Dealing with machine-baked odors can be a long and arduous process. First you must find out why your car stinks and then you must fix the problem. When odors caused by mechanical problems this could be the end of it.

In many cases where this isn’t enough, especially when the odor has actually made its way into every nook and cranny of your passenger compartment, you’ll be left with a car that still smells.

There are a number of different methods that can be helpful for eliminating bad breath once the source of the smell has been eliminated, so it’s generally a good idea to start with the basics and work your way up.

Here are four of the best ways to get rid of bad car odor:

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Exit the Vac Store

Пылесосить машину

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Removing bad car odors with a vacuum

Believe it or not, vacuuming is a great way to get rid of a lot of bad car odors. It might not be up to the task on its own, but it’s a great place to start.

If you have a vacuum cleaner in the store or a powerful portable device, then you are all set. If you don’t, then you need to look for a repair shop, gas station, or car wash that has a vacuum that you can use. You then need to go through the carpeting and upholstery, trying to hit every square inch.

The vacuum often does its job, but particularly stubborn odors may require steam cleaning. Or you can move on to one of the other methods and save steam cleaning for later.

  • smelly culprit — Smelly substances can settle on the carpet and cling to surfaces. Each time they are disturbed, the bad smell is renewed.
  • Why this fix works — Vacuuming carpet and cloth can remove smelly materials from your car.
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Absorb and neutralize odor

Коробка пищевой соды в холодильнике

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Eliminate unpleasant odors from vehicles with absorbents and neutralizers

Long-lasting odors that seem to just hang in the air, even after you vacuum carpet and upholstery, can often be absorbed or neutralized by charcoal, baking soda, or various commercial products specifically formulated for this purpose.

Charcoal is a type of carbon that has a very large surface area compared to its size, allowing it to absorb odors at the molecular level. This is due to the so-called van der Waals force, which is the same phenomenon that allows animals like spiders and geckos to climb walls.

If you’re feeling modest, you can put a few pieces of plain old charcoal in your car and leave it there for a while. Or you can buy a commercial charcoal odor remover that is specifically designed for this purpose.

Baking soda is also good at removing odors, which is why people like to keep an open box of groceries in their refrigerator . Instead of just leaving a box of baking soda in your car, you’ll need to sprinkle it on your stinky carpet, let it dry for a while, and then vacuum it up.

Other products designed to eliminate bad odors in your home, such as odor neutralizing sprays and odor absorbing gels, can also do the same job in your car.

  • smelly culprit — after removing the source of the unpleasant odor, the particles may remain suspended in the air or settle on the carpet.
  • Why this fix works — Baking soda, charcoal and other related products can absorb or trap stinky particles so you can remove them from your car.
  • advanced technique Sprinkle baking soda on carpet and upholstery, let it rest, then vacuum. Be sure to test a small section of carpet and upholstery first to ensure there is no discoloration.
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Use an air purifier or ion generator

Двое мужчин устанавливают автомобильный воздушный фильтр

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Removing bad car odors with air purifiers

Purifiers air the size of a car and ion generators generally don’t have the power to remove really stubborn odors, but they work well in some situations. If charcoal and baking soda aren’t up to the task, you might want to explore options for cleaning the air in your car.

Although automotive air purifiers and ion generators do not always work, there are situations when the right one can do the trick.

  • smelly culprit — smells can linger in the air inside your car.
  • Why this fix works — air purifiers can detain particles smell, like smoke .
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Take it to a professional

Человек рукопожатие с механиком

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Taking the car into a profession to fix bad car odors

The best way to knock out some persistent odors, like smoke and mildew, is ozone. However, it’s important to note that so-called ozone-generating air purifiers and filters you can buy for home use aren’t up to the task.

In fact, the EPA has actually warned that using air filters that generate ozone can present a literal hazard to your health.

Ozone is great when it’s in the upper atmosphere, protecting us from ultraviolet rays. Down here closer to the ground, it’s a different story. The fact is that ozone is actually toxic, and exposing yourself to the levels that are required to effectively counteract stubborn odors would be very dangerous.

So while ozone generators are available to the public, you may want to look for a professional who has experience knocking out stubborn car smells with ozone.

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