Maybe we’ve never experienced the dreaded “Beyond BO” in that famous Seinfeld episode “Smelly Car,” but most of our cars probably could use a little freshening up. Thankfully, there are many simple strategies and devices everyone could use to keep their cars smelling fine.
Here are a few of the most effective ways to keep your car smelling fresh for as long as possible:
- Use air fresheners and neutralizers
- Replace air cabin filters once per year
- Absorb bad smells with baking soda or activated charcoal
- Frequently clean floor mats
Want to learn the science of de-stinkifying your car? You’ve come to the right post. Below, we’ll go over everything you need to know about using air fresheners and avoiding bad car odors.
Before you continue reading, let us say we hope you find the links here useful. If you purchase something through a link on this page, we may get a commission, so thank you!
Oh, and first, we couldn't mention Seinfeld without showing you the clip -
All About Air Fresheners: An Easy Way To Keep Your Car Fresh
The simplest way to zap bad car odors is to use a high-quality air freshener. With so many different fresheners on the market, however, it’s increasingly difficult for consumers to pick the right brand for their needs. In this first section, we’ll go over everything you need to know about these sweet-smelling products.
What Is The Most Effective Car Deodorizer?
Activated charcoal is currently having a “moment” in the wellness industry, but this powdery black substance has been used for years as an effective air purifier. Made by heating materials like coconut shells or wood to extremely high temps and then charring them, activated charcoal has the fantastic ability to absorb toxins, molds, and other harmful pathogens.
Some of the best-reviewed car deodorizers online use activated charcoal as their primary ingredient. For instance, the Moso Air Purifying Bag uses 200 grams of activated charcoal to eliminate bad odors within a 90 sq. ft. radius.
To check out the highly reviewed Moso Air Purifying Bag, please click on this link to Amazon.
What Is The Most Popular Car Air Freshener Scent?
Just as beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, what smells tasty to one person might smell rancid to the next. Although scent preferences differ wildly around the world, there are a few car scents that always stand out.
Probably the best-known car scent out there is conveniently called “New Car Scent.” According to scientists, this hard-to-describe scent is the result of “volatile organic compounds” off of the car’s plastic, foam, and vinyl surfaces. Most people like this scent simply because it’s associated with a squeaky clean new vehicle.
To easily add some “New Car” freshness to your vehicle, consider purchasing these Little Tree Air Fresheners on Amazon.
What Is The Best And Longest Lasting Car Air Freshener?
When shopping for air fresheners, you’re probably looking for something that smells great for a long time. To help narrow your smelly search, we’ve compiled a few air fresheners that fit both of those qualities.
Moso Natural Purifying Deodorizer
Yes, we’ve already mentioned the Moso natural purifying deodorizer, but this product has a lot going for it. Most importantly, the Moso pillow is an all-natural product, which means it doesn’t give off any potentially harmful chemicals. With its 200 grams of activated charcoal, your Moso pillow will easily scoop up all odor-causing pathogens and allergens.
The Moso bag’s pillow-like design also makes it very easy to add to your car’s interior décor. As a bonus, all Moso deodorizers have a long two-year lifespan.
You can find the Moso Natural Purifying Deodorizer on this Amazon link.
Febreze Car Air Freshener Clips
Customers who love the scent of Febreze will be happy to know the P&G company now offers odor-eliminating car clip-ons. To activate these devices, click the clip in the back and attach it to an air vent. According to Febreze, each clip-on could last between 30 – 150 days.
You can take a closer look at the popular “Linen & Sky” Febreze clip-ons on this Amazon page.
Meguiar’s Whole Air Re-Fresher Odor Eliminator Mist
Interested in blasting all those bad odors in one go? Look into the popular Meguiar’s Odor Eliminator Mist cans.
Each of these 2.5-ounce cans contains potent aerosol mist that’s intended for one-time use. After turning on your A/C unit and recirculating air, open your Meguiar’s mist can and shut your car doors for about 15 minutes. Afterward, open your car doors for about 10 minutes.
If you don’t care for the “New Car” scent, don’t worry. Meguiar’s has many flavors to choose from including Spiced Wood, Citrus Grove, and Sparkling Berry.
You can browse all of Meguiar’s Odor Eliminator Mists on this Amazon page.
Black Ice Air Freshener
No matter how far air freshening technology advances, you can’t go wrong with a few dangling Little Trees. Just place your preferred tree flavor in the packaging over your rear-view mirror, move it up about 1cm, and keep moving it up weekly until the scent fades. Yes, it’s that simple.
