Inside of Car Got Wet and Smells? 5 Fixes

It’s hard to miss the musty and unpleasant smell from a car that got wet. And driving in a car with a musty odor is not only uncomfortable but can also be pretty embarrassing when you get someone in it. 

Whether your car got wet through a spill, a leaking evaporator, or a heavy rainfall while you forgot to wind the windows up; it’s important to get rid of the water.

Trapped water in the car can lead to the appearance of mildew or mold. Mildew and mold are caused by the growth of fungus, and if left unattended for too long, the smell may get worse. 

5 Solutions for a Wet, Smelly Car

So how do you get rid of the smell from a car that got wet? It’s easy! Here are some effective tips to get the pleasant smell back to your vehicle:

1: Hire Professional Services

One of the easiest ways to get any odor off your car is by getting a professional to deodorize the entire interior.

An expert will focus on the source of the smell and clean off the part harboring the odors. After a thorough wash at a professional, your car will start to smell normal.

However, the con about hiring a professional car cleaner is that it can be expensive. If hiring a professional isn’t an option for you, you can consider DIYing using one of the fixes explained below. 

2: Steam Cleaning 

Steam cleaning, as the name suggests, involves using steam to clean. It is one of the best and most efficient solutions to freshening the air and cleaning the interior of a car.

The smell from a wet vehicle is most probably from the mold and mildew forming on the wet surface. Since mold can’t survive around 140oF, steam cleaning your car will get rid of the mold. By steam cleaning, you will get rid of the mold and also evaporate the wet part of the car to prevent future smells. 

You can get commercial-quality steam cleaners at department stores or rent one to do this task. 

Also, consider leaving the car doors and windows opened on a sunny day to dry out the wet parts.

3: Use of Chemicals 

There are certain chemicals perfect for deodorizing odors in the car. You can use these chemicals to remove the smell from the car at little cost.  Most of these products are readily available at home and department stores. Some of them are;

  • Vinegar

Vinegar is a great ingredient to remove all smells, including musty odors in the wet car. Vinegar has antibacterial and antifungal properties making it perfect for getting rid of mildew and mold caused by fungi.

Try to leave a cup of vinegar in the car overnight to absorb the odor. It’s also recommended to locate the source of the smell and spray/wash with a mixture of water and vinegar.

Simply mix one part white vinegar with 2 parts water in a spray bottle. Spray the car seats and upholstery and leave it to dry. Repeat the process if the smell persists. 

  • Soda

Baking soda can be bought in most supermarkets, and it’s an inexpensive way to remove the smell from your car. It works by absorbing odor from the air

Just place a bowl of baking soda in the car overnight to absorb the unpleasant odor and remove it the following day to avoid spilling in the car while driving.

If you still notice the smell, repeat the process with a fresh bowl of baking soda. Meanwhile, remember to keep the windows and doors shut for the baking soda to work effectively. 

  • Charcoal 

Charcoal is a popular household cleaning agent used to absorb smells due to its porous nature. All you need is to get charcoal; leave an open bag of charcoal briquettes in your car overnight to absorb the odors.

You can also place packages of charcoal in auto door pockets, the glove box, and other small areas inside the car. Try changing the charcoal packets periodically as they will eventually lose their ability to absorb the odor in the air.

  • Coffee Grounds

Just like baking soda, coffee grounds can absorb odor from the air. Leave a cup containing coffee grounds in the car overnight and ensure to leave the doors and windows closed. 

4: Clean the Carpets

If you are noticing smells from your car after a spillage or water in your car, then it has most likely found its way to the carpet. Here are some tips for cleaning the carpets;

  • If your car’s carpets are wet /damp, take a towel to blot out the excess moisture. You can also use a blow dryer to dry up the water trapped in the carpet or seat.
  • If your car is wet, then the seats and car upholstery probably got soaked. Try to dry them up by spreading the removable clothing outside or placing dryer sheets on the seats and door pockets to absorb the water. You can also let the floor mats dry naturally in the sun or put them in a dryer. 
  • Try to find the part of the carpet harboring the smell and attack it with a carpet cleaner. Auto parts dealers and shops offer different carpet cleaners, so find one that works for you.  

5: Use Air Freshener

Once your car smell has been treated, you want to get a car air freshener to help the car smell better. You can’t go wrong with a good air freshener. Just check out auto supermarkets for car air fresheners and find a scent you love. 

Meanwhile, it’s best to only use the air freshener when the smell has been treated.  If you use just the air freshener as the only fix, it will only mask the smell without removing it from the source. 

Since it’s a microorganism, the most effective way to stop mildew smells is to stop its growth, and using an air freshener will just cover up car smells. 


Whenever you’re battling with a musty smell after water gets into your car, consider following any of the fixes above to get the car odor back to normal. 

Also, before you attempt any of these fixes, try to confirm the reason your car is wet. Ensure that the damp is not caused by an ongoing water leak in the car, which may return if not fixed.

Try as much as possible to prevent it from happening again. If there’s a water leak in your car, try to fix it, and if it’s from a rainstorm, wind up the windows to the maximum. 

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