The Best Odor Eliminators For Cars

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by Andrea Hannah
Originally Published: 
Man regulating air freshener near ventilation in car, closeup
Shutterstock/New Africa

Sports equipment, pet dander, and long-forgotten snacks. They all leave behind their own not-so-pleasant odors in your car, and it can be way harder than you planned to get them out. But here's the thing: The best odor eliminators for cars work by neutralizing scents over time, not just masking it.

If you've spent any time shopping for cleaners, you've probably heard the word "neutralize" when it comes to banishing bad smells. And it's true, the best odor eliminators actually neutralize that musty, gym sock smell in your car with an ingredient called cyclodextrin, or a special kind of sugar molecule . Basically, this ingredient clings to and trapping odor molecules to eliminate them. Any product you pick up for your car (or home, for that matter) should contain this ingredient or emit negative ions, which work the same way (Charcoal is one such ingredient).

You also want to get really honest with yourself about the source of those pungent scents. If your car just had a bad run with some forgotten fast food, an odor-eliminating spray that blasts away strong scents with a single use is a great choice. But if this is a reoccurring issue, you may want to consider charcoal or gel packs that clear the air over time.

Not sure which way to go? Here's a roundup of some of the best odor eliminators for your car to help you find your perfect match.


An Odor-Eliminating Plug-In Purifier: Enoch Car Air Purifier

This ionic air purifier is a total lifesaver if you're always hauling stinky sports equipment or savory snacks in your car. It works by plugging it into the lighter socket or clipping it to your vent. While it's plugged in, it releases a steady stream of high-density negative ions that cling to and absorb odor molecules. It's so powerful that it can also help eliminate airborne viruses to prevent you from getting sick. And bonus: It also includes two USB slots so you can charge your devices while you drive.

According to one reviewer: “This is an amazing little portable air purifier. It truly purifies the air within the car. The filters last really long and always keeps the air fresh and pure.”


An Odor-Absorbing Charcoal Pack: PURGGO Car Air Freshener

With no plastic, chemicals, or fragrance, this bamboo charcoal pack is truly an all-natural deodorizer. Both bamboo charcoal and hemp are porous, and they naturally absorb odor molecules that are hanging around in the are — no sprays or fans required. To use, just hang this pack around your seat and let it go to work. It's perfect for cars that need a little regular TLC since it lasts for over a year before it needs to be replaced.

According to one reviewer: “I am a former smoker and I’ve been smoking in my car for the last year until last month (when I officially quit smoking cigarettes), and the odor is gone. When I first received it, I placed it on the dashboard in the Florida sun then placed it behind the car seat as indicated. Works great.”


A Powerful Spray For Car Odors: Turtle Wax Power Out Odor-X Kinetic Whole Car Blast

If you aren't quite sure where that smell is coming from, this whole car deodorizer has you covered. As soon as you spray it, it reacts with odor-causing molecules to immediately destroy them. You can use it to get deep into carpet fibers, in between seats, and in your trunk. But the best part? You can spray it directly into your air vents to clear out any hidden causes of odor (random lost french fry, anyone?). This spray is great for a quick, complete clean. It also comes with a travel-size spray you can take with you on the go.

According to one reviewer: “This stuff is great! I had bought a used car that reeked of nicotine and after repeated cleaning- still smelled like a cigarette. I used this and the odor is gone! It was quick easy to use and it’s lasts a long time.”


Absorbent Crystals That Suck In Odors: DampRid Moisture Absorber in Lavender Vanilla

For musty odors, these moisture-absorbing crystals are an absolute must. Pop the lid on of these containers and tuck it under your seats to let it do its thing. The crystals pull in any additional moisture from soggy food spills or damp sports equipment, taking stinky scents with them. The crystals are also infused with lavender and vanilla, so they'll fill your car with a pleasant scent that you can actually enjoy. Plus, they come in a pack of six. Go ahead and replace them when they start to wear off and spread the deodorizer love.

