How to make A Car Smell Good Naturally

By Max. D Gray. Updated: March 14, 2022
How to make A Car Smell Good Naturally

Our cars are confined spaces with absorbent seating where we often cram whole families into. It is unsurprising that this can lead to bad smells and foul odors seeping into your car interior and staying there. If it's winter time, we often can't even open the windows to get some fresh air in. Smoking, drink spillages and passengers with bad personal hygiene (whether human or otherwise) can create an overall odor which is quite unpleasant. With all these factors, making your car smell good can be tricky. Using chemical odor eliminators and fragrances can often be too harsh and simply mask the bad smells. oneHOWTO shows you how to make your car smell good naturally so we can drive free and breezy.

You may also be interested in: How To Remove Sick Smell From Your Car

One of the most popular ways to make your car smell good is to use an air freshener. Often this comes in the form of the ever present 'new car smell', designed to mimic the unique aroma provided by a car fresh off the lot. There has been some concern that these aromas are toxic. While it is unlikely they are, they can rile up people's allergies[1]. This can make your drive uncomfortable, but is also a concern if you have different passengers. Taxi drivers and app-based transportation service drivers might need to consider this when picking up fares.

Here are some of the artificial air fresheners on the market:

  • Air freshener sprays
  • Hanging air fresheners (like the famous pine cone air freshener)
  • Clip-on air fresheners on the vents
  • Electric air fresheners
  • Ioniser air fresheners

These options do have their advantages. Sprays are good at getting into the fabric of your car upholstery while hanging air fresheners are close enough to the driver's nose to at least keep the odors from them. Those that clip on to the vents use the car's ventilation system to propel the smell throughout the car. Ionisers can be effective in removing the bad smells which permeate your car, but that can be on the expensive side.

In many cases, cars smell bad because the air conditioning system isn't being cared for properly. As a result, bacteria multiply and cause an unpleasant odor to develop. You might smell it especially when you turn on the air conditioning.

The best thing to prevent this type of bad car smell is to clean the air conditioning every 6 months using an appropriate cleaning product. Fortunately, we have the know to to show you how to get rid of bad air conditioning smells.

Preventing bad smells in your car

Apart from cleaning the air conditioning system, prevention is the best way to keep your car smelling clean and fresh. Here are some suggestions to make sure you best prevent bad smells in your car:

  • Don't smoke: whether you are a pack-a-day smoker or you go out to your vehicle to have the odd cheeky cig, you shouldn't smoke in the car. It can permeate the cushions of the upholstery and be incredibly difficult to remove. It is one of the biggest complaints when people go to buy a used car and can even be used to lower the price. Even when smoking with the window open, it can be very hard to remove smoke from your car, although not impossible.
  • Don't eat: this is starting to sound like very authoritarian advice, but it is one of the best ways to prevent smells getting into your car. A packet of cookies or a sandwich might not cause a big smell, but their crumbs can drop and lead to one. Hot food, especially spicy food like curry or chile, can get right into your car and be hard to leave. Worse still if if you spill or drop some food. Perhaps the worst culprit when it comes to smells in the car is dairy. If you spill milk or drop some yogurt and forget about it, the smell can be horrendous. It becomes tart and astringent and can be really difficult to remove.
  • Close windows: when you are near an area which smells bad, such as going to the dump or being near a farm, it is always good to close the windows. Smells can get in from outside and can be difficult to get out.
  • Be careful with animals: I was once in South Africa when a baboon opened the door and jumped in. It was only there for about 2 minutes and yet the car stank for ages afterwards. While wild animals may not always be a concern, wet dogs or defecating cats can make your car smell terrible. Always put a blanket down and try to keep animals as dry as possible when getting into your car.
  • Careful after sports: whether picking up kids from practice or chauffeuring a professional footballer, be careful when sweaty bodies enter your car. If they really can't show before coming in, have a blanket or newspaper to sit on top of.
  • Drive carefully: if you have queasy passengers, then don't go round too many bends. Vomit smells can be particularly tricky to get out.

Natural air fresheners for your car

If you have been unable to prevent your car from smelling, there are some ways you can eliminate the smell with natural solutions. Here are some ideas:

Lemon odor neutralizer:

2 cups of ionized water

1.5 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Simply mix these ingredients together and put into a spray bottle. The natural lemon fragrance should help freshen up the smell while the baking soda will help absorb it. Spray around the car and use it along with your cleaner when getting rid of stains.

White vinegar

This doesn't even need an ingredient list. Simply put some white vinegar into a spray bottle and spray it on the affected area with the odor. The vinegar will penetrate as well as the foul smell and eliminate it. Don't overuse otherwise your car will simply smell of vinegar. Once you get rid of the smell, wash the area with your usual cleaner.

Coffee grounds

Used coffee grounds can be used to soak up the air in the car. It won't work for major smells, but can work for minor ones. Also be careful when using coffee grounds in your car if you have white upholstery.

Hydrogen peroxide

While you may not think of it, hydrogen peroxide is naturally occurring. Although not usually in the amounts you get from the bottle. Still, it is a great odor eliminator and should be used if these other natural smell blasters don't work.

2 cups 3% hydrogen peroxide

1/8 cup baking soda

1 splash of natural soap

Mix these ingredients together and put into a spray bottle. Use as an odor eliminating cleaner. Best advised to leave on for a couple of hours before rubbing away.

NOTE: ensure to make a fresh batch of this one before you use it. It won't be effective if it has been sitting out for two long. The others should still work even after a couple of months.

To make your car smell good, you should make sure to thoroughly clean the upholstery. Take out the floor mats in the footwells, since there may be something underneath. Vacuum everywhere and use our natural cleaners to make sure the smell goes away.

For more information about cleaning your cars upholstery we recommend that you read this article about how to clean the fabric roof lining, as well as one of the following articles about cleaning leather seats or fabric seats.

If however, you follow these tips to make your car smell good, yet still notice a very unpleasant smell, it may be a mechanical problem causing this undesirable odor. Perhaps a diagnosis from a mechanic will help you with this issue. They should certainly have their own ideas of how best to remove bad smells from your car.

If you want to read similar articles to How to make A Car Smell Good Naturally, we recommend you visit our Car Maintenance and Repair category.


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1 comment
danilo lim
is there any gadget to defog windsheil glass
OneHowTo Editor
Hi Danilo,
We're not quite sure, but you can try out these tricks to defog your windshield:
How to make A Car Smell Good Naturally
How to make A Car Smell Good Naturally

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