before rinsing. If it’s still there, try a second spray and some light coating. Rinse thoroughly, but remember to dry things out when the spot is clean. Otherwise, you’re just adding moisture that can cause mold or mildew in your car all over again.

From the Kitchen to the CarClean back seat of car

Baking soda is your friend when it comes to mold and mildew removal in your car because it absorbs water. Sprinkle it on your seats, carpets or wherever there’s moisture. After a couple of hours, vacuum out the baking soda. Live in a humid climate? Keep some baking soda in your car. All you need is a small open container of it (try keeping some in a tiny Tupperware bowl). It will pull moisture out of the air inside your car, and just like when you put an open box of it in your refrigerator, it will make the car’s interior smell fresher too. Or if you’d prefer, an open bag of rice will do the trick as well. It absorbs moisture, as you’ll see when the dry grains puff up after being inside your humid car.

If All Else Fails, Call in Help

If the mold or mildew smell never quite goes away, it could be time for a thorough and professional interior detailing job. A good, experienced auto detailer has seen (and smelled) it all, and knows every method for making that mold or mildew smell go away for good. If you’ve tried all the steps above and you still have a mold or mildew problem, it’s time to bring in a pro.

Don’t Wait to Treat the Problem

Once that mold and mildew smell is gone, you’ll breathe easier, your friends will be a lot happier going along for rides and you’ll be more satisfied with your car. Plus, the health benefits of clean air are important considerations for you and your passengers.

Check out all the interior products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on removing mold or mildew smells and stains, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.


Mike Hagerty View All

Mike Hagerty is an automotive journalist whose work has been featured on radio, TV, in print and online since 1997. He's the Publisher and Editor of, and contributes car reviews to the Los Altos Town Crier and Previous outlets have included KFBK and in Sacramento, California, the ABC television affiliates and Hearst-Argyle and Emmis radio stations in Phoenix, Arizona; AAA magazines for Arizona, Oklahoma, Northwest Ohio, South Dakota and the Mountain West and

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