How to remove dog smell from car

Dogs love riding in the car but how can you get rid of 'dog smell' in the car? This guide explains what 'dog smell' is and how to make sure your car smells fresh.

Updated 23 March 2023


AuthorBy Cleanipedia Team

Reading Time5 minutes

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How to remove dog smell from car

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Riding in the car is great fun for dogs – it’s a chance for them to experience the wind in their fur, and it usually means they’re going somewhere exciting, like the park. Unfortunately for you, your car may tend to smell a little bit after your canine friend has taken a trip. So what exactly is this smell, and how can you get your car smelling fresh and clean once more?

Giving dogs regular baths using a suitable dog shampoo makes a world of difference to their smell. Reward your dog handsomely whenever he or she co-operates, and you’ll soon find this task going much more smoothly.

Why does my dog smell? Understanding ‘dog smell’ in cars

If your dog smells a little, don’t worry. ‘Dog smell’ and 'wet dog smell' are completely normal, and they happen for many reasons.

  • First, although dogs don’t sweat in the same way that we do, they do perspire through their paws and from other areas of hairless skin, such as the nose. While this sweat doesn’t smell immediately, it can start to build up a bit of odour as it ages, which is why it’s important to keep your dog clean.

  • Dogs also emit oils from their hair follicles that have their own distinct smell. This helps to identify your dog to other animals.

  • Finally, dogs also have anal sacs that also emit a distinct smell, which is why your dog will be busy sniffing other dogs’ behinds every time you take a walk in the park.

‘Dog smell’ is totally normal, but it’s not particularly pleasant. Although we can’t (and, indeed, shouldn’t) remove ‘dog smell’ altogether, there are techniques for minimising the smell that can be very handy in enclosed spaces, such as in the home or in the car.

How to remove wet dog smell in car interiors

Removing ‘wet dog smell' from car interiors is very simple, and requires little more than a washing machine, a vacuum cleaner, and a homemade odour remover that you can mix up easily (and inexpensively) in your own kitchen. Here are some handy hints for getting your car smelling fresher, cleaner, and more inviting:

  • Wash anything that’s removable using your washing machine and your favourite laundry detergent. This includes your dog’s blanket, rubber mats, and car seat covers. When washing rubber floor mats, always use a cool temperature (30 degrees celsius or less) to avoid melting – and always make sure they are safe to wash in the machine first! If a removable part is not machine washable, spray some disinfectant onto an old cloth and wipe it down. Domestos is great for this purpose, but be sure to do a spot check before using liberally. If washing your dog’s blanket, use a mild detergent free from bleaching agents, softeners, or brighteners to reduce the risk of adverse reactions. Always check the label and any washing instructions when washing anything removable from your vehicle.

  • Vacuum your car on a regular basis. This includes not only the area where your pet lies but also all over the interior of the car. If you often have air conditioning on in your car, or drive with the windows open, your dog’s hair will have spread all around the vehicle, and will be contributing to the bad smell. For ease and optimal performance, use your vacuum’s upholstery attachment when working on the seats, or use a small, handheld vacuum cleaner for greater flexibility.

  • Scrub down the surfaces of your car with a suitable multi-purpose cleaning spray. Be cautious when cleaning your dashboard and any buttons to ensure that you don’t cause any damage – test in a small area first.

  • Remove lingering odours easily with a homemade smell remover. One trick for removing ‘dog smell’ from car interiors is to place a bowl of baking soda in your vehicle overnight. The absorbent properties of the baking soda draw the odours to it, helping to freshen up your car. You can also try the same thing with a bowl of coffee grounds.

Safety Warning

Use biocides safely. Always read the label and product information before use.

How to get rid of dog smell and pet odour when it becomes too much to bear

‘Dog smell’ is actually very easy keep to a minimum: follow the advice above to remove odours from your vehicle, and keep your dog clean and hygienic with regular bathing and grooming. But on occasion, there are some things that are beyond our control.

If you’ve done everything you can to minimise ‘dog smell’, and yet you’re still finding that the lingering odour is too much to bear, there may be an underlying problem. Skin infections caused by bugs and bacteria, ear infections, dental problems, and issues with the anal sacs can all intensify ‘dog smell’, making it much harder to keep under control. If you’ve followed the above steps and have seen no difference in the odour inside your car, then you may want to take your dog for a check up at the vets to ensure he or she is in good health.

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