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How to Remove Bad Smells from Your Car: The Source and Cause

There are a number of reasons why your car could develop bad smelling odours, maybe the bad smells have been there since before you purchased your car, but how do you remove the bad odours from your car? From the phenomenon that is ‘new car smell’, where the combination of materials of the new car combine to create a very chemically smell that many people find repugnant, to buying a second hand car that has been used regularly to transport pets. If you have a car that has got bad odours then you will know how much of a distraction it can be.
Often when you buy a second hand car they can come with very unpleasant aromas, these bad car odours can come from a number of different sources, including:

  • Spilt Drink/Food – often kids, and adults, can be careless when eating or drinking in the car. Spilt food and drink can go unnoticed and left to go off, and these smells can be accelerated when it is a hot day.
  • Dogs/Pet Odours contaminated in car.
  • Sick – Certain children and adults can suffer from severe car sickness, and this unfortunately can result in a person uncontrollably being sick in the car. It is almost impossible to clean all this up, and inevitable sick can become soaked into the car upholstery. If this happens then the smell of the car can become very unpleasant, especially if on a hot day the area its warmed up.
  • Transferring bad smelling matter from your shoes – often the source of the bad smell in a car is from someone walking in dog dirt and transferring it into the car.
  • Dead animals – animals such as mice can sometimes get into the car and die, and the resulting rotting matter will create a very bad smell.

A smelly car is not good for a number of reasons, not least the fact of olfactory offence but also because of distractions to your driving and also the fact that the smell of your car can heavily effect the resale value of your car. And the fact that the vehicle is sealed and often left to cook in the sun means that without action these smells are not going to disappear in a hurry.


How to Remove Bad Odours from Cars: What’s causing the Bad Smells?

Humans detect aromas through millions of cells in the naval cavity called olfactory epithelium. The receptors contained in the olfactory epithelium connect with various airborne chemicals and fire neurons that communicate the smell being detected to the brain. Different sections of the olfactory epithelium are designed to pick up different odours, and it’s the pattern of the receptors that are triggered that determines how the brain interprets the smell.
As humans and animals evolved, the olfactory epithelium was primarily used to warn of high concentrations of bacteria. Therefore the by-products that these bacteria produce are interpreted as repulsive to human smell. These gases can include amines (the ammonia smell of urine), hydrogen sulphide (rotten eggs), butyric acid (vomit, rotten milk), putrescine and cadaverine (rotting flesh).
Other odours that often contaminate your vehicle, such as fuel, mildew, skunk and smoke are not the direct by-products of bacteria, but as they permeate the whole vehicle they can be incredibly hard to remove.


How to Remove Bad Odours from Cars: Finding the Source of the Bad Car Smell

This may sound obvious but the first thing that you need to address when you have a bad smelling car is to use a little bit of detective work and identify the source of the unpleasant smell. Follow these steps to identify the cause of the bad odour:

  • Look for the obvious: Often the most common source of bad odours in the car is the obvious, spilt food and drink or something transferred from someone’s shoes. You should begin by checking the whole vehicle for any obvious signs.
  • Do some detective work: If you can smell damp and mildew then there is more than likely water getting in to the vehicle somewhere. Check that no water is getting in through the seals by the windows, or you may have a leaky floor board. Check the floors and the upholstery by the windows for any dampness.
  • If the source of the odour is still unknown check all nooks and crannies, inside glove compartments, in the boot, underneath the feet mats.
  • As your air conditioning acts as a dehumidifier the filter can dampen through condensation and as such become mouldy and blowing bad odours into the car. By selecting return air on the AC less moisture enters the system, decreasing the possibility of smelly mould. The filter can be replaced, but is not a simple job, so if you need to do this then consult a professionally.
  • Check the engine and exhaust system: These are not usually the problem but if you the odours smell of fuel then this is where you need to be checking.
  • Look under the car and around the tyres: If you still haven’t found the source of the bad odours then it could be a dead animal stuck underneath the car.
  • Inspect the front grill: Again a bird or animal could have got stuck in here.
Once the source has been identified then the appropriate action can be taken to clean the infected area.


How to Remove Bad Odours from Cars: The Professional Solution

Once the source of odours have been identified and cleaned the appropriate action can be taken to remove the smell from the air. The infected area obviously needs to be cleaned, however sometimes cleaning the area effectively is very hard to achieve and odourous molecules remain engrained into the car. There is also the problem when you cannot remove the source of the bad odour, i.e. if you regularly have pets or smoke in your car.

powair block apple crumbleFortunately there is the excellent odour neutralising product range that rather than masking the odour, completely removes it from the air. It is an essential blend of 32 essential oils the are dispersed through natural evaporation, and upon coming into contact with the odourous molecules physically bind to them to render them null and inert. A product originally designed for the professional and industrial market but since been developed to use around people pets and plants.

So if you have cleaned the area and are still suffering from the smell this product is the solution for you.

The 2 most popular product amongst car users are the PowAir Block and the PowAir Spray. The PowAir Block is great for constant neutralisation when the source of the bad odour is always present, i.e. for those with pets or for those that smoke in their car. Just simply open then lid and leave the block exposed somewhere in the car to provide all round freshness. If your order problem is more periodic or if you prefer to neutralise the odour on demand then the PowAir spray is the product to use, with a pump on the spray providing a burst of freshness.


How to Remove Bad Odours from Cars: The Home Remedy Solution

The use of professional odour neutraliser is by far the best way to remove the odours from your vehicle. However some people do not want to spend on a professional solution and if you are this person there are home remedies that can help the situation, although you will achieve far less odour neutralisation so these are not recommended for any strong odour problem.

Vinegar: You can pour vinegar into a cup and leave it over night, or as long as possible, in an attempt to absorb the odours.

Baking Powder: Sprinkle baking powder throughout the car and leave overnight. In the morning hoover the entire car.