How to clean spilt milk in car

Milk spills from baby bottles can happen on day to day & long journeys. Be prepared and learn how to tackle these spills quickly with these handy tips.

Updated 18 September 2023


AuthorBy Cleanipedia Team

Reading Time5 minutes

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You’ve probably never really given much thought to having to clean milk out of your car. The truth is, it never crosses most people’s minds – until that dreaded day when your latte slops over the seat, or a carton rips open on the way back from the shops. It can happen so easily, no matter how careful you are, so it’s a good idea to have a plan in place so you can deal with it quickly and easily.

Time is definitely of the essence here: leaving the spilt milk in the car doesn’t just mean stains on your beautiful interior, but it can also cause an increasingly potent unpleasant smell – especially in the hot summer months. This complete step-by-step guide explains how to get rid of a sour milk smell in car interiors and clean up those nasty stains, so you can get back to driving happily.

Once you’ve scrubbed down your car seats, it’s important that the fabric is allowed to dry as quickly as possible to prevent a damp smell from developing. This means soaking up any excess water or cleaning solution with a towel, and opening all the doors and windows to air out the car.

Getting Rid of the Sour Milk Smell in Car Interiors

To get rid of the sour milk smell in car interiors, you’ll need to target the source of the smell, rather than simply trying to mask it. Spraying an air freshener will produce an immediate result, but it will only be temporary, and that stench will soon be back. Here’s how to treat the smell:

  • Remove Excess Milk

The faster you act, the less chance the milk has to soak into the fibres, so cleaning up any puddles as soon as they happen can really make a big difference. The best way to do this is with old bath towels and tea towels – kitchen towel isn’t recommended unless you want a papery residue left on your seats. Don’t wipe or scrub the milk, but simply dab the wet areas and soak as much of the liquid up as possible.

How to clean spilt milk in car
  • Wash Removable Covers

Any milk-stained accessories in your car that can be removed should be removed. This includes seat covers, seat belt pads, floor mats, and carpeting in the boot. By washing these accessories, you can easily remove the sour milk smell and leave them fresh and clean.

  • You can wash smaller accessories in your washing machine with a good quality laundry detergent, such as Persil Non-Bio, at the hottest temperature setting advised on the care label. This will sanitise the fabrics, leaving them fresh and clean.

  • For larger accessories, and for rubber floor mats that shouldn’t be washed in high temperatures, fill a tub with warm water and liquid detergent and allow the mats to soak, before rinsing in cold water.

Always check the label of your chosen laundry product and the car manufacturer’s instructions for any fabric care guidelines, including whether accessories are suitable for machine washing.

  • Use Absorbent Cleaning Products

When cleaning the parts of your car that can’t be removed and washed, it’s best to use products known for their absorbent properties – particularly baking soda. Sprinkle a thick covering of baking soda (the exact same type you use for baking cakes) over all the damp patches of your car. Leave this overnight, and the baking soda will draw out those nasty odours. In the morning, simply vacuum up the baking soda, and you should notice a huge difference in the smell of your car.

Removing Stains from Milk Spilt in Car Interiors

Now that the sour milk smell has gone and you can stand to have your head inside the car for more than a few seconds at a time, you should start thinking about removing any stains.

  • Of course, if the affected fabric can be removed and washed in the washing machine, or by hand, then this is a great way to remove stains. Just use a laundry detergent with a built in stain remover, and this should be a piece of cake.

  • To tackle areas that can’t be washed, simply use an all-purpose household cleaner. Apply a small amount to a clean cloth and gently rub it into the stain. The cleaner will break down the milk enzymes, and help to lift anything that had become embedded into the fibres.

Removing lingering odors from milk spills

Removing lingering odors from milk spills in a car can be a challenging task, but it's essential for a pleasant driving experience. Here's a guide to tackle this issue:

  1. 1

    Immediate Cleanup: Start by blotting up as much of the spilled milk as possible with paper towels or cloth. Dispose of the soiled materials promptly.

  2. 2

    Vinegar Solution: Create a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water. Dampen a clean cloth with this solution and gently blot the affected area to neutralize odors. Avoid oversaturating to prevent mold growth.

  3. 3

    Baking Soda: Sprinkle baking soda liberally over the spill area. Allow it to sit for several hours or overnight to absorb odors. Vacuum up the baking soda the next day.

  4. 4

    Activated Charcoal: Place a bowl of activated charcoal in the car. Charcoal is highly effective at absorbing odors over time.

  5. 5

    Air Out the Car: On a sunny day, leave the car windows open to allow fresh air to circulate and remove remaining odors.

Repeat these steps as necessary until the milk odor is completely eliminated. Patience and thoroughness are key to conquering stubborn milk odors in your car.

Spilt milk certainly isn’t worth crying over, even if it does happen in your car. Yes, it smells, and yes, it’s a nuisance, but it’s not difficult to clean up. Use these tips, and you can always nip back for another carton of milk tomorrow in a car that’s clean and smells fantastic. And, for other stains you can also check out this article on cleaning car upholstery.

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