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How to Properly Clean and Refresh Your Stinky Upholstery

car interior view from the back

Your car upholstery has dealt with a lot of abuse over the years. Children, pets, and smoke can all take a toll on your car’s upholstery. Even without these, keeping your car smelling good is truly a challenge. Frequent use can work against you in maintaining a fresh smelling car. Vapours and liquids get drawn into upholstery where the odour becomes locked in deep; this leads to a stinky car with an odour that just doesn’t leave. A quick vacuum just won’t cut it – you’re going to need to perform a deep clean to get this smell out, and we’re here to show you how, so keep reading.

Getting Bad Smells Out of Your Car’s Upholstery, The DIY Way. 

Another reason it’s a good idea to give your car a good deep clean and keep it in tip-top condition is to hold onto its resale value. You may or may not intend to sell your car, but if you do, a lingering smell might be just the thing to put off a potential buyer. Overall, just for an all-round pleasant driving experience, you probably want an odour-free vehicle. So, how can you achieve this?

Well, if you’re looking for a DIY solution, look no further. Use the following methods to clean the stink right out of your seats.

 1. Ventilation is key

For light odours, airing out your vehicle may be all that’s needed. If you’re driving in an area with ample fresh air, take advantage of the oxygen and wind down those windows. Stop and open up your doors for a little while, just to get the stale air out faster. This is a good method to use if you’re just dealing with stagnant odours – perhaps you left food in your car overnight and it has left a lingering smell. If you’re tackling more prominent odours or scents that have had a chance to settle in, use our other DIY methods which are tailored to stronger smells.

car ventilation

2. Upholstery cleaner and elbow grease

Sometimes it just takes a bit of manual labour to get the dirt and stains out of your seats. With some detergent (or better yet, a good upholstery cleaner), a washcloth, and a bit of elbow grease, you can get to work on those trapped in smells.

Start by removing and washing all floor mats and seat covers. In doing so, you can check over your car’s upholstery and figure out the source of that bad smell. Regardless of whether your covers can be removed, make sure to vacuum thoroughly, following by detergent to remove any stains. If using an upholstery cleaner, make sure you follow the product instructions as the methods of use vary.

Depending on how dire your situation is, you may like to repeat the process once or twice, to get as deep as you can with your clean. If you find that this process isn’t working, it might be time for something more drastic – try the next step.

3. A steamy solution

Steaming your car is one of the easiest and most efficient solutions in removing bad odours from your car. On the plus side, it’s super safe. No chemicals or detergents needed; just the power of steam – do be careful not to burn yourself, though. To utilise this method, just grab yourself a steamer, let it heat up and go over all your upholstery surfaces until they are steamy and fresh. Again, you may like to repeat this process a couple of times to let the steam go as deep as possible.

Before you go and grab your clothes steamer, it’s important to note that you’ll want to use an actual steam cleaner (not a garment one). This is because your garment steamer will not deliver as much pressure and therefore the steam will not penetrate as deep into your car’s upholstery. There is a lot of fabric and foam to get through, so the steam needs to have enough force and power to make it through. If you’re on the market for a new steam cleaner which you can use to clean your car with, Car Bibles shares it’s top picks for car steamers.

leather seats car interior

But what if my car has leather seats?

The magic of leather seats is that they don’t absorb any spills which therefore makes it harder for them to work up a stink – harder, though not impossible. Leather still has the annoying habit of soaking up odours, so it does require a good refresher every now and then.

To prevent dirt and odour buildup, leather seats still require the same TLC as fabric upholstery. Before you can get started in cleaning your leather upholstery, however, make sure you get yourself the right products. Prevent stripping your leather seats of their natural oils that provide softness and shine by avoiding dish-washing liquid, carwash, or multipurpose cleaner. Instead lotions, sprays, and wipes that are specifically made to condition and gently clean leather surfaces (while effectively removing odours) are the way to go.

To help you properly clean your leather seats, here’s a quick step-by-step guide. As a quick tip,  always spot test your leather cleaner to make sure it doesn’t damage or discolour upholstery.

 1. Begin with a thorough vacuum to remove any dirt on and in between    seats.

 2. With a damp clean washcloth, wipe down your leather seats, looking for potential causes of the odour. Spilled food and drink are often the cause of lingering smells in leather food and need to be removed as early as possible to prevent odours.

 3. Using good quality lotions or cleaners as mentioned earlier, wipe over the leather with a washcloth. Then wipe the cleaner off with a clean, dry cloth.

 4. Once cleaned, air out your car by either leaving your windows or car doors open, or use the air conditioning or fans to allow sufficient air to flow throughout the vehicle, to aid in drying the cleaner.

 5. Got a stinky problem that just won’t budge? Well, we’ve got the secret and it’s actually something most of us have around the kitchen – it’s baking soda. Inexpensive and readily available across supermarkets, baking soda is the all-in-one household product known for removing bad odours. Placing a bowl of baking soda in the car overnight will help absorb any remaining light odours.

Can’t Dispel the Smell? Invest in a Professional Clean.

If you’re finding that this bad smell is lingering like a – well, you know – it might be worth getting it professionally attended to. If you haven’t been successful in completely removing odours, put the problem in more capable hands and go visit a professional cleaner (or get them to come to you). With a lot more products and tools at their disposal, a professional can really get into the upholstery to bring it back to a fresh new state. Professional cleaning services are used to dealing with a range of stubborn smells – like smoke, pet smells, or mould – and will know how to treat the situation.

steam cleaning car

Prevention is Key. 

The best way to avoid odours is to use strategies to prevent them in the first place. On the other hand, if you have just exhausted your own time and money in exercising bad smells from your car, now it’s up to you to maintain your newly fresh car. Here’s four tips to keep your car upholstery smelling fresh for longer.

 1.Use car seat covers

After spending time, effort, and most likely, money on removing stains and odours from your car’s upholstery, the least you can do to minimise smells from reoccurring is to use car seat covers. Investing in car seat covers will prevent odours from settling into your upholstery and essentially protect your upholstery from future stains and smells. Plus, they add an extra touch of personalisation to your car.

2. Schedule in regular clean cleans

Often it’s the exterior that gets the special treatment when it comes to cleaning your car. We get it, it’s the part you can see. While the interior is easy to neglect, unless there’s obvious mess, it shouldn’t be left unattended for too long as that’s how smells settle in. Cleaning the interior of your vehicle and upholstery regularly will stop smells building up. Monthly or bi-monthly cleaning can ensure any odours are eliminated and even prevent them from returning.

3. Avoid smoking in the car

Even with windows down, cigarette smells can soak into your car’s seat and upholstery, resulting in more difficult stain removal later on, and this is one of the most stubborn smells to remove and bothersome odours to put up with.

4. Keep it fresh

There are plenty of products designed to keep your car fresh and clean, from wipes to air fresheners. Use wipes to clean any spills or drops immediately, and use air freshener to keep your car smelling clean and pleasant all year ‘round.

Keeping your car fresh, clean, and odour free doesn’t have to be a difficult task as long as you use enough preventative measures and are on top of your maintenance. On top of maintaining your car’s upholstery, keep on top of the next most neglected part of your car: the windscreen. Novus Autoglass can help you with that. Novus Autoglass specialise in windscreen maintenance and repair, keeping your glass in mint condition. Contact Novus to book an appointment today.