Over the course of car ownership, bad odors will eventually make their way to the interior of your car. Needless to say, it's an unpleasant experience for both you and your passengers. Add in the fact that you will have to be sitting in your car for hours on end, it can be an incredibly stressful experience.
Fortunately, you can always do something about it. While air fresheners are a valid solution to this pungent problem, these only mask the odors and that foul smell will always linger in the car. To really get rid of the stink, this requires a lot more elbow work.
Here then is a handy guide to get rid of bad smells in your car. It may take a good chunk out of your day but it will be worth it. Believe me.
Get a car wash
Sometimes, a simple car wash is all it takes to get rid of smells coming from the car. You may not know it but the car may have run over animal droppings, garbage or even decaying matter. Be thorough in washing the car as some of these bad smelling bits of road debris may have made their way to the fender liner and other parts of the underchassis. Get an underchassis wash if needed.
Take out the trash
The first, and perhaps most simple, step is to take out all the clutter in your car. Candy wraps, discarded food wrappers and empty bottles are a good place to start. Check under the seats if some of these items have rolled underneath and do take take to check the cubby holes, cupholders and the glovebox. If your car is equipped with a generous amount of hidden pockets, check those as well, along with the trunk. You may even find the source of the stench.
The vacuum cleaner is your friend
At some point we've eaten messy food inside our cars, leaving a trail of crumbs as we munch. It goes without saying that picking these up by hand is a tedious task - that's where the trusty vacuum cleaner steps in. It can easily pick up small bits and bobs as well as being able to get into the nooks and crannies of the interior. If your car has fabric trim, odors tend to be trapped there and vacuuming can usually eliminate the smell. If you frequently transport pets, vacuuming will get rid of the fur which may be one of the reasons why the interior smells bad.
Air it out
If the odors have clung onto the interior of the car, air it out overnight. Simply roll down the windows and the not so strong smells should be able to make their way out. This only applies if you have a secure garage with a roof.
Coffee, Charcoal and Baking Soda
If the smell still lingers after airing it out, consider using ground up coffee or charcoal. These items go beyond merely masking the pungent scents. Coffee grounds emit a strong scent that can either overpower or even neutralize bad odors in the car. While odorless, charcoal also has the same odor-absorbing properties of coffee grounds but do note that lumps of coal won't do the trick. These have to be activated in order to be effective. Besides its odor-absorbing properties, charcoal also prevents mold buildup in the car.
Should there be spillage on fabric seats, carpets or cloth trim, sprinkle some baking soda on the spot. After that, rub the baking soda into the affected area (or areas) and leave it there for a few hours. After that, vacuum the areas with baking soda. Like charcoal and coffee grounds, it too absorbs odors but given its straightforward application you will be able to remove the source of the bad smell once it's been pinpointed.
Check Your Air-Conditioning
It's not always litter (or bodily excretions) that's the source of unpleasant odors in your car. The car's air-conditioning system traps a lot dirt and grime which eventually leads to mold. Take time to get your air-con serviced and get a thorough clean-up. Replace your cabin air filter too as it is one of the parts that people do not change come service time. If the smell is still present, the worst case scenario is having a dead animal that somehow made its way to the air-conditioning system.
Hire professional help
If all else fails, then its time to go to a professional detailer. There may be an area that you missed or the source of the odor may be in an unusual, hard to reach spot. Professional detailers will remove the interior panels of car and go as far as applying fabric cleaner to all seats. With the interior stripped out, they will also be able to find the cause of the nasty smell and get rid of it.
Keeping your car fresh
With the odors gone, it's best to keep it smelling fresh to avoid the odors acumulating. For that, keep wiping away dust and other particles inside your car with a microfiber cloth. As much as possible, avoid eating certain kinds of food in the car as well. Lastly, you can top it all off by spraying on some odor neutralizer such as Sonax Car Breeze. It may be a relatively minor thing but keep your interior smelling fresh is one way to lessen the stress of the daily grind. After all, who would want to drive around in a stink bomb?