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How to Get Mildew Smell Out of a Car - The Ultimate Breakdown

Maintaining a spotless and fragrant car inside makes a world of difference. Whether on a shopping run or a rural drive, the cabin becomes a little more opulent when the seats, flooring, and plastic surfaces are cleaned. But occasionally, odors from your car’s interior persist even after washing it. You might smell mildew, and obviously, it doesn’t smell very good. And when stale scents remain in the air, even a spotless car inside loses its attraction. But there are methods for finding and getting rid of automobile odors. Mold or even an issue with the engine could be the cause. It is all required to find the tough spot, clean it properly, and then relax in your newly cleaned interior.

You spend a lot of time inside your car, and keeping the interior clean will improve your driving experience. A clean automobile interior is a pleasant place to relax and take in the scenery, just like a tidy home. A clean interior looks great and helps keep unpleasant odors from developing so that you and your companions may ride in comfort.

Let’s look closely at the mildew odor in car interiors and how to remove mold from your automobile.

2-step kit makes interior look like new

The Best Interior Cleaner


The one-two punch your interior has been missing.

“So far I’ve used Mirror Shine, Turbo, Tire shine, and now Intra Shield and Clean. All products have performed as advertised and I am very happy with the results. Now to try the car wash and my detailing kit will be complete.” – Bill L.

Why Does My Car Smell So Musty?

The interior of a car may smell like mildew for various reasons. The causes of mildew smell can range from minor to significant, and some call for a mechanic’s help. If your automobile has a musty odor or mold, it may be leftover food in small cracks or trash tucked behind the seats. In some cases, mold growth on moist carpeting is possible. When it snows and there is a lot of slush on the ground, moisture can accumulate and cause the growth of mold spores. A clogged drain could result in water leaks over the seats or saturation of the headliner if you drive a car with a sunroof. The cabin filter of your automobile being blocked with leaves is another potential source of mold in your vehicle.

Additionally, occasional leaks in the trunk let moisture inside, giving off musty odors. Other offensive interior odors could be a symptom of severe problems with your car’s heating core or conditioning system.

Mold issues

Mold colony building up on car body

Mildew and musty odors are brought on by fungus colonies that release their reproductive particles into the atmosphere. Such automobile odors are typically caused by excess moisture of more than 50% relative humidity, which provides the ideal situation for these bacteria to flourish. Your car is the perfect environment to establish a nation of mold and mildew colonies. If you add heat, mold grows fastest between 77 °F and 120 °F. While mildew typically grows on non-porous objects like vinyl and plastic, mold usually inhabits porous materials like form, leather, felt, and paper. What could possibly provide a home for mold and mildew in your car?

Forgotten apparel

Average daily sweating without activity is about 20 ounces, but vigorous exercise can increase that to almost 1 quart per hour. A large portion seeps into your socks, shoes, and clothing. Your towel will get wet while drying off after a swim in the pool or ocean. Evaporating water from the rear seat or trunk boosts the relative humidity in the vehicle.

If food particles remain unchecked

The majority of foods and drinks incorporate some level of moisture. Similar to how liquids can soak into the carpet padding and seat cushions. The humidity rises everywhere in your automobile, even in places you can’t see or access, as food dries out and fluid evaporates.

Water-related harms

Weather factors

Other sources of moisture and recent mold spores include rain, snow, and muck. If it gets on your footwear, it may seep into the carpet and floor mats, where it may take a few seconds to dry out. This water can evaporate inside a car on a hot day and permeate the entire thing.

Water Leakage

Water leaks inside the car can be caused by damage and aging. Body panels or bodywork with poor seals might leak. Many vehicles have difficulties with doorways or trunk seals that are worn out, loosened, or damaged. Another frequent issue is clogged sunroof drains, and if you accidentally leave a window or sunroof open in the rain, your seats and carpets can get a quick soak.


When used in automobiles with air conditioning, evaporation is naturally moist since it expels moisture from the air. This liquid typically drips from a tube outside the cabin. This water could collect or flow into the car through a clogged drain tube, wetting the carpeting. The evaporator might not dry entirely if left in the recirculate mode, which could promote the formation of mildew on the evaporator and in the air box.

Cigarette smoke

Strong and difficult-to-get-rid-of odors in a car’s cabin are cigarette smoke. Because smoke odor permeates upholstery, flooring, hard surfaces, and the air system, it is challenging to eliminate it from cars. Therefore, changing the cabin filter is necessary to remove smoke from cigarettes, cigars, and marijuana.

Exterior debris such as dust, grime, and other microscopic creatures, cigar smoke, spilled food, pet hair, and urine, among other things, can leave residue inside the car that will eventually build up and give the cabin an unpleasant odor. Depending on which scents are more challenging, unwanted odors can be eliminated using various techniques and materials. One thing is sure, though. The most efficient approach to eliminate doors and windows, as well as other cabin areas, is through thorough detailing of the vehicle cabin using steam cleaning, followed by a mild detergent solution.

Other causes

Even if you believe you have removed a substance from your car’s cabin by wiping it off, many compounds can still be found inside. In addition to those in the center console, drink containers are typically seen inside doors on modern vehicles. Most people eventually spill coffee, cola, juice, and other beverages on the area near their drink holder, which results in a foul odor.

Stage 1. Clean The Major Odor Sources

Be a detective and search the vehicle for anything that might be the source of the stink. Search for infant bottles, rotting fruit, or unidentifiable blobs that may have been carried in on the bottom of someone’s shoe in pockets, beneath seats, on flooring, or even in the glove compartment. Remove and discard any of them immediately, and then leave the doors open to let whatever odors remain. Remember that an unpleasant scent sometimes indicates an overheated automobile or that you may need to change your oil.


