How To Remove Perfume Smells From Your Car

  • By: Nathan Cherry
  • Time to read: 6 min.

Testing perfume in your car can be somewhat of a risky proposition. 

I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve gone on a perfume testing binge in Neiman Marcus or Saks and come back to my car with a veritable smorgasbord of test strips and sample vials. I kept them hoarded covetously for weeks, like Smaug presiding over his treasure trove, and pretty soon my car started to develop quite the shtank – my term for the rather gnarly odor of too many perfumes mixing together.  

So, how do you remove a perfume smell from your car? 

There are a number of methods for removing the smell of perfume from your car. Leaving the windows open so the car can air out, sprinkling baking soda, leaving charcoal or vinegar in the car, using an air freshener, and cleaning the carpets are all effective ways of deodorizing your car. 

In the worst case scenario, you might also consider taking your vehicle to a professional detailer. 

Let’s take a closer look at your options for removing the smell of perfume from your car. 

1. Clean Out Your Car

First thing’s first: are you sure that the shtank is coming just from perfume? Or are their other culprits as well? 

If you’ve got a stinkin’ Lincoln and throw a whole bunch of perfume into the mix, it’s certainly not going to improve things. 

So the first order of business should be to clean out all the trash, half-melted chocolate bars, and moldering Big Mac boxes giving off burger must from your car. If you’re like me and have got test strips from department stores galore, take them inside or throw them away. 

And that perfume you keep in the glove box for a quick spritz before work or meeting up with that hot date? Believe me, you’re not doing it any favors by keeping it in your car. 

Keeping a bottle of perfume in the car is a death sentence for it. The constant swings of temperature and humidity it experiences in the car gradually erodes the oils in the perfume, in addition to increasing the rate of evaporation. 

So please, take that poor perfume inside and don’t let it stay out in the car anymore. Doing that will also probably decrease that perfume smell in your car, too. 

2. Air Your Car Out

One of the simplest and most effective options for removing a perfume odor from your car is, of course, airing it out. 

Let your car sit with the windows and doors open for a few hours so that your car can aerate. If possible (and safe), leave the car windows open or cracked overnight for best results

Airing out your car is an easy way to deodorize it. But if the perfume smell is still lingering after aerating your car, there are a number of natural remedies you can test out. 

3. Use Charcoal

No, not for a barbecue (though it’s obvious that charcoal > gas). 

Charcoal is actually quite effective as an air filter and deodorizer, and has been used in homes to remove stinky fumes for who knows how long. 

Simply leave a few pieces or an open bag of charcoal in your car overnight. The porous charcoal will absorb any odors lingering in your car. What’s more, absorbing the smells in your car won’t do anything to the charcoal, and you’ll be able to use it however you like afterwards. 

Using charcoal is a very effective method for deodorizing your car, but if you haven’t got any of the black stuff on hand, there are other options available to you. 

4. Use Vinegar

Vinegar is pretty close to being one of the most useful substances on the planet. Just one of its many, many applications is as an air deodorizer. 

Simply put a cup or bowl of white vinegar in your car overnight. The harsh smell of the vinegar will drive away the other odors permeating your car. You can also use a simple vinegar solution to wipe down particularly perfumey areas. 

Just be aware that there might be a vinegary smell lingering in your car after using this method, but when it comes to the shtank, you’ve got to fight fire with fire. 

5. Use Baking Soda

Another contender for the most useful product in existence must be the humble bicarbonate of soda. And just like charcoal, baking soda is a very effective air deodorizer. 

To use baking soda to deodorize your car, simply sprinkle some throughout the vehicle and let it sit for a few hours later or overnight. Then, vacuum up the soda. You can also leave it in a container with some holes on top so that it serves as a kind of air freshener. 

But if these natural solutions haven’t worked to de-shtank your car, you might have to bring out the big guns. 

6. Use a Carpet Cleaner

If the smell persists, it’s possible that you’ve got a larger problem on your hands. Perhaps the odor of the perfume has sunk into the fabric of the car and can’t be removed by conventional means. 

If you’ve found yourself in this pickle, don’t despair just yet. 

A carpet cleaner is an effective method for removing odors that might have settled into the fabric of your car. You can find various varieties of carpet cleaners at auto and hardware stores. Just make sure that you’ve got the right one for your vehicle, and for your problem, as some can be quite caustic and might not be suitable for use in every case. 

7. Use an Upholstery Shampoo

If you really want to get into deep cleaning your car, you can purchase a specialized upholstery shampoo and conditioner. You can also use a carpet cleaner on your upholstery, but an upholstery shampoo will net you better results.

Mix the upholstery shampoo with water, soak a sponge or brush in the solution, and clean, focusing on one seat at a time. Dry with a clean towel. If you aren’t confident in your ability to do it on your own, consult with a car detailing professional to do the job. 

8. Use an Air Freshener

Finally, only after you’ve used one (or three) of the above methods should you use an air freshener. 

It’s true that air freshener can, well, freshen the air in your car. But air fresheners emit an artificial and often cloying aroma that might not always be the best bet for driving the stank out of your Subaru. The smell of pine is not going to magically drive away 30 years of cigarette smoke. 

So should you use an air freshener if you want a nice, clean smelling car? Yes, of course, sure. But if you’ve got some serious funk on your hands, try deodorizing your vehicle with one of the methods above first. 

The Final Word

I should reiterate that spraying perfume or keeping perfume in the car is not always the move. But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, right? 

If you’ve got some serious perfume fumes going on in your car, though, don’t worry. You’ve got quite the rolodex of odor-fighting options available to you. 

There are numerous ways to remove perfume odor from your car, from using natural remedies like clean air, charcoal, baking soda, and vinegar, to heavier duty cleaning methods like carpet cleaner and upholstery shampoo. In serious cases, it’s best to consult with a professional car detailer to help remove the smell. 
And remember, wait until after the stank is gone to use your favorite mango air freshener.