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Removing Rotten Food Odors From a Car

If some food gets forgotten or spilled in a car, it can leave behind a disgusting smell. This guide is about removing rotten food odors from a car.

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August 25, 2015 Flag
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I spilled red beans in my truck all over the floor! I got it all cleaned up and poured water on the carpet to rinse the bean juice out, but it got more down in the carpet. It is also under the trim around the door. If has left this rotton sour smell, worse than a dead mouse lol! I have tried vinegar, lemon, and ammonia cleaner, nothing will take the smell out. I gag everytime I get in it. I need help! What can I use?

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August 30, 20150 found this helpful
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The last used car we bought had this sour smell inside. It belonged to a young lady who apparently spilled a lot of coffee with milk in the front and back seat. When we bought the car, we could see no stain and could smell only the air freshener hanging inside. I have a little green clean machine and my son and I spent at least 3 hours using it to clean with ammonia water over and over and over again. We were very surprised at how long it took until the water removed had no color. When we were finished, we pulled it in the garage and opened all the windows until it was completely dry. The smell was mostly gone. We put socks filled with coffee grounds under the seats (a tip from a friend) and the sour smell eventually went away. When people apply water or cleaner without using suction to remove it, it just pushes the stain source deeper in. Then the soap and particles get trapped under the carpet. This is true with household carpet as well. You can get a Bissel Little Green Clean Machine (which is what we have) for cheap on their website--call and ask if they have any refurbished ones--which are drastically discounted. This will be cheaper than taking it to the dealer even once--even if you have to pay full price off of Amazon. This machine will come in handy in the future for sure. You may also try an enzyme product such as Nature's Miracle (found in pet stores) which removes all organic stains and odors including food, vomit, feces, smoke, etc. I would try the ammonia water combo in the machine first and finish up with the Nature's Miracle. That stuff is amazing, but it can't work properly if there are still food particles trapped under the carpet. Also, when I need a fresh smell in the car, I put an unwrapped bar of soap under the seat. The soap doesn't melt like other products and you can use it in the shower when it loses it's potency. I like the peppermint castile bar soap for this.

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August 26, 20150 found this helpful

As the bean liquid has soaked inside areas you can't access to clean, probably the best plan is to take it to a dealership. The dealer will be able to take the carpet, trim, etc. areas out and clean the entire area for a full clean. However, you should fully explain the problem (I suggest to type a note and give it to the dealer) and must be sure that they will remove and carefully clean all areas affected by the bean liquid.

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Anonymous Flag
March 8, 20160 found this helpful

Sprinkle baking powder on the rug, let it sit for a day and then vacuum it up

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March 24, 2011 Flag
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Someone put a fish in my car under the seat on the carpet and it baked in the heat of the Florida sun for a day. How can I get the smell out?

By Brian from Winter Haven, FL

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March 25, 20110 found this helpful
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Medical supply stores sell a product used in hospitals called "Rainfresh". It breaks up the molecules in protein caused odors: vomit, feces, urine. I think fish qualifies as protein. Rainfresh is sold to the general public.

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March 25, 20110 found this helpful

I had something similar happen to my car. After my car was cleaned, I used lemon juice in the car. Placed in a bowl close to the smell. I closed the windows for a couple of hours. After that, open your car doors and windows and let it air out.

I think I remember mixing the lemon juice with water and rubbing it directly on the seat of my car. Luckily it was the back seat. If you do this, test it on a spot that is not so obvious.

I had to repeat this process about 4 times. Now I can't tell it was ever there.

Hope this works for you.

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July 29, 2010 Flag
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How do I get stinky fish smell out of my minivan?

By leilauni from Red Bud, IL

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August 3, 20100 found this helpful
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Just go to the place where they sell supplies for fish tanks. Get some charcoal the kind they use in the pump thingie. Then spread it around where the smell is the worst and leave it there for a few days. It will get rid of any smell. I had someone spill milk in my car and it sat for a few days in the hot sun. The charcoal got rid of it leaving no more smell. Hope this helps you.

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July 30, 20100 found this helpful

Try activated charcoal pellets. Put them in an open container and leave in the car, with the windows rolled up. Usually works as the charcoal absorbs the odor.

