Seven Great Ways to Keep Your Car Clean and Smelling Fresh

Seven Great Ways to Keep Your Car Clean and Smelling Fresh

Cars serve a multitude of purposes, whether they’re used for transporting clients around town, helping you head to sports practice, or even functioning as an office on wheels. It can be difficult to keep your multipurpose vehicle clean and smelling fresh, but no one should have to deal with an unpleasant scent in their car. These easy tips will prove that a little upkeep and occasional deep cleaning can keep any vehicle smelling its best.

Daily Cleaning

car vacuum

Preventive maintenance is the key to keeping a car fresh. A cup of coffee on the go or quick drive-through dinner can often lead to some trash lying about. Make it a habit to clean out trash every time you return home. The easiest way to do this is to designate a certain spot (either a bag or storage compartment) for trash and always empty it when exiting the car. Those with SUVs or other vehicles with several rows of seating will find it helpful to have a trash bag for each row.

Exploring the Backseat

Drivers who chauffeur clients, friends, or family will occasionally have items left behind in the back seat. Waiting until the monthly trip to the car wash is not an effective way to prevent odor caused by these items. The key is to check the floor, seats, storage compartments, and under the seats frequently for any trash, especially food, that could have gotten left behind.

Keep Windows Up

When parking the car, make sure all of the windows are up and the sunroof is closed. Unexpected showers can dampen the interior, leaving a musty smell that can be difficult to remove. If the car interior does get wet, it is important to use a wet-dry vacuum to suck up all the water as quickly as possible. Toweling off hard panel areas, using fans to speed up the drying, and placing a moisture-absorbing product in the car will help eliminate the possibility of mold or mildew.

Cleaning Upholstery

Pre-treating upholstery with a fabric or leather protector makes it much easier to clean when spills occur. On longer trips, be prepared with a bottle of spray cleaner, wipes, and a couple of towels so that spills can be dealt with immediately. For regular daily use, wiping up surface spills with napkins and then cleaning fully once you return home should be sufficient. If a smell is noticeable, allow the cleaner to sit on the area for a bit longer before scrubbing.

In addition, consider pre-treating your car’s exterior. Corrosion protection is available to help prevent outdoor damage. Regularly apply anti-corrosion spray and coating on the exterior to protect against the elements.


Car upholstery and flooring are primary spots for smells to soak in, making them hard to remove. Vacuum the carpets, beneath the floor mats, under any child seats, in small crevices, and even the upholstery on the door panels. Vacuuming once a week or every two weeks is recommended by most car care professionals.

Odor Eliminators

car air freshener on air conditioner

Careful cleaning will keep most odors from occurring, but lingering smells should be treated with odor eliminators such as Odor Terminator. Odor eliminators actually break down the components causing the smell. Using an air freshener instead of an odor eliminator merely masks the smell, and sometimes the overly strong scents can be just as off-putting as the odor. Odor Terminator is unscented and can be applied to carpets, seats, liners, and air ducts, breaking down the protein source bacteria uses to grow. It even works on strong smoke residue or pet smells.

Clean Air Ducts

Sometimes, lingering smells exist within the air vents rather than the upholstery. These odors tend to continue after a deep cleaning of the interior and require careful cleansing of the air vents so that the smells do not continue to circulate throughout the car. It makes the most sense to start from the outside by spraying an odor eliminator into the intake vent and running the fan for about 10 minutes. Once that has been completed, keep the fan running while you clean out the interior air vents with the same odor eliminator. There are detailing brushes made to clean air vents, but cotton swabs or rags can be used as well.


Removing trash regularly, pre-treating fabrics for spills, and doing deep interior cleanings are important in maintaining your car’s fresh smell. When odors do occur, address the problem immediately. Extend the same care and maintenance to the exterior with corrosion protection. Even drivers who put thousands of miles on their cars and regularly transport people and animals can enjoy clean, fresh-smelling vehicles with just a little diligence and daily maintenance.

Cheney, Lance. “Best Detailing Products To Clean Your Car Air Vents Effectively.” Braun Automotive Blog. 10 Apr. 2014. Web. 28 Sept. 2014.