How To Get Mildew Smell Out of Car? Excellent Tips to Follow

“Mildew” refers to fungus and mold growth often found in dirty or excessively wet areas and even in your car.

No quick fixes or treatments will only worsen the situation; some even have to replace the entire automobile compartment.

Hence, here comes the critically important questions. Why do these mildew roots even develop in the first place? How to get mildew smell out of car

As usual, Bryan’s support team has your back covered, diving deep into the issues to lend you all the solutions and troubleshooting methods needed.

Why Do Your Cars Have Mildew Smell?

how to get mildew smell out of car
Mildew Smell On Your Car

To our surprise, mildew and mold odors are more common than we thought, particularly in old vehicles.

Those whose cars are brand new can breathe a sigh of relief: they do not have to worry about these problems yet – at least for now! 

So why do these musty smells successfully infiltrate the cars? One common reason is rain and snow; as you forget to close the window, they easily enter the cabin, wetting your upholstery and doors.

Such a humid environment provides excellent conditions for mildew and mold to spawn throughout the place.

Some might argue that plastic – a common material in many car interiors – is not often subjected to molds.

We do not deny this indisputable fact, but remember, your vehicle’s interior surfaces are never 100% clean – grime and dirt have already invaded them, enabling exotic organisms to dominate.

How about organic materials (like leather) in luxury and high-end cars, whose resistance to mildew growth is even stronger than plastic? 

In that case, the molding rate will be much lower – but it can still happen if the car owners do not maintain their vehicles properly.

(and trust us; A LOT of drivers fail to take good care of their cars! Ask yourself when is the last time you clean the backseats).

How To Get Mildew Smell Out of Car

car mildew smell removal
Ways Do Mildew Smell Out of Car

What is the best way to get mildew smell out of car

Here are three methods for car mildew smell removal: manually locate and tackle each smell source one by one, remove moisture from the car’s inside, and deodorize the smells with laundry detergents

Those who feel paranoid can even combine all three! 

Method 1. Find The Odor Source Manually

Step 1. Check the car’s interior

Before getting mildew smell out of car, it is important to inspect where they come from!

Cast your eyes everywhere possible – even spots often hidden from view, like below the seats or floor mats. Take note of any unusual signals and feel around the places using your hands.

When there are any molds you can see, kill them using cups of white vinegar (two 470-ml cups) mixed in pure water (one 240-ml cup).

Spread this mixture on the mildew and leave it for about half an hour. After that, wipe the place clean.

Step 2. Examine the back/front seats’ upholstery

Ensure these places are mildew-free and do not feel wet under your fingertips. Otherwise, let the car sit under the sun (with rolled-down windows) to dry.

Should you locate any loose molds, brush them away from the car’s upholstery.

Step 3. Check the AC system (air conditioning unit). 

When your AC system is in operation, the water will condense, attracting pollen, germs, spores, and dust. They will formulate fungi later on, leading to a foul smell like pee.

Fortunately, it’s not untreatable! Simply use odor removers or sprays to tackle the car AC.

For stubborn smells caused by bacteria and stagnant water, spray the removers into the HVAC vents to kill those musty odors completely.

Extra: If these vents also suffer from burning oil smells, click here to learn how to fix them.

Method 2. Remove Moisture from The Automobile’s Inside

Step 1. Suck up the moisture using repair shop vacuums

And what if you never own any vacuum? Then rent one or two from nearby home improvement services. These devices work wonderfully in sucking up excess moisture deep under the fabrics.

Step 2. Use anhydrous calcium chlorides to absorb the moistness

Calcium chloride arrives in pure-white granules, working wonders in moisture absorption. This feat is achieved thanks to its ability to handle liquids and water that are double its total weight.

Here’s a quick guide on how to apply this product:

  • Put these granules in waxed cardboard containers with perforated holes.
  • Place those containers in enameled pots, which collect dripped liquids from the containers.
  • Bring that pot into your cars and wait until only liquids can flow into the container. Then refill it.
  • Wear protective gauges while touching the calcium chloride. Dispose of the product properly once you finish.

Step 3. Open the car window to free the air circulation.

Though this step is optional, it’s a practical tip to adopt if the moisture exceeds the usual level and gives you immense difficulties. 

The sun heat will warm your car’s interior, evaporating some lingering dampness on the floor, behind seats, and any place where the smell originates.

Method 3. Deodorizing and Neutralizing The Smells

Step 1. Use air fresheners to spray your designated area.

Spray several times on every spot, allowing the liquid to sink into where the smell lingers. This simple method should be enough to kill the cars’ mold odors.

Most importantly, please do not overdo your attempts and over-saturate the place. Once you have already done so, remember to blot dry the area.

Step 2. Use baking soda

Sprinkle some baking soda within your vehicle where the mold and moisture are, letting the soda seep under the carpet.

After two hours or so, extract the excess soda with shop vacuums or portable handheld vacuums – depending on your preferences.

Step 3. Shampoo the mats and floor

Some people assume using laundry detergent on car floors and upholstery is unsafe. No worry; they work perfectly fine on removing mold, stains, or any culprits behind these unpleasant smells.

Mix laundry detergent (two tablespoons) with water (about eight ounces) into one spray bottle.

Use this mixture to wet the affected places and wait a few minutes for these anti-mildew solutions to sink in. Once done, pad the area with white washcloths to blot it dry.

After that, soak the remaining dampness with a vacuum. And if needed, pick a spatula or putty knife to remove the stuck-on substance or grim.


best way to get mildew smell out of car
Questions Related To This Issue

1. How Long Should It Take To Get Moldy Smell Out of Car Completely? 

At least 24 hours. The odor needs time to dry and evaporate.

2. Is Baking Soda Effective In Removing Mildew Smell from Car?

Yes; studies have confirmed it can fight off odors of any type. But remember not to overuse your baking soda. Pick a vacuum to remove excess liquid if necessary.


How to get mildew smell out of car? As usual, Bryan’s insightful and well-researched articles do not disappoint, discussing every possible method for you to choose from.

We also give a concise yet investigative answer into how such smells have room to develop in the first place, which helps you devise on-time and appropriate strategies to keep them at bay in the near future!

Most importantly, remember to check the cars’ interior more often. (preferably every evening). For more clarifications or advice on how to get a mildew smell out of a car, feel free to reach out.

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