Woman vacuuming the car floor

Although it seems straightforward, vacuuming can eliminate scents and their causes. You should vacuum your car repeatedly to keep track of unwanted smells because odors can quickly become trapped in the fabric. However, a vacuum can also reach tight spaces and remove anything that might be odor-causing.

Remove musty AC odor from a car’s air conditioner

The air conditioning unit can also be the cause of that musty odor. Damp floor mats close to the air conditioner are one warning indicator. Open the front cover of your car and remove the filter if you notice an odor emanating from this location. Any mold development should be scrubbed away with a nylon scouring pad and then dried with a cotton swab. Turn on the warmth in the car to complete the drying process. Spray an enzymatic cleaning, odor absorber, or anti-mildew treatment once you are sure the area is arid. Torque Detail Intra cleaner goes best for this purpose.

Alternatively, you might sprinkle baking soda over the upholstery and let it sit there for a few hours or a day before vacuuming it. The scent ought to have gone away by then. Of course, you can also take off car carpets and give them time to air out. Additionally, dust can amass inside the vents, sharing a car a musty odor. In this situation, vacuum the vents and clean the interior with a water-vinegar solution.

Stage 2. Deep Cleaning & Removing that mildew smell from your car

Before having your vehicle professionally detailed, several tools and products can help eliminate odors. You may even already have some of these in your home

Use a Solution composed of Vinegar and Water to Clean the Mold

This concentrated cleaner with a clean smell does wonders for overpowering scents. It can be kept overnight in a small cup or bowl in your car. The evaporation process will significantly diminish even the most potent odors. Another choice is to spray and scrub a smelly spot with a vinegar-and-water solution while using a moist cloth. Just be careful not to get vinegar that hasn’t been diluted into your vehicle. It is powerful enough to damage materials like carpet and leather.

Use Baking Soda as a Smell Eliminator 

Few things like baking soda, often sodium carbonate, work the best. Additionally, it should be your excellent alternative if you’re dealing with vomit. This powder has abrasive and alkaline properties that assist blanch stains and consuming odors.

Easy to use: Scrub the stinky area clean, wet it down, liberally sprinkle baking soda on top, and allow it to air dry. The dried powder should then be vacuumed at least a few hours later. Baking soda is a natural air deodorizer and can be kept in a closed jar with a few holes in the top, similar to the charcoal treatment.

Use an Interior Cleaner and Protector

Torque Detail Intra Clean & Shield is the one-two punch your interior has been lacking. This package makes deep cleaning your inside easy and will leave it looking brand new. With this convenient one-stop kit, interior finishing is simple. Use Intra Clean to thoroughly clean and freshen up the surfaces within your home first. Next, apply Intra Shield to your interior surfaces to provide Ceramic & UV Protection. Then, using Intra Clean as necessary, finish cleaning the interior.

2-step kit makes interior look like new

The Best Interior Cleaner


The one-two punch your interior has been missing.

“So far I’ve used Mirror Shine, Turbo, Tire shine, and now Intra Shield and Clean. All products have performed as advertised and I am very happy with the results. Now to try the car wash and my detailing kit will be complete.” – Bill L.

The Interior Kit Includes:

Intra Clean

  • All interior surfaces are secure
  • Deep cleans dashboard surfaces, leather, and fabric
  • Disinfects surfaces
  • Doesn’t change the colors or fabrics

Intra Shield – Interior Ceramic Detailer

  • UV Protection for Interior Surfaces using Ceramic
  • Creates a transparent, breathable layer
  • Doesn’t change the colors or fabrics

Simple Instructions to a Clean and Protected Interior

  1. Apply to a mild to moderately contaminated interior surface. Vacuum the feeling first if it is unclean or soiled.
  2. Spray the area down with Intra Clean
  3. Use a microfiber towel to buff in the product.
  4. Wipe off the excess product using a second, clean microfiber towel.

Use a Steam Cleaner for a Deeper Clean

Another convenient method for cleaning all inside automobile surfaces and sanitizing the air is steam cleaning. Steam cleaners of commercial quality have the power to thoroughly clean, sterilize, and safeguard every square inch of your car’s cabin. Top brands can blast away dirt and unwelcome microscopic particles such as pollen, mold, mildew, bacteria, and viruses. In addition to cleaning the surfaces inside your automobile, these devices sterilize them and leave them smelling clean.


The poison absorber of nature is this traditional home treatment. Therefore, the fact that the same substance used in water filters may also filter your air is not surprising. Leave an open pack of charcoal briquettes in your car overnight to do this. Due to its enormous porosity, activated charcoal can absorb virtually anything in the air. The charcoal is not consumed in any way, which is the best part.

Air Fresheners: Yay or Nay?

After deodorizing the atmosphere in your car, adding fresheners, scents, and other items that give it a particular smell is the last step to enjoying the clean air. Never mask unpleasant scents with pleasant ones. Once you’re sure the offensive odor has vanished, but not before, you can use one of these. It’s preferable to inhaling an odd concoction of lemon zest and stale cigarette smoke.

The Final Verdict

Mold, mildew, and musty odors can make your car’s interior uncomfortable. Whether traveling for business or a weekend break, you want to feel at ease, enjoy the ride, and not be distracted by unpleasant odors. If you think your automobile has mold, looking in several places will help you identify the problem and perhaps even remedy it. Torque Detail Intra interior cleaner, which is effective and affordable, is the superior solution for these problems!

2-step kit makes interior look like new

The Best Interior Cleaner


The one-two punch your interior has been missing.

“So far I’ve used Mirror Shine, Turbo, Tire shine, and now Intra Shield and Clean. All products have performed as advertised and I am very happy with the results. Now to try the car wash and my detailing kit will be complete.” – Bill L.

  • Published on Jan 03, 2023