Tried and True Ways to Get Rid of Pet Odor in Your Car

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Getting that pet smell out of your car can feel impossible—especially when the wet weather settles in. From baking soda to vinegar to the trusty old vacuum, it’s not as hard as you might think!
The best part of having a pet is the constant companionship, so it makes sense that many of us love to take our furry friends with us wherever we go. But even the best and cutest animals can leave our cars smelling, well, smelly.
If you’re an experienced pet owner, you know that not all cleaning methods are created equal. That’s why the car insurance comparison shopping and broker app Jerry is breaking down how to get rid of pet odor in your car.

Vacuum

Before you do anything else to clean your car, start with a good vacuuming session. A vacuum will eliminate the majority of pet hair and any dirt left from your animals, which are big contributors to the smell.
Any vacuum will do the trick, but your best bets are a powerful handheld vacuum, a car wash vacuum, or the popular portable carpet cleaners.
If the vacuum doesn’t remove all of the stray hairs, go over the surfaces with a lint roller or rub the surfaces with a medical glove.

Baking soda

Turns out, there was something to that box of baking soda your grandma kept in her refrigerator and closet! Baking soda is known to absorb smellsall types of smells. Plus, you’re likely to already have it in your pantry.
To remove the odor from your car, simply put some baking soda in a bowl, place it in your car, and leave it overnight—that’s it! More stubborn smells might take a few tries to be successful.
If the odor’s source is urine or that familiar "wet dog" smell, a more thorough baking soda paste might be in order. Here’s how to make it:
  • Mix three parts baking soda to one part water, adjusting as needed until it forms a paste consistency
  • Rub the paste onto the spot or area in question
  • Allow the paste to dry completely
  • Vacuum away the residue
  • If the odor persists, repeat the process
Pro Tip If you don’t have baking soda, a piece of bread will do the same trick of absorbing the odor overnight. Just grab one piece, put it on a dishtowel, and leave it overnight. Et voilà!

White vinegar

White vinegar is another natural and effective odor remover that you probably already have. To use it, mix equal parts vinegar in water into a spray bottle and mist the solution on the surfaces of your car. Be careful not to completely saturate the fabric or spray any air filters.
You can rub the solution in with a microfiber cloth before allowing your car to dry over several hours. If the odor persists, repeat until the smell is gone.
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Car upholstery cleaner for pets

There are plenty of car shampoo types and brands, but using one specifically designed for pet odors will be the most effective. This is one of the more costly and thorough methods, but these types of products will more directly target the chemical makeup of specific pet odors—especially if the odor is from an accident.
  • Spray the cleaner generously over the offending fabrics and carpet
  • With gentle, circular motions, use a bristle-style brush to bring all of the grime and dirt to the surface
  • Allow the cleaner to sit and do its magic—check your specific product’s directions for how long
  • Grab your vacuum to remove any remaining residue

Preventative tips

While these processes are sure to work, they are time consuming. Here are a few tips to avoid having to repeat these methods every time you take your furry friend for a joyride.
  • Give your dog regular baths so that there’s less smell to clean up after
  • Buy a seat protector for your car—and remember to wash it regularly!
  • If a seat protector is too much of a hassle, adding a designated blanket to put in your car seat for your pet to lay on will prevent a lot of hair buildup
  • Keep a towel in the car to wipe off paws (and any other dirty parts) before driving home
  • Keep some odor spray for pets on hand to use regularly
  • Clean up any accidents immediately to prevent the odor from setting in too much

Find the best insurance (for your immaculate-smelling car)

Keeping a tidy car is important—but so is making sure you’re getting the best coverage with your car insurance. Downloading the Jerry app makes that super easy!
Jerry collects quotes from up to 50 top insurance companies in seconds, handles all the paperwork once you’re ready to switch, and even helps you cancel your old policy.
"I recently started looking for insurance. With my past ticket, I got rejected from several companies while others charged me extreme prices. My friend referred me to Jerry and their amazing customer service helped me get the lowest insurance rate." —Christina H.

FAQs

Can any of these methods be used on leather interiors?

While the vacuuming and baking soda methods are safe to use with leather interiors, the other methods depend. Vinegar is generally safe for leather but can dry it out.
If your seats are dry after cleaning with the vinegar solution, try making a DIY conditioning solution to make them shiny again. Be sure to check the instructions on any shampoo product before using it on leather seats.
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