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Smells Begone! How to Deodorize Your Car Using Five Easy Tips

Truck full of stuff.

In today’s fast-paced world, vehicles act as more than just a means of getting around. They also serve as offices, living rooms and even dining room tables for those on the go. With all that “life” taking place inside, your car is bound to end up with spilled drinks, old food and other things that can quickly cause quite a stink. Here are five tips for how to deodorize your car and get the funk out.

1. Bag It Upspill in car

The majority of bad smells that occur in cars tend to come from errant garbage and food wrappers that wind up beneath car seats and go unnoticed for ages.

A good way to keep your trash in one place and make it easy to remove is to keep a shopping bag in the car to bag up any wrappers or refuse. Alternately, you can use your door’s side pocket as a track bin for small papers and wrappers.

More than anything, you should make it a habit to take out the trash whenever you fill up with gas. Vigilance will help you to avoid any uninvited aromas.

2. Prevent Spills

There is no incentive to not spill in your car more compelling than the potential stench of spoiled milk. While you may feel confident that you can balance your morning iced coffee and breakfast sandwich on the center console, you’re just one abrupt braking event away from disaster.

You can also use spill-proof travel mugs that will keep your drinks contained in the event that disaster strikes. Similarly, food should be stored in sealed containers that won’t open if you do have to make a sudden stop.

3. Act Fast

If you’ve already spilled in your car, you should treat the spill immediately. Use paper towels or a shop rag to soak up as much liquid as possible. Lay it over the spill and use the palms of your hands to press down firmly.

Once you have the area reasonably dry, use a shop vacuum to suck any liquid that may become trapped beneath the upholstery. If the smell is particularly strong, you can sprinkle odor-neutralizing baking soda on the area and let it set in before vacuuming it out. If you’re dealing with a particularly foul stench, you may want to consider an odor eliminator spray.

4. Wipe It Down

Spills and messes can go beyond car seats and carpets, ending up on consoles, dashboards and other hard surfaces. While these surfaces are solid and resistant to any staining or deep soaking, they are semiporous and can grow bacteria from spills.

You can protect your car’s interior by wiping it down with a cleaner made for vinyl and plastic surfaces. You can also keep a small pack of surface-cleaning wipes in the car in the event of a spill emergency.

5. Cleanliness Is Key

Although spills are obvious causes of soiling in your car, one less obvious source of smell may be any items you’ve stowed away or forgotten about. Whether it’s your smelly gym bag, a child’s old sneaker or even a bag of groceries that was forgotten about in the trunk, anything overlooked can foul up your interior. Keeping your car constantly cleaned out, trunk included, will help avoid bad smells.

Remember: One ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Getting to a spill as soon as it occurs will help make it easier to clean up.

Check out all the chemical products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to deodorize your car, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Image courtesy of Flickr


Erich Reichert View All

Erich Reichert has been an editor and on-air personality in the radio control car hobby for 12 years. A certified car nut since birth, he has written for internationally published titles such as RC Car Action, RC Driver and Xtreme RC Cars, as well as Stuff Magazine, Road and Track and Super Street. He's covered everything from product reviews and tech articles to high-profile lifestyle pieces and celebrity interviews. Erich found his passion for writing after a successful career as an art director, working with brands such as Pepsico, NASCAR, MTV, Nintendo, WWE, Cannondale Bicycles and HBO. He's also a father, an avid hockey fan and an FIA race license holder who enjoys hiking, playing drums and movies.

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