July 14, 2024


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Helpful Tips to a Fresh Smelling Car

Helpful Tips to a Fresh Smelling Car

Young woman holding her nose because of bad smell in car

No matter what your situation is, keeping your car smelling fresh for yourself and your passengers can be a challenging task. Whether it’s a humid climate festering a musky scent or the smell from your breakfast overstaying its welcome, we’ve got some solutions.

Below are some tips to not just keep the bad smells away but also to add some pleasant aromas to the mix. Your passengers will certainly thank you.

Deep Cleaning

Regular cleaning is the simplest way to keep foul odors out of your car. Food crumbs and dirt that accumulate on the upholstery and floor must be vacuumed regularly using a high-powered machine (found at most gas stations). Wiping down the console and other parts of the interior with a safe disinfectant will help too.

However, it’s not enough to just handle the surface area dirt and grime. Both leather and fabric upholstery will soak up sweat, saliva, and other airborne particles. At least once a year, you need to get down and dirty. This means a deep clean using shampoo and brushes. An upholstery cleaning machine works great, especially if you’ve got one for indoor carpet cleaning. But if you find yourself short on time and supplies, hiring a mobile detailer is a great alternative.


It’s not just for the weekend barbeque. Charcoal has a natural ability to absorb both moisture and odors from the air. Not to mention it’s non-toxic. 

But that doesn’t mean grabbing some briquettes from out of the grill. You’ll need activated charcoal for the best results. This can be found in a variety of forms, but the easiest way is to purchase charcoal used in aquariums. It’s cheap and can be found at just about any pet store.

To use charcoal in your vehicle, you’ll want to store it in something that air can pass through. An old sock or cloth bag does the trick. Hang it from your rear view mirror when you’re not driving and it’ll soak up those nasty smells while you’re away. Every few months, swap out the old charcoal for some new stuff.

Or if you’re lazy like me, you can buy pre-filled charcoal bags at some stores that sell car accessories. It’s a little costlier, but you’re paying for that convenience.

Air Fresheners

For 70 years, the folks at Little Trees have been selling tree-shaped paper air fresheners you can hang from the rear-view mirror. They’re cheap, come in numerous scents, and are available to purchase just about everywhere. You can even get fancy and make some custom car air fresheners with your own design from a company like CustomAirFresheners.net.

If you’re looking for something more discrete, a vent clip from a company like Febreze works wonders. Not only do they stay out of your line of vision while driving, but their convenient placement on the vent also ensures air pushes through the air freshener and into the vehicle.

Essential Oils

In the same strategy as the retail car air fresheners, essential oils can mask existing odors and create a pleasant fragrance for all to enjoy. Essential oils are available to purchase online from several retailers. They’re safe to use and provide some of the best fragrances you can ask for.

Getting those oils to fill your car can be a little trickier and requires some creativity on your part. A quick Google search can lead you to tutorials that include using cotton balls, mason jars, clay blocks, and much more. You can even sprinkle a few drops on your dried-up paper air freshener to avoid unnecessary waste.

Coffee Beans

Yes, the solution might be sitting in your cupboard. Coffee beans not only absorb smells, but they can also act as a sort of palate cleanser for your nose. It’s why they’re commonly used at perfume counters when testing out fragrances.

Using coffee beans is pretty simple too. Scoop a handful into a sock or cloth bag. Throw it under the seat and replace it with a fresh batch every six months.

Fabric Dryer Sheets

Another commonly used household item can do wonders for sprucing up your smelly automobile. Grab a fresh dryer sheet and wipe down your upholstery. Not only will the fragrance from the sheets rub off, but it’ll also coat the upholstery a little, which prevents sweat and saliva from being absorbed into the fabric.

Replace Filters and Clean that A/C

Most new cars have an air filter inside the cabin, which new air passes through. This relatively small part soaks up dirt, fungus, mold, and other particles that reside in the air. But over time, that filter can get stinky as those substances fester. Information on replacing these filters are in your manual, and the difficulty depends on the make and model. If you find it challenging or confusing, just ask your mechanic to do the job next time your car is in for maintenance.

If you’re still getting a foul odor coming through the vents after swapping out the filter, the problem could be a little deeper. It might be time for an air conditioner cleaning. A special cleaner can be purchased at most auto parts stores and sprayed through the exterior intake vents (these vents are where the windshield wipers reside). Be certain to follow the instructions on the can.

Open the Windows

This is the simplest path to a fresher-smelling vehicle but often not done enough. Pollutant levels are higher inside cars because the air is brought in while driving next to other vehicles. The air on the highway is dirtier and more toxic than most. You know this feeling each time you get behind a big diesel truck.

The key here is to air out your cars on a regular basis. It’s often a good idea to roll down those windows for a minute after you pull into the driveway. And on those nice Summer days, open the window and sunroof to give your vehicle a real breath of fresh air. Not only is that healthier for you, but it eliminates some of those odors that keep getting recycled through your car.