How Uber and Lyft Drivers Remove Car Odors and Smells
After being in my car for 17 straight days driving across the country on Lyft for charity, my wife noticed that the inside of my car smelled a bit funny. I instantly got worried that my Lyft passengers were smelling the same thing. I checked my reviews and no one had mentioned it. A lot of Lyft passengers started to ask if I slept in my car, which may confirmed that they did smell something weird in the car. I usually have the outside air blowing into the car when I drive, so it may not have been as bad for some passengers as others.
For the last week, I tried a variety of ways to get the smell out of the car. I knew the ultimate solution would be to use a carpet cleaner to clean the seats. A carpet cleaner would squirt some water onto the seats and then vacuum it back up. I usually add a bit of detergent to wash away the dirt and also give the seats a nice smell. My first passenger after I cleaned the seats told me how clean the car was, even though I hadn’t cleaned the floor mats. I noted how a previous passenger spilled a bit of coffee onto the seat and my entire car smelled like coffee even from a few drops of it. I only cleaned the car with the detergent, but you can clearly smell it in the car.
This is the carpet cleaner I have and highly recommend:
The one downside with the above portable carpet cleaner is that it is corded, so you will need an outlet for it. I read reviews of some battery powered carpet cleaners that don’t have enough suction. You need a lot of suction to properly dry the seats. This one does a good job, but nowhere near as good as the professional ones. However, one trick I learned is that you set the car in circulate mode, and crank the heat high for about 20 minutes. Crack open the windows a little bit to allow the humid air to escape slowly. Another solution is to leave the car in the hot sun, preferably with the front seats facing the sun.
How Do I Remove Odors from my Car?
There are three ways to address the odors in your car:
- Masking the odor with a fragrance – air fresheners, Febreeze
- This is usually only a quick fix and temporary until the air fresheners run out. The great thing is that the solution is cheap and easy to implement. The bad thing is that it is only temporary and may not be strong enough to address the offending odors. This is a good solution for those who often have pets in the car and need a way to mask the odor temporarily until you have the time to clean the car properly. (Note, the air purifying bag below worked ok in my car. It is activated charcoal. It is best for mildew smells and can help odors. The gel works a bit better and the air freshener vent clip worked best for me)
- Here are some top sellers on Amazon of the following solution:
- Removing odors from the air
- Air ionizers fit this category on the cheap end of the scale and there are full HEPA air purifiers at the high end of the scale. The ionizer worked somewhat in removing odors from the air, but it won’t remove dust and pollen in the air. The HEPA car air filter will remove dust, pollen and some odors from the car, but it is very pricey. Both remove the odors from the air, but won’t address the source of the odors.
- Below are the top products from both:
- Removing the underlying odors
- This requires cleaning the offending fabrics to remove the underlying odors. This is the most effective solution but the most expensive and time consuming options. There are two main ways to clean the fabric of your car: carpet cleaning and steam cleaning. From my experience, carpet cleaning is better for just odors, while steam cleaning is better with tough hard stains on fabric seats. For leather seats, steam cleaning is much better. You would never want to use a carpet cleaner for leather seats. Most of the time, just a bit of warm water and a towel can remove stains and odors from leather seats, but steam cleaning is much better and faster, especially with deep stains on leather seats.
- One other consideration between carpet cleaning and steam cleaning is the residual moisture left in the seats. For the normal household carpet cleaners, they never vacuum up well enough to leave the seats dry. It usually takes a few hours or a day to fully dry, unless you left it in the baking sun most of the morning with the windows cracked open. Steam cleaning uses much less water and seats are essentially dry once you’re done since all the moisture tend to evaporate anyway. Downtime of your car is a major consideration. The professionals have much better suction on their carpet cleaners so the seats take less than 30 minutes to dry usually. However, I think the carpet cleaners do a better job with odors and steam cleaner with stains.
- For carpet cleaner, use the smaller upholstery attachment. For steam cleaner, use the triangular attachment with a microfiber towel wrapping the head to absorb the
- Here are the top products of both types of cleaners:
I typically use the air fresheners until I get a chance to remove the odors with the carpet cleaner. I typically steam clean my seats every other week so it usually doesn’t get bad enough to require the carpet cleaner. When I use the carpet cleaner, I can’t drive the car for about a day so I really need to plan ahead when I do it. The carpet cleaning typically takes about 30-45 minutes, depending on how many passes I make on the seats.
If I had to choose one appliance to get, it would be the carpet cleaner. It is a bit more messy but the carpet cleaner is a better overall cleaner. The steam cleaner is a faster tool to clean deep stains and small odors so having both is ideal. The steam cleaner can also be used to clean the house. The portable carpet cleaner can spot clean carpet and can clean household carpet, but it will take longer than renting a Rug Doctor.Have more questions about Uber or Lyft? Head on over to our Rideshare Driver Training Course! Driver Promotions