Getting Rid of Mildew Smell in a Car

Excess moisture can allow mold and mildew to develop inside a car. This guide is about getting rid of mildew smell in a car.
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June 5, 2005 Flag
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How do you get mildew smell out of a flooded car? My daughter's new (used) car smell of mildrew. We are afraid it was a flooded car. How can we get this odor out? It didn't smell when we bought it. It has been about two months now and the odor is very strong. They must have used something to hide the odor at the time of the sale.

Bonnie for LA

June 5, 20050 found this helpful
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Oh Bonnie, I feel your pain. Or son's car seats were used as a litter box at a garage when they left the windows down while it was there being repaired. We thought we had resolved the problem after cleaning the upholstery, but once we rolled up the windows and the car sat in the hot sun down here in Louisiana, NOTHING had changed.

We finally found a liquid enzyme product that we actually sprayed and even soaked into the foam of the seats. (We took the seats out to do this, but you may want to leave yours in and drench the carpet also) Anyhow - It worked! Every trace of the cat urine smell was removed. I would think it would do the same for a mildew smell. A local company here in Louisiana makes and sells the liquid enzyme I used.

If you can't find something in your area, try contacting Long's Preferred Products, (318)387-7304 or (318)398-9750. Hopefully they can help or at least make a suggestion for a purchase in your area. Good luck!

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June 6, 20050 found this helpful
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If you smell mildew. chances are there is still moisture in the car. Use DampRid to suck up any moisture and it will also remove some of the odor. You can buy DampRid just about anywhere, like Walmart in the house cleaning products isle. Bleach is the most effective way to remove mildew but I dont think you want to use that on your interior carpet. Sprinkle baking soda on the carpet then spray it with vinegar and water and watch it fizz and eat the mildew away.The vinegar smell will disapate after it dries. These two combined work miracles on everything!!

Remember, if you smell mildew, there is probably mold in the car as well. The spores can get into your daughters lungs and cause upper respitory problems like stuffy nose, conjestion, mucus build-up, headache, and a general ill feeling. The safest way is to have the interior carpet replaced. I just went through a similar problem with my car after all of the hurricanes. Best of luck to you:)

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June 7, 20050 found this helpful
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A few years back, I purchased a used car that had a mildew smell. We didn't smell it when we test drove, but once we had it at home. I tried shampooing the carpets, Febreze, etc. Finally, I went on line and found a product called X-Stinkt (I may have spelled that wrong) it is a powder that you sprinkle, let sit and then vacuum up. I had to use it about three times, but the smell was finally gone. You might try an on-line search for "removing mildew smells" and look for X-Stinkt (or something similar, as I said, I am unsure of the spelling).

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June 6, 20050 found this helpful

This is for a future car buying tip -

You can have the dealer run a CARFAX on the car when they provide the serial number of the car that tells the history of the car, number of owners, including if it was salvaged, flood damaged, the mileage etc.

The CARFAX is free when the dealer runs it, but if you are buying from an individual you can pay to have one run.

It's a very good investment ... you may not be getting the great deal you thought you were after reading the CARFAX report.

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June 7, 20050 found this helpful

Years ago, I had a car that began to have a mildew smell that I could not figure out where it was coming from. I bought the car new, never flooded it or left the windows open during rain storms, etc.

Finally I noticed one day while driving to work in a heavy downpour, that the windshield that I had had replaced due to a crack, was not sealed completely. The water would run down the windshield, and drip through the unsealed part at the bottom of the window, behind the dashboard, and down onto the carpet on the passenger side floor. Once I had the windshield re-sealed (for free because of their error), and shampooed the carpet and let it air out real good, I never had the problem again ! Good luck !

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June 12, 20050 found this helpful

Being sold a car that was previously damaged in a flood and not having it disclosed to you is considered dealer fraud.

There are Consumer protection laws in the states to provide punitive damages for persons who unwittingly purchased wrecks in situations like this, a risk compounded by state lemon laws that provide free legal help to consumers in these situations.

You can contact the Consumer Protection Section of the Attorney General's Office for more info.

Good luck

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August 8, 20050 found this helpful

I also knew I had a leak in the windshield seal, but I was keeping a towel under the dash in the passenger foot area. About a month ago, I started smelling mildew. It's been brutally hot and I thought it was after a day of wet swimsuits in the car. Days went by and it was every time I got in the closed car it would be very pungent. I remembered the towel. It smelled of such mildew and was immediately trashed. I went another 2 weeks saying that I needed to vacuum...then I took action last weekend. With baking soda and a toothbrush. I scrubbed and left the whole car's carpet AND some seat area covered in arm and hammer for 48 hours, windows closed. Then a vacuuming. I was relieved this morning when it was 80% improved! I need to take a little vinegar and baking soda to two small rubber areas that are below the floor mats, but I can almost breathe 100% again. [I would try the baking soda alone first. Vinegar -white- works many cleaning miracles but does need an airing out.]

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June 14, 20080 found this helpful

In my experience: I drove through some water, apparently enough water to leak up through the bottom of my car and soak the padding underneath the carpet and partially soak the carpet. The worst part was I did not notice it at all because the front driver and passenger side carpet was not noticeably wet and it wasn't until I started to smell mildew I became curious and I noticed the water there.

At first I thought it was just in the back seat floor on the right side, so I ripped out all the padding underneath that part of the car in hopes of eradicating the problem. The smell was still present so I looked around some more only to find when I got a look under any part of the carpet the padding was just soaked.

