How to get dog smell out of car seats
If you notice a distinct doggy odor in your car, you’re not alone. Dog smell in the car is a common issue for dog owners who like to travel with their dogs.
The smell typically emanates from the car seat fabric where the dog sits. When dogs spend any amount of time in the car, it’s inevitable that they shed, leaving behind not just fur but dead skin cells, bacteria, and other microorganisms that turn stinky over time. Dogs also bring in dirt from outside and may drool or leave other biological substances behind. All of these substances stay trapped in or on the seat fabric and will continue to give your car that Eau de Dog aroma until you clean it out.
Try these steps to get the dog smell out of fabric car seats.
Vacuum the Seats
Use a handheld vacuum or the gas station vacuum cleaner and go over all the fabric in your car very thoroughly. Concentrate on the area(s) where your dog spends the most time, but vacuum all fabric surfaces inside, including the headrests, carpets, and mats. Do a quick once over of the hard surfaces including arm rests and dashboard, too, since dog fur tends to fly around and end up all over.
Remove Stubborn Hairs
Vacuuming will get a lot of the dog fur out, but it probably won’t do the job 100%. Dog hairs have a way of getting stuck inside the fabric, especially when they’re short, so you’ll need to put in a little more elbow grease to get them out.
Take a spray bottle with plain water and mist the surface of the seat fabric. Then drag a rubber squeegee (the kind you’d use in a glass-door shower) or a rubber glove over the fabric. The rubber unsticks the fur, and you can roll it up into a ball and throw it away.
If you don’t have a rubber squeegee or rubber glove, skip spraying the fabric with water and try a lint brush or a lint roller, duct tape or packing tape, or unscented dryer sheets.
Spray to Remove Odors
Once the car seat fabric is clean of dog hair and visible dirt, you can move on to the next step of actually nixing the odor. An easy and inexpensive solution is to mix plain water and vodka in a spray bottle, or plain water and white vinegar, and spray over the fabric and let it evaporate.
Depending on the source of the odor, you may need something stronger than vodka or vinegar to neutralize the odors, especially if your dog has been car sick or had accidents on the upholstery. The next step up is to use a specially designed pet cleaning spray with enzymes. Enzymatic cleaners actually break down proteins found in urine, vomit, and feces to clean them. Double check that the kind you get is suitable for use on car upholstery.
Shampoo the Car Upholstery
For a deeper clean, use car upholstery shampoo. Take your car to an auto detailer if you’d rather not do it yourself. If you want to DIY, get some car upholstery shampoo and follow the directions on the label. Typically, after vacuuming the fabric clean, you’ll prepare the shampoo and apply the foam to the fabric in sections at a time, working it in with a cloth or a brush to make sure it really penetrates and cleans. Blot excess liquid with a cloth and then let it dry. You may finish it up with a final vacuum to remove the dried shampoo residue.
If you do shampoo your car upholstery yourself, be careful not to get the seats too wet. If water penetrates too deeply into the seats, it can develop mold, which is a (smelly) problem itself. Go to a detailer if you’re unsure about doing it yourself.
Prevent Odors in the First Place
If your dog is the main source of unpleasant odors in your car, then there are some simple things you can do to help prevent dog fur and other substances from accumulating on your car’s seats in the first place.
Groom your dog regularly.
A thorough brushing helps pull out loose hairs that might otherwise end up in the car. Having your dog’s coat shampooed and thinned out at the groomer at regular intervals will also help a lot.
Take a walk before long car rides.
Some dogs have accidents in the car, either because they’re very young or very old and can’t control their bladders well or they’re overexcited from riding in the car. If this is your dog, take them for a walk before getting in the car, especially for longer trips. Stop at least every 3 hours for a potty break, or more frequently if your dog tends to pee in the car.
Keep your dog off the seat.
A barrier of some sort between your dog and the car’s fabric is a simple and extremely effective way to help keep your car smelling cleaner. Little dogs can stay secured in their own little dog car seats, like this booster Lookout Dog Car Seat by Snoozer, which allows your dog to see outside the window from the backseat, or the Console Seat for even smaller dogs who like to sit up front. For dogs that sit in the backseat, a cover like the Hammock Dog Car Seat Cover by Snoozer protects your car’s entire backseat, plus it keeps your dog from falling off the seat.
Treat motion sickness.
Does your dog suffer from motion sickness and sometimes vomits because of it? You can try natural treatments, OTC remedies, or prescription medications (talk to your vet) to lessen the effects and reduce the chances of vomit. Keep in mind that it’s common for puppies to have motion sickness, and they often grow out of it by 1 year old.
Keep Your Car Smelling Fresh and Clean
To keep your car smelling fresh and dog odor-free, the best thing is a combination of prevention and upkeep. Prevent the odor-causing substances from getting onto your car’s seats in the first place and combine that with regular vacuuming and spraying with water + vodka or vinegar to help keep odors at bay. Now that you know what to do, there’s no reason to suffer from doggy odor in your car!
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