“Ooooh that smell. Can’t you smell that smell.”
The lyrics from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s timeless classic “That Smell” are right on the money when it comes to my minivan’s interior these days.
With two dogs, two little boys, a farm built on red Virginia clay, and a wife who rides horses, one of the most frequently asked questions when anyone gets in the van is, “What’s that smell?” Invariably, it’s a different odor each time, depending on who, or what, was in there last. As a result, I’ve had a lot of practice exorcising our vehicles of offending odors. I am our family’s smell eliminator. Here’s how I do it.
Getting rid of odor isn’t that daunting. The first place I start—and many drivers may not even realize they have one—is the cabin air filter. Located inside the vehicle, usually on the passenger side, between the floor and the dash or glove box, the cabin air filter traps dust, mold, pollen and other contaminants and prevents them from entering the interior. Like any filter, it needs to be changed regularly, particularly if you’re noticing some funky smells. Look how easy it is to change one.
While I have that air filter out, I vacuum the filter compartment. You might be surprised at what you find! Next, I remove the floor mats and give the interior, including seats, compartments, cup holders and floor, a thorough vacuuming to remove the dirt, food, dog hair and occasional horse manure that have collected. It doesn’t take long for these foreign substances to join forces, particularly in warm weather, and change that “new-car smell” into “eww that smell.”
Next, I wipe down all the interior surfaces. I like Griot’s interior cleaner sprayed on some micro-fiber sponges to get this job done. I work from the top down, so that any dirt I wipe off the headrests or sun visors will fall down onto a still-dirty surface that I haven’t hit yet. And because every vehicle has hard-to-reach nooks and crannies, I use an interior detail brush to pry out the remnants of last months’ egg and cheese biscuit from the cup holder, seat creases and wherever else it might be hiding. Remember, my goal here is to be the smell eliminator, and by getting rid of this debris, I am getting rid of odor.
Finally, I use an air freshening product to give the interior a fresh, clean smell. It’s my secret weapon—a “smell eliminator” if you will. And because there are so many scent choices, this might actually prove to be the toughest step for you. First, you have to decide if you want an air freshener that you place in your vehicle’s vents, or one that a lot of drivers hang from a rear-view mirror, or even a little tub of freshener that emits scents based on how much you open the lid. New car, cherry, outdoor breeze, rain, jasmine or fresh linen? You can have it all. Have some fun and experiment—that’s what I do, because let’s face it, when it comes to getting rid of odor, anything is better than a wet-dog, mildew, bottom-of-the-shoe, old Happy Meal smell greeting you every time you open the car door.