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5 Tips for Getting a Rotten Milk Smell Out of Your Car

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You do not want the smell of rotten milk in any place, much less your car. The odor is too disgusting to bear, and it worsens with time.

While having milk spilled in your car is undesirable, accidents do happen. You may just be feeding milk to your baby when some of it spills in the car.

milk poured on car seat baby holding wipes

When this happens, cleaning the surface of the car’s interior might create the illusion that you’ve gotten the spilled milk out. But then, it will become rotten and smell terrible after days, weeks, or months.

When your car smells like rotten milk, it may seem like you’ll never return it to its fresh smell.

But thankfully, you can get rid of the smell of sour milk, and you don’t have to drive with that smell again. Below, we share five tips for getting a rotten milk smell out of your car.

Dab the Spots Immediately After the Spill

One of the essential tips for dealing with a milk spill in your car is urgency.

Immediately after milk spills in your car, clean the affected areas by dabbing gently with a clean kitchen towel or a microfiber cloth. Doing this will reduce the amount of milk that goes into your car upholstery.

When dabbing the affected spots, try not to rub them. You might push some milk further into the car if you rub those spots.

If you can, avoid using paper towels. Paper towels might leave paper fibers behind, so you’ll have more cleaning to do. But then, if paper towels are the only readily available option, use them.

Worker with brush and spray wipes car seat

Wash the Car Parts You Can Remove

If some of the milk got on the removable parts of your car, you must remove those parts and wash them. This is vital if you want to eliminate the rotten milk smell.

Be it the floor mats, seat covers, or seat belt pads, get them out and wash them. This step can help prevent the rotten milk smell or remove it, depending on when you do the cleaning.

If available, follow the manufacturer’s guide for washing these parts. In the absence of that, read the ensuing paragraphs for ways to clean the removable accessories.

The smaller removable car parts like seat belt pads and seat covers can fit in a washing machine.

So, you can wash them in your washing machine if they are fabric. But ensure you do so with high-quality laundry detergent, so they don’t fade after washing.

Also, wash them at warm or hot temperatures. The heat will help remove the rotten milk and its odor and sanitize the mat or cover.

If the removable car parts are large, rubber, or plastic, you should not wash them in a machine.

Instead, wash the large-sized fabric accessories in a tub filled with warm water and high-quality laundry detergent.

You can also clean rubber or plastic accessories with a pressure washer and dishwashing soap.

Of course, after washing any of the removable accessories, let them dry properly before returning them to the car. If you return the accessories too early, the dampness may create another unpleasant smell.

Deep cleaning of car interior with vacuum cleaner

Clean the Affected Areas With a Steam Cleaning Vacuum or Deep Cleaning Vacuum

If your car has a rotten milk smell, the chances are the spilled milk has traveled deep into the upholstery. So, for effective cleaning, you must clean deeply.

You need tools like a deep cleaning vacuum or a steam cleaning vacuum for thorough, deep cleaning.

Steam cleaners spray an enzyme-based cleaning solution alongside steam onto the surface of your car’s interior. The steam and cleaning solution travels deep into the car upholstery, dissolving some of the milk and killing bacteria. Then the steam cleaner sucks out the dirt and odor.

You can rent one if you do not have your own steam cleaning vacuum. Some stores – especially rental stores – typically have such for rent.

Following the manufacturer’s instructions when using a steam cleaner helps improve outcomes. Change the water as often as the guide says and repeat the cleaning as often as recommended.

After steam cleaning your car, let it dry for at least 12 hours. This will prevent dampness and its downsides.

Steam or deep cleaning does not always remove all of the rotten milk smell. But in many cases, it reduces how much effort you need to expend to completely remove the smell.

Clean the Nonremovable Parts

If steam cleaning does not altogether remove the smell in the nonremovable parts of your car, move on to cleaning with absorbent cleaners.

Absorbent Cleaners

Baking Soda

baking soda in black jar and spoon on black background

People commonly use baking soda to get rotten milk out of their car.

To use baking soda, pour a thick layer on the affected spots. Ensure the areas are dry before applying the baking soda.

Leave the baking soda on those affected areas for at least 24 hours. You could also leave it for up to 4 days if you want.

Vacuum the baking soda from your car when done.

After the waiting period, you should notice some difference in the smell of your car. But if that is still not enough for you, you can repeat the steps until all the smell is out.

Charcoal Bags

After steam cleaning the affected spots in your car, you can place charcoal bags around them. The charcoal will absorb the odor, helping your car smell fresher.

Unlike baking soda, you do not have to worry about vacuuming your car later when using charcoal bags.

Coffee Grounds

Coffee beans and coffee ground in a mug on gray background

You can also use coffee grounds to absorb the rotten milk smell in your car.

Just fill a small cloth bag or plastic container with coffee grounds and place it beneath your car seats.

Let the coffee grounds stay in place for around 10 to 14 days.

The coffee grounds will pull the odor out, leaving your car filled with a slight but pleasing coffee smell.

Nonabsorbent Cleaners

Besides absorbent cleaners, you can also try cleaning the nonremovable parts with the following:

White Vinegar

You can rid your car of rotten milk smell with white vinegar.

Spray generous amounts of vinegar on the affected areas of your car upholstery. Ensure the spots get soaked.

Then leave the vinegar on for at least 5 hours, allowing it to dissolve the milk and odor in the car effectively.

After the waiting time, dab the vinegar dry with a clean towel.

bottle of white vinegar spray and sponge on bright yellow background

Carpet Cleaner

Regular home carpet cleaners are typically effective for removing rotten milk smells from your car. These cleaners usually contain potent chemicals that neutralize various stain types, including milk.

To use them to remove a rotten milk smell from your car, follow the instructions on the bottle.

Enzyme Spray

Another nonabsorbent cleaner you can use in your car is enzyme spray. You can reserve this option for when the others fail.

Enzyme sprays come with enzymes that will break down the milk residue in your car.

Of course, as the enzymes “digest” the residual milk, the odor-causing bacteria will have no substrate to eat. As a result, the odor starts fading away.

When you get an enzyme spray, spray it generously on the affected spots in your car. Leave it on for 24 to 48 hours. Then after the waiting time, dab the areas dry with a clean towel.

Do not use enzyme spray if your car upholstery is leather or suede. In fact, before you use an enzyme spray, you should test it out first.

Woman Sitting In Car Seen From Open Door

Ensure the Car Gets a Lot of Fresh Air

No matter the steps you take to rid your car of rotten milk smell, ensure the car gets a lot of fresh air. Open the doors and roll the windows down so air can flow in and remove the odor.

Besides moving the odor out, ventilation will hasten drying. So ventilation can make a significant difference.