The most popular Little Tree scent right now is a combination of citrus and sandalwood known as “Black Ice.” Those who don’t care for “Black Ice,” however, can find a wide array of Little Tree flavors nowadays.
Please check out the dozens of Little Trees now available on Amazon.
Enoch Car Air Purifier
The Enoch Car Air Purifier is a device that combats bad odors by releasing millions of negative ions. OK, we know that doesn’t sound all that appetizing, but scientists assure us negative ions play a crucial role in absorbing allergens, pathogens, and mold.
Conveniently, each Enoch Air Purifier has USB charging ports and an LED light. Although these purifiers don’t release strong odors, they do let off a bit of ozone to re-create the scent of a rain shower.
Learn more about the Enoch Air Purifier on this Amazon webpage.
How Often Should You Change Your Car Air Freshener?
There’s no universally accepted expiration date for all air fresheners, but most are only effective for about one month. Before using your freshener, be sure to read the manufacturer’s suggested usage or contact the company’s Customer Service line.
When in doubt, hold your freshener up to your nose and give it a good old smell test. If you don’t get a strong whiff of the desired odor, then you know it’s time to change your freshener.
What Is The Best Way To Absorb Bad Odors?
As already mentioned, activated charcoal is one of the most potent odor absorbers out there. However, when you’ve got a stench that won’t go away, you might want to break out a box of baking soda.
Yes, leaving an opened box of baking soda in your car overnight is a cheap and easy way to get rid of lingering odors. You could also pour baking soda on your floor mats and vacuum it up a few minutes later to neutralize bad odors.
As an aside, ground coffee has also been used effectively to absorb smelly car odors. Yes, you read that right: placing a paper bag with ground coffee in your car overnight could get rid of funky odors. Of course, this trick only works best if you enjoy the smell of coffee.
Side Note: Why Syrup Fresheners Aren’t Wise
While it might be tempting to order a maple syrup freshener, you need to be extra vigilant when this scent occurs either while driving or after you shut off your car. Believe it or not, the smell of syrup is a common indicator of leaking coolant.
To learn more about coolant and antifreeze issues, be sure to read through this recent VEHQ post on driving with low coolant.
How To Prevent Bad Car Odors
While air fresheners are a fantastic way to combat bad odors, they are no replacement for regular car cleaning. Below, we’ll share two strategies you could use to prevent bad odors from overstaying their welcome.
Remember To Replace Cabin Air Filters
Amazingly, most drivers don’t even know they have a cabin air filter. True, you probably won’t find these filters in older vehicles, but they have become a standard feature in car manufacturing since at least the 2000s.
As the name implies, cabin air filters were designed to clean your cabin’s HV/AC system and keep pollutants out of your cabin. The longer you leave these filters in your car, of course, the higher the chance you’ll smell these pollutants through air vents.
Regularly changing your cabin air filter isn’t just great for keeping your car smelling good, it could save you an expensive repair down the line. The more gunk is stuck in your air filter, the more your A/C unit will have to work, which can harm your car’s motor.
Most often, you can find your cabin air filter in the back of your glove compartment, but sometimes they are under the hood. Each car has different recommendations for how often to replace a cabin air filter, but a good rule of thumb is to change them once per year.
For more info on the best cabin air filters, check out this VEHQ post on 11 great air filters for a Toyota Camry.
Give Floor Mats A Regular Cleaning
Considering how often floor mats come in contact with dirty shoes (and paws), it’s no wonder they frequently retain stinky odors. No matter how careful you are in your car, you shouldn’t neglect to give these mats a thorough cleaning a few times each year.
For a basic mat cleaning, take your floor mats out of your car and give them a few whacks to get rid of debris. Next, use a vacuum to suck out all of that stubborn dirt.
When you’re ready, take out a hose to wet the mat’s dirty side. Using a mixture of detergent and water, give your mat a thorough scrubbing and then wash all that gunk away.
Hang your mat in a sunny area and only put it back in your car when it’s fully dry. Putting your mat back before it’s fully dry could leave behind a nasty mildew scent.
While we’re on the subject, anyone interested in a spray designed for car upholstery might want to check out this Chemical Guys product on Amazon.
Got A Stubborn Smell? Call The Pros
If you’ve used all the suggested cleaning tips above and you still smell something funky in your car, then you should take it to a local mechanic. Often weird smells that don’t respond to cleaning could indicate potentially serious issues. For instance, the sulfur-smell of rotten eggs is usually related to malfunctioning catalytic converters. Please don’t wait to get any funky smells checked out by a professional mechanic.