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How to Get the Pet Smell Out of Your Car

Our trick involves a charcoal briquette and baking soda.

kid and dog leaning out of car on the beach
Photography by: Dave and Les Jacobs/Getty

Chauffeuring your furriest family member around town has one not-so-lovely side effect: her distinct lingering scent. Clear it with this deep clean targeting your vehicle's interior fabric, a major trapper of odor-causing hair and dander.

 

Related: How to Make All-Natural Deodorizer for Dogs

 

De-Fur It

Start by vacuuming seats, carpeting, and floor mats, grabbing any large clumps of hair as you go. If a few stubborn strands remain, "put on a medical [nitrile or latex] glove and rub your hand over the area to pull them off," says Meagan Kusek, assistant editor of Professional Carwashing & Detailing.

 

Neutralize It

Spray the same surfaces with a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water, suggests Jennifer Newman, editor in chief of Cars.com. For leather seats, she recommends Meguiar's Leather Cleaner and Conditioner. "Then open your car's windows for a few hours while it's parked at home to let Mother Nature do her thing."

 

Keep It Fresh

Between cleans, follow our two main tips: Leave a charcoal briquette or small bowl of baking soda in your back seat overnight to absorb any remaining smell after a wash, or to reduce odor in the days leading up to one, says Newman. Just be sure to remove it before you drive or let your dog inside. Additionally, use removable water-resistant seat protectors designed for pets, and machine-wash them frequently to nix the stink before it starts. For added insurance, give Fluffy regular baths, plus a quick wipe-down (on face, paws, and hind-quarters) before each ride to keep anything unpleasant from getting tracked into the vehicle, Kusek recommends.