What’s that smell?!?!??? Getting to the source of the stink in your car

Those burgers and fries you’ve dined on during post-work traffic may be long gone, but the compounded odor of dozens of in-car meals lives on. Now, add a couple of sweaty kids after soccer practice and a pile of towels from a day at the beach last summer and you’ve got yourself of a potpourri of stink.

If you’re using some of your spring-cleaning energy to wash your car, don’t forget to attack some of the places that are storing smells.

Here’s how you can attack the foul aroma that’s the antithesis of “new car smell.”

♦ Car mats and carpet: Most car owners take their floor mats out on occasion and vacuum them. Some of you may give them a periodic soaking with a hose but what about the carpet that’s under the mats? Time to address all floor surfaces. After an initial vacuuming, sprinkle an even layer of baking soda on the mats and the carpet. Leave it overnight so that the well-known refrigerator ally can work its magic in your car. Vacuum it up — along with many of the now soaked-in odors — the next day.

♦ Seats and upholstery: While vacuuming the upholstery may help remove cookie crumbs and dog hair, it won’t do much good when it comes to removing odors. You can use the baking soda method on your seats as well and follow up with an interior wash. If you purchase an interior cleaning solution, make sure it’s safe for the upholstery, especially if the seats are covered in cloth. Foaming sprays that help lift stains and odors from seats can be especially effective.

♦ The trunk: Your trunk is probably your go-to option for things that you’d prefer to keep out of your nose’s reach. Unfortunately, your trunk is still connected to the rest of your car. Those smells that once existed in the trunk are only going to spread so it’s best to remove everything, vacuum it out and, if necessary, try the baking soda and interior wash approach.

♦ Other potential offenders: To remove all odors, you’ll need to clean out some of the forgotten spaces of your car, like between the seats and windows. You should also address the obvious spots, like cup holders, seat pockets and seat belts. It’s likely you’ve been sweating on your seat belts every day, so they, too, are worthy of a spring cleaning.

♦ Air filter: Finally, you should change your air filter regularly. The filter traps dust, mold, pollen and other contaminants, and prevents them from entering the car, which can cause musty odors and other smells. As with any filter, it needs to be changed on a regular basis, roughly every year.

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