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Unless you’re intentionally fostering a mobile ecosystem, there’s almost nothing worse than finding mold in your car. It not only looks and feels disgusting, there’s a great chance that it smells disgusting and could lead to health issues.
Vehicles can mold inside for a variety of reasons, but the most common by far is a moisture leak. You don’t, however, have to kill it with fire or spend thousands of dollars to have someone clean it for you. With a little bit of elbow grease and time, you can remove the mold, scrub the area, and have it smelling like new.
The Drive doesn’t expect you to be an expert on mold removal and air purification, so we’ve put together a guide to help you get started on your bio-friendly journey. We’ll cover the basics to help you remove the mold and freshen the air inside your car. Stick with us and we’ll have you rolling clean in no time.
Mold in Car Basics
Estimated Time Needed: Times will vary. Cleaning and prep will take two to three hours, but some solutions will take days to soak or take effect.
Skill Level: Beginner
Vehicle System: Interior
Wear skin, eye, and breathing protection. The mold in your car might not look dangerous, but it’s impossible to tell the effects it can have without testing.
If you’re using chemicals to scrub or clean the inside of your vehicle, be sure that you are disposing of any leftover materials in a way that is recommended by the manufacturer. It’s also important to make sure that you’re using a cleaner that is safe for the materials that make up your car’s interior.
If the mold has spread to other items inside your car, such as clothing, it’s best to wash or dispose of the items before using or storing them elsewhere.
Everything You’ll Need To Remove Mold in Car
Thankfully, even the biggest mold jobs won’t require you to break the bank to buy supplies.
Organizing your tools and gear so everything is easily reachable will save precious minutes waiting for your handy-dandy child or four-legged helper to bring you the sandpaper or blowtorch. (You won’t need a blowtorch for this job. Please don’t have your kid hand you a blowtorch—Ed.)
You’ll also need a flat workspace, such as a garage floor, driveway, or street parking. Mold is nasty stuff, and you’ll be using chemicals to clean it, so be sure to work in a well-ventilated area. Check your local laws to make sure you’re not violating any codes when using the street because we aren’t getting your ride out of the clink.
Here’s How To Remove Mold in Car
Let’s do this!
Prepare the Car for Cleaning
Before you can start scrubbing or cleaning the mold, you’ll want to be sure that the interior of the car is at least partially cleaned.
- Remove trash, personal belongings, paperwork, and other items from the interior. Throw away anything that has mold growth on it.
- Thoroughly vacuum the carpets, seats, and other soft finishes.
- Inspect the car for leaks and damaged seals. Moisture that enters the vehicle will help the mold continue to grow. If there is a leak and you do not repair it, you’ll likely be cleaning mold out of your car again in the future.
Removing the Mold
- Fill your spray bottle with white distilled vinegar. It’s essential to use a new spray bottle, if at all possible because any residue left inside the bottle from previous use can cause issues. If you don’t like vinegar, you can use bleach diluted in water, but you’ll need to test it out on a hidden spot of your car to make sure you’re not killing the colors
- Spray the solution directly onto carpeting, seats, and any other surface where there is mold. Saturate the area thoroughly.
- Use a scrub brush to work the vinegar solution into the affected area, spraying more if needed.
- Let the surfaces dry. If you have a garage where the car can be parked safely indoors, it’s best to leave the windows down to allow fresh air to circulate in and out.
If the mold is caused by something other than water or moisture leaking in, you might need to repeat this process to fully kill any odors. One of The Drive’s editors recalled a time when a milk jug leaked after a trip to the grocery store without him realizing it. The milk leaked into the carpet and under the back seat, causing a disgusting odor and eventually mold to permeate the inside of his car. To remove that mold and smell, it took three rounds of vinegar, scrubbing, and airing out.
Sometimes You Need Some Extra Expertise
While The Drive’s how-to guides are detailed and easy to follow, no vehicle is created the same, and not all auto maintenance or repair tasks are easy to accomplish on your own. That’s why we’ve partnered with YourMechanic and their network of mobile automotive technicians to offer our readers $10 off a $70 or more service call when you use promo code THEDRIVE.
Pro Tips to Remove Mold in Car
Don’t make decisions on smell alone. Depending on the kind of mold and what caused it, there might be a tremendous odor, or there may be no smell at all.
Likewise, if you realize there’s a leak or if you’ve spilled something, it’s best to clean it as quickly as possible to prevent the growth of mold in the first place. There are all sorts of odor removing machines and devices, but they’re not always designed to help with actual mold removal. If you want to use one, be sure you’re buying what you need. If you just want air freshening, that’s easy, but if you’re looking for a machine that can help kill mold, you’ll need to do some research.
FAQs About Mold in Car
You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers!
Q. Is It Safe To Drive With Mold In My Car
The Drive’s editors are not doctors or biologists, so we can’t tell you for sure if it’s safe to drive with mold in your car. What we can tell you is that it’s best to clean and remove the mold before driving. Even if it turns out to be harmless to humans, it’s gross and will probably cause your car to smell funky.
Q. I Don’t Have Time To Clean My Car. How Much Will It Cost To Pay Someone To Do It For Me?
A. Most full-service car washes offer interior cleaning or reconditioning services. You’ll need to chat with the attendant to find out what’s involved in the process, but most will charge different prices depending on the vehicle. Small cars can cost anywhere from $50 to $200, while larger vehicles like SUVs and wagons can start at $200 and go up from there. Even if you have time to clean the car yourself, it’s sometimes best to pay a pro to do it for you, because they’ll have the right chemicals and machines to get the job done right.
Q. I’ve Cleaned My Interior And It’s Better, But My Air Conditioning Smells Now. What Can I Do?
A. Your car’s climate system has filters that may have absorbed mold or at least the smell of the mold. If you’re handy, you can swap the filters yourself, but you’ll need to grab a maintenance manual for your specific model to find out where they’re located. You can also find products, such as sprays and other cleaners that can be applied to the vents and other components to help kill the smell. If all else fails, a mechanic can disassemble portions of the system to find the culprit and remove it.
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