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September 15, 2015 Flag
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I recently cooked a big pan of cabbage at my mom's. I had to transport it on the cloth seat of my Cruze. With that being said, as I went to grab it out when I got to my home I realized the seat was wet. That is when I knew I was in for it because I learned about cooking it with vinegar for the smell to stay down. So now I have a funky smell inside my vehicle. I tried getting it shampooed and that didn't work so now I need help and an actual solution. Please help.

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September 17, 20150 found this helpful

I would purchase a gallon of Odo-ban from either Home Depot or another home improvement store. I use it full strength in a spray bottle to rid odors in my rentals between tenants.

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April 21, 2016 Flag
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This is a guide about removing rotten seafood odors from a car. Food accidentally spilled or left in a hot car can quickly fill your vehicle with a really bad smell.

Removing Rotten Seafood Odors From a  Car

April 2, 2016 Flag
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This is a guide about cleaning rotten meat odors from a car. Meat accidentally left in the car can quickly become rotten and fill your car with a very bad odor.

Raw beef on a piece of cardboard in the back of an SUV style car (lift gate is open)

January 21, 2005 Flag
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I had a tomato spoil while under the seat of my car (not sure how it got there). After I removed the tomato, there was some juice that had soaked into the carpet. I tried carpet cleaner but couldn't get to the spot. I then tried pouring white vinegar on the area. The vinegar neutralized the smell for the most part, but not completely. And now I have a vinegar smell in the car--not good but better than the rotten tomato. My question - how do I get rid of the vinegar smell and any lingering rotten tomato smell? Thanks in advance for your help.


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January 21, 20050 found this helpful
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Keep putting baking soda on. Put it on, let it set for a few days. Vacuum and do it again until it goes away.

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June 3, 20080 found this helpful

Baking soda absolutely. Let stay overnight. But you must vacuum it or the smell will remain.

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July 22, 2012 Flag
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I am embarrassed to admit this, but my truck smells like rotted food and wet dog (don't ask). I have bought air freshener after air freshener. I have vacuumed and thoroughly cleaned the truck, but the smell lingers. It's making me a little crazy because my truck is clean, but still smells dirty!

By Mary S.

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July 23, 20120 found this helpful

Okay Mary. This is going to sound totally beyond belief, but if you are desperate it might be worth considering.

I honestly can't remember where we found this hint, but after one of our very ill, huge breed dogs (think huge breed "bladder") peed & soiled the carpet, interior and leather seats of our Jeep as we were transporting him to the vet hospital, someone suggested drenching the carpet with wintergreen scented rubbing alcohol. (I didn't even know such a product existed, but it can be found near the regular rubbing alcohol in our local Walmart.)

Not to worry. The dog survived the medical incident - thank goodness. Yet our main vehicle smelled worse than an uber ignored litter box in a house with many, many cats. Because our dog only peed mainly on the cargo area carpet with only random sprays of urine on the leather seats and cargo walls, we doused the carpet area with full strength wintergreen scented rubbing alcohol and used a water diluted mix to wipe down the rest of the interior.

Then, as per directions we read on the internet source of which I can not remember, we kept the windows open for 24 hours to air out and evaporate the rubbing alcohol. The Jeep smelled like Wintergreen Certs Candy Mints for a week or so, but the urine smell completely disappeared in less than 24 hours.

I suspect this has more to do with the mix of urine and rubbing alcohol than it does with dirty dog smell and spoiled food, but it did not hurt the carpet nor did the diluted solution we used to wipe down the seat backs or interior leave any lasting reminders and the awful order went away quickly.

Again, just something to consider if you can't get rotten food and dirty dog smells out of the vehicle. Use at your discretion, only (and follow a better suggestion if you can find such) but it just might help disperse the odors if you can't find a better solution. Gotta love the doggies - dirty smells and all! (Not gonna ask about the rotten food! hee hee!) Good Luck in cleaning your truck! :)

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Anonymous Flag
March 2, 20160 found this helpful

Alcohol kills bacteria, the smell is coming from bad bacteria if they are dead, the smell is gone.

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