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How To Get Rid Of Mold And Mildew Smell In Your Car

How To Get Rid Of Mold And Mildew Smell In Your Car

Our cars are like a second home for many of us and we want to do everything we can to keep them in the best condition possible.

As something that spends all of its time outside and exposed to the harsh weather conditions though, this can be easier said than done.

Whether it’s sun bleaching or the growth of mold and mildew, our cars tend to cop a lot of damage even when we’re careful to look after them.

Discovering a patch of mold in your car or smelling that recognizable odor that comes with it may not be distressing at first, but it can lead to long term and serious effects if not removed.

There are health risks to consider as well as the permanent damage it can cause for your vehicle, so as soon as you’ve noticed this troublesome fungus growing you should act on it.

Mold growth is a common problem that car owners face and once it’s been found in your car it can be incredibly hard to get rid of. Even when you’ve cleaned it out and the dark mold spots are nowhere to be seen, the strong and unpleasant odors can still linger.

That’s why we’ve got some effective tricks you can use to get rid of the mold and its smell from your car, once and for all. 

Table of Contents

​Why Is Mold Growing In My Car?

mold in a car

The conditions inside of a car make it a very attractive breeding ground for this fungus.

Mold grows in dark places and those with excess moisture, and when we lock our cars up for the night they’re getting little to no ventilation and also not a lot of natural light.

There are a few reasons why your car could have mold, including a leak or damage somewhere that’s allowing rain and moisture to get in.

You could have spilled something or stepped in a puddle outside and tracked the water in, both scenarios causing the growth of mold to begin.

Sometimes mold grows from something as simple as leaving your window cracked open just a little and letting moisture or rain to get in, even without you noticing.

Mold is capable of spreading quickly through its spores, so even the smallest amount of excess moisture or rain damage could end up damaging your entire car.

The first step is to identify the cause of the mold and rectify, whether you need to get a leak in the roof fixed or start making more of a conscious effort to keep your windows sealed shut, without treating the source the mold will only continue to return.

​Is Car Mold A Health Risk?

is mold a health risk

Mold is found everywhere around the world as a natural response to moisture, but when it starts to grow in confined spaces that have little ventilation like our cars or homes, that’s when it begins to pose a threat to our health.

Consider how much time you spend driving in your car and the conditions of the air, especially if you use a heater or air conditioner with recirculated air, and you’ll see why mold growth in the car can be dangerous.

According to the Center for Disease and Control Prevention, the presence of mold in any form has the potential to be a health risk.

Although some people may find that they’re not as sensitive to mold as others, especially when it small amounts, most will develop some kind of reaction which could even lead to serious infection. 

The spores of mold are what makes this fungus so dangerous and these minuscule parts spread quickly and easily through the air.

When they’re ingested, they can cause issues, regardless of whether you have a mold allergy, and repeated exposure in high amounts to types like black mold can be quite serious. 

For those with mild mold sensitivity, you might notice signs like sneezing when you get into your car or turn on the air conditioning.

Anyone with a mold allergy will have a more severe reaction including skin irritation and upper respiratory problems, and those who are immune-compromised or already have a lung-related illness may find that exposure to mold leads to infection and can turn serious very quickly.

​How To Remove And Clean Mold From Your Car Interior

clean car mold

Mold can present itself in many shapes, sizes, and colors, and usually looks like spots. Usually, you can smell the odor of mold before you even see it, which may be the case in your car.

Regardless of what type of mold is growing, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends eliminating it immediately, due to the varying effect that mold can have on people.

If you’ve spotted mold in your car or notice the unmistakable odor, there are some simple steps to take in order to eliminate it.

Follow these at the first sign of mold in your car to prevent the growth from spreading further.

  • ​Start with a standard clean of the interior of your car, just as you would if you were cleaning it normally. Remove all trash or unwanted items from the car and throw them away, as well as any clothing or shoes that might be soiled.
  • ​Use a powerful vacuum to clean every part of the car’s interior, making sure to get in between seats and cracks. A quality vacuum will be able to pick up mold spores that lead to more growth, so consider using an industrial-strength machine if possible.
  • ​Pour some distilled vinegar into a clean spray bottle and go through your car, spraying it onto the upholstery, as well as floor mats, walls, and the dashboard. Make sure you spray enough to make the seats damp with vinegar and then scrub the upholstery to get it into the fabric deep.
  • Leave your car to dry by opening all of the doors and windows and letting it get natural air and light. This may take a few hours but you’ll want it to be completely dry on all parts before you move onto the next step.
  • Once dry, vacuum your car again to remove any spores that might still be present.
  • Perform a check of the car to look for leaks or damage that could have caused the moisture to get in, and have them rectified immediately if anything is found.

​How To Get Rid Of The Mold Smell In A Car

mold smell

​Mold comes with a very persistent smell, and even after performing a deep clean with vinegar you might find that the odor is still lingering around.

There are a few further options you can try if you know that your car has been cleaned, but the mold and mildew smell is still there.

  • ​Remove and replace the air conditioner filter of the car as it can sometimes capture mold spores and smells.
  • ​Give the upholstery and floor mats a deep shampoo from a detailer, as many times the smell will be captured in fabric.
  • ​Fill up a sock with baking soda and tie it somewhere in your car to allow it to neutralize odors and trap excess moisture.
  • ​Drive without heating or air conditioning for a week or so in order to get fresh air in and eliminate the smell.

​Preventing Future Mold Growth In Your Car

preventing a car mold

Our cars are serious investments, and next to our homes, they’re usually the most expensive purchase we’ll ever make.

Having a little bit of mold growing in your car might seem harmless at first, but the numerous health risks and the potential damage it can do to your vehicle show us that it’s anything but.

Prevention is the key with mold, regardless of where you’re trying to treat, so you have to do what you can to make it hard for the fungus to return.

Keep your windows sealed shut, have any leaks or damage looked at and repaired, and make an effort not to bring wet shoes in the car or leave any food or drinks behind.

These simple measures will stop the initial moisture that allows mold to grow so you don’t have to deal with the pesky fungus again.

Once mold has taken over your car it can seem near impossible to get rid of, especially once the mold itself has been cleaned but the smell remains.

With our expert tips and some knowledge on how to prevent it from returning, you can keep your investment in top condition and have a car as clean and fungus free as your home.