7 Odor-Busting Hacks for Getting Rid of Mold Smell in Your Car

No one should settle for a musty-smelling car. Enjoy driving again by learning a few great methods for removing the mold smell in your car.

Published February 28, 2024
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Car Air Conditioner Odor Or Smell From Mold

Mold is like the gnat of the olfactory world. It can come and go, but the smell is annoying enough that it can make you ready to set your whole life ablaze. Tamp down the dramatics and learn how to get the mold smell out of your car instead with our helpful hacks.

How to Get Rid of Your Car’s Mold Smell

The best way to destroy the mold smell in your car is to kill it at the source. Remove the problem, and you won’t have to deal with the aftereffects anymore. There are several ways to attack mold in your car, and depending on how bad the mold is, you might need to use all of them.

Steam Clean the Interior

Steam cleaning is a great option if you have cloth seats and mats. Mold bacteria can’t survive at those high temperatures, so calling in a pro or renting a steam cleaner is one way to destroy the mold in those areas.

Hand-Wash a Leather Interior

If you have a leather interior affected by mold, you should hand wash it with a mold and mildew-specific interior cleaner. Follow the instructions on the bottle, making sure to fully dry the interior before closing your car up.

We suggest leaving the air conditioning running for a little while after cleaning or letting the car sit with the windows down and doors open.

Spray Cleaners Directly Into the Air Vents

Cleaning the climate system and air conditioner of a car

Air vents and air boxes are notorious spots for spitting out mold smells. Find a mold or mildew-specific cleaner, like the Duct Aid deodorizer, and spray it directly into the vents or air box. This should work deep into the AC system to eliminate the mold at the source.

However, you may need a more thorough cleaning to fully remove mold from your AC. In some cases, calling a professional or taking it to a dealership is the way to go.

4 Mold Smell-Busting Methods to Try

Removing the mold at the source doesn’t always remove the smell. Get rid of that musty stench with these safe deodorizing methods.

Spray a Little Ozium

Take a page from your grandparents’ playbook and grab a can of Ozium or another air-sanitizing aerosol. They work by spraying microscopic particles into the air that attract and trap odor-causing bacteria.

You shouldn’t spray these aerosols while you’re in an enclosed space. Instead, spray it in your car and close the doors. After letting it sit for a few minutes, you can open the doors and air your car out. You should be able to notice the change in smell immediately.

Related: Closet Smell Musty? These 10 Hacks Can Keep It Smelling Fresh

Toss in a Few Sliced Apples

Sliced Rose apples in white plastic box

If your mold smell is mild, you can slice an apple or two and leave it in a bag or on a plate in your front and back seats overnight. The apples work great at absorbing smells and should kick that moldy hint to the curb.

Leave a Bowl of Distilled White Vinegar in Your Car 

Distilled white vinegar is another smell-busting material you can grab from the kitchen pantry and put straight to use. Simply fill a bowl, glass, or takeaway container with distilled white vinegar. Set it in your car overnight, and let it air out in the morning. The vinegar smell should dissipate just as quickly as the musty smell does. 

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Leave a Charcoal Bag to Absorb the Moisture & Smell

Mold thrives in a moisture-rich environment. Help kick it to the curb with a tool that purifies and absorbs moisture — charcoal. You can find charcoal-filled bags specifically made for these kinds of lingering smells.

Leave the charcoal bag hanging or lying in your car for a few days, and you should smell a difference. These are meant to be used as long-term options, which some brands claim lasts up to two years.

Check for Lingering Mold if the Smell Persists

If you’ve done multiple cleaning passes and tried these smell-busting methods and your car still smells, you might still have a mold problem. Getting rid of the smell is just a band-aid to the bigger issue. Unless you fully remove the mold source, you’ll be stuck in a smelly cycle.

These are some of the hidden areas in your car that may be trapping mold.

  • Cup holders: It only takes a few spills for your cup holders to collect mold. Consider putting in cup holder inserts so you can clean them more easily.
  • Underneath seats: When was the last time you moved your front seats back far enough to clean out the sides beside the console? Exactly. Little food particles are easily trapped under your seats and can mold before you know it.
  • Air conditioning: Leaky air vents can trap moisture and create mold. While everyone has a different preferred method for cleaning it, you can always take your car to a dealership or mechanic to have it assessed.
  • Trunk mats: If you’re hauling milk back and forth from your weekly shopping trip, you’re bound to get some of the milky condensation in your trunk carpets. After washing them, consider buying rubber floor mats for easier cleaning.

Don’t Settle for a Moldy-Smelling Car

In a car-obsessed culture, the last thing you want is to settle for a moldy-smelling car. Beat the musty odor by cleaning your car, airing it out, and trying these great deodorizing methods. Get a jump on it from the start, and you won’t have to deal with a moldy-smelling car for long.

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7 Odor-Busting Hacks for Getting Rid of Mold Smell in Your Car