According to one reviewer: “These work great. I put them in my car after it got wet from a flood and they really worked well.”


A Gel Pack That Eliminates Smoke: Ozium Large Gel 8-Ounce Smoke & Odors Eliminator

This gel pack sucks up all different kinds of odors, but reviewers agree that it truly shines when it comes to getting rid of smoke. The sticky gel beads attract smoke molecules that are lingering in the air, even long after you've exited your car. Once the molecules are attached to the beads, they're neutralized so all thats left behind is a mild fresh scent. It also lasts over a long period of time to keep your car smoke- and odor-free.

According to one reviewer: “It has removed the cigarette smoke smell from my car, though the smell was not very strong but noticeable, this product removed all of it.”


A Spray That Targets Stains & Spots: Rocco & Roxie Professional Strength Stain & Odor Eliminator

Over 10,000 Amazon reviewers swear by this spot treatment spray for all kinds of stains — from their carpets to their car. The key is in the enzymatic bacteria, which work in a similar way to cyclodextrin by seeking out and destroying odor-causing molecules. This treatment is so powerful that reviewers insist it's removed everything from pet urine to gross food spills with just a few sprays, making it the perfect treatment for one-off odor causers in your car.

According to one reviewer: “My dog had an accident in my car which I did not notice for a day or two. This product completely eliminated the stain and odor. A must have for all pet owners.”


Gel Beads That Absorb Smells: Fresh Wave Odor-Removing Gel Refill

This gel bead refill pack is the perfect solution to tackle odors that just won't quit. It comes with 3 pounds of rubbery gel beads that you can pour into any size container. You can pour some into an old candle jar, coffee can, or even a small compartment or cup holder in your car to keep it fresh. The beads utilizes the power of plant oils to naturally pull in odor-causing molecules, and when they wear out, you can always fill up your container again, and again.

According to one reviewer: “A few years later we had a used car business and the smell of the cars after the auction cleaned them was very bad, so I would sit a small bowl of the Fresh Wave crystals in the cars for a day or two and they would smell wonderful. I think anyone that needs to neutralize an odor will be very happy with this product. Also try the spray.”


A Powerful Plug-In With Dual Fans: QUEENTY HEPA Car Air Purifier

You definitely won't regret investing in this high-powered purifier with dual fans. Once you install it on your dashboard, it never has to be replaced — ever. It features an anti-slip bottom, and it has a durable cord that plugs into your car's lighter to keep this purifier continuously running. The fans work to pull in airborne odors, neutralize them, and flush them back out so there's always a stream of fresh air flowing.

According to one reviewer: “I have purchased car filter in the past but I like this design, easy set up, better design on filter, not to(o) bulky, easy filter change out, filter replacement available, does the job for the value. All in all it’s a good buy.”


Vent Clips That Smell Like Fresh Air: Febreze Car Vent Clips In Fresh Air Scent (8-Pack)

If you prefer some kind of scent, these vent clips banish odors while infusing you car with the scent of fresh air. Each clip features a small pocket of a gel-like substance that works to attract and eliminate airborne odor-causers for good. They also smell like heaven. And bonus: Amazon reviewers mention that they don't even have to turn on their vents for these little clips to work their magic.

According to one reviewer: “I'm an Uber and Lyft driver, so I'm driving everyday and the vent is on all day and burning the air freshener. I've found that they're lasting about 3 weeks to 1 month and still making the car smelling great.”


Charcoal Bags That Fit In A Seat Pocket: wyewye Activated Bamboo Charcoal Bags

These little bamboo charcoal bags are infused with activated charcoal, which is an all-natural deodorizer that works over time. Each bag is covered with porous fabric and the charcoal inside breaks down odors. Just tuck or hang these little bags all over your car — behind the seats, in the trunk, console, or glove compartment — and let them do their thing. They keep air fresh and completely odor-free for months.

According to one reviewer: “This product is really good. After a few days in the car, the smell is obviously less. At first, the car smells so bad that I feel like throwing up. Best choice for air and car odor.”

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