So I decided to cut my losses and just had an auto interior repair place order me some new carpet this morning. Carpet plus labor and clean/disinfect of any mold is going to run me $375, would have been $600+ for factory carpet. Until then, Febreeze is the only thing that has been effective in temporarily neutralizing the smell.

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October 21, 20150 found this helpful

August 16, 2010 Flag
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Does anyone know how to get the mildew smell out of a car? I accidentally left all my windows in the car open and it ended up storming really badly. Well, needless to say my car was filled with water. It has been about 6 months and it still stinks. I've tried fresheners of all sorts. Nothing is working. Help!

By chicky

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June 5, 20090 found this helpful
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Try spraying it with some What Odor? It completely got rid of the fish smell in my car after someone poured fish oil in my a/c vents. Really works great. had me saying What Odor?

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November 18, 20100 found this helpful
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Buy a box of Pet Fresh at your local grocery/dept store. Sprinkle it all over your vehicle's carpet; let it sit for 10 minutes, then vacuum it up. Can also put a air freshener in your car.

Tim

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August 29, 20050 found this helpful

I accidentally left the sun roof open on my two-month old car over night and, Murphy's Law, we got hit with a major storm. My interior was drenched! The car is still operating okay and i've been letting it sit in a underground garage with windows and sun roof open so it can air out. The seats are cloth. They don't feel very wet but I'm sure the water has soaked into the core and is festering there. Is there anything else I can do to prevent mold/mildew from setting in?

Kate

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November 19, 20100 found this helpful

I consulted my detail guy at the dealership I work, he said that first you need to make sure that all wet areas are dried (use hair dryer if needed). Next, sprinkle baking powder on the carpet and cloth seats, rub into the upper part of your seats. After 24 hours vacuum the seats and carpeting. He also said that if that doesn't take care of it, you can typically bring your car into a dealership or detail garage and have it "ozoned". My personal experience is that the ozone isn't all that great.

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April 3, 20110 found this helpful

First if mildew is in the car being careful and don't breathe it, mold and mildew is not good for your health. If it is in the carpet then cover your face and uses bleach and water solution, rent a cleaner from a store and do the carpet as you would do the house. If mildew is coming from the A/C vents then, this is what I do and that is I use a water and bleach solution and spray it into the vents, I turn on the fan blower with the A/C on full and spray the solution in the vents, I open all doors and let it run for several minutes, after the bleach smell goes away the car will smell fresh. I have to do this every year after I use the A/C. Most car manufactures will say it is caused by the cabin filter but as a certified mechanic over 34 years I can assure you that is not the cause. The true cause is the water is sitting up inside the A/C housing and not draining properly. The foam flush is also another way to spend money that will only cause it to be worst the next year when you use it again. Be careful if you do what I do and I am not advising you to do what I do but am only telling you about how I get rid of the mildew odor in my car and truck, I hope this helps and God bless you.

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June 22, 20160 found this helpful

same happened to me ,my husband took my keys left window down and bad storm passed and got inside of car soaking wet , after some thought , on how to get rid of smell i went and got a bog box of kitty litter with arm and hammer spread it all over and under wet places , it absorbed odor and humidity.

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January 16, 2013 Flag
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I own a 2003 Ford Thunderbird. For several months I have noticed a strong mildew smell coming from the vents, especially when air inside is on. However, I even noticed the odor in the garage when car was sitting in there. I started smelling all around my car and noticed the odor was very strong in the front right grill. I thought I found the solution/problem when someone told me to change the air cabin filter. I changed it, but am still smelling mildew, coming from front right grill. I have sprayed bleach water solution in the grill, on the cloth hood cover, and in vents to no avail. Please help. Thanks.

By Cindy

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May 9, 20150 found this helpful

Sorry to hear that Bonnie.

I've had similar experiences in the past, and I was able to get rid of the Mildew, and odor. I cleaned the car with something called Mildew Armor, you can get it at your local home depot store. I purchased the vehicle through JunkCarBuyerGA.com , and they had told me that it had mildew, and that the owners didn't want to risk driving the car.

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August 12, 20160 found this helpful

Shut your AC off about 10 minutes before you shut your car off.

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August 2, 2012 Flag
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I had a leak from the sunroof of my car and the car mat and the carpet in the front seat got soaking wet. I used a wet vac to get the water out and now I have a terrible mildew smell. How can I get the smell out?

By Freyda P.

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August 10, 20120 found this helpful

Try cleaning the mat & carpet with a solutuion of Orange Glow & warm water.

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March 23, 2005 Flag
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My truck had mold and mildew on the seat and under the seat. I have pulled the seat out and cleaned it wilh mixture of ammonia and water. The Mold and mildew is gone but the smell is still in the foam rubber under the seat. How do I get rid of this smell?

Judi from the Mountains of NC

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March 24, 20050 found this helpful

I'd try putting some charcoal briquettes in a plastic bag (leaving the top of the bag open) under the seat. After several days, I'd replace the briquettes with new ones if the odor wasn't gone. Charcoal absorbs ordors.

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March 24, 20050 found this helpful

There is a product on the market called ODO-Ban. Spray the area with the mold or mildew with a full concentration of this. It has a pleasant fragrance, but may be a little overpowering for a while. However, it will cure your problem. We had a pick-up truck that developed a leak around the windshield and mold formed on the carpet. This took care of it. Good luck!

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