Oops! You were driving along smoothly, sipping from your travel cup, when you hit a bump in the road. Although you narrowly avoided spilling hot coffee on your lap, the overflow splashed onto your car seat.
We’ve all been there. And as if the stain wasn’t bad enough, you now have that pervasive coffee odor to deal with. Although coffee may smell enticing while it’s brewing, you don’t want your car to carry that scent forever.
What’s more, if you take milk or cream in your java, the spill could attract mold spores. That will create even more problems in the long run.
Here are our suggestions on how to get the coffee smell out of a car seat once and for all.
The Baking Soda Method
Baking soda is an invaluable ingredient to have on hand when dealing with spills. It’s inexpensive, it absorbs odors beautifully, and its abrasive nature helps remove stains naturally.
Even better: Baking soda won’t create a second stain on top of the first. That means it’s safe to use on all fabrics, including leather. You won’t have to worry about damaging your car seat when you use baking soda to get the coffee smell out of your car seat.
- 1. Mix 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water in a measuring cup. Use a spoon or an old toothbrush to mix the solution to a paste-like consistency.
- Apply the paste to the coffee stain using the toothbrush or a small scrubbing brush. Scrub firmly to remove stubborn stains.
- Use paper towels or a clean damp cloth to blot the affected area.
- Let the area dry before vacuuming up any residue.
The Vinegar Method
The acidity of vinegar makes it an effective cleaning agent. Unfortunately, it can leave behind a pungent odor of its own. We’ve included tips on combatting this in the step-by-step tutorial below.
- 1. Blot the spilled coffee as soon as possible, using a napkin or paper towel. It’s a good idea to keep a supply of napkins in your glove compartment for emergencies such as these. Also, remember to pull over to the side of the road before attempting to wipe up a spill.
- 2. Create a cleaning solution using 1 part white vinegar, 2 parts water, and a few dashes of high-quality dish soap. Mix the ingredients well in a small bowl.
- 3. Use a stiff brush, abrasive sponge, or hand towel to apply the mixture to the stain. Let it sit for at least 20 minutes.
- 4. Swap out your cleaning solution for a bowl of freshwater. Apply a generous measure of water to the affected area, then blot it away using a clean towel. If you’ve done the job correctly, the coffee should soak into the towel, leaving visible brown stains.
- 5. Once the towel comes away clean, indicating that all the coffee has been removed, use a hairdryer to dry the affected area. Leave the car windows open to allow the spot to dry thoroughly. This will also help with the vinegar smell.
- 6. To rid your car of the coffee and vinegar odors, apply a solution of baking soda and water to the car seat. When the mixture has dried, you can use a handheld vacuum to remove it.
The Essential Oil Method
The great thing about this technique is that it allows you to customize the scent you’ll be replacing the coffee odor with. If you don’t usually have essential oils on hand and would like suggestions, try lemon, orange, eucalyptus, or lavender.
Note: This method is recommended only if you’re dealing with the smell itself. It won’t help with the actual stain, so be sure you’ve taken care of that first.
- 1. Attach a few cotton balls to a regular clothespin.
- 2. Apply 5 to 10 drops of essential oils to the cotton bundle.
- 3. Clip the clothespin to one of your air vents and turn on the air conditioner or heat, depending on the season. The coffee odor should dissipate in no time.
- 4. If you find that one cotton bundle isn’t doing the trick, repeat the process with more clothespins. Clip the additional oil-soaked cotton bundles to as many air vents as you’d like.
The Dryer Sheet Method
This is an excellent method if the stain has been removed, but a faint scent still lingers. You can use it even if there’s no bothersome odor in your car, but you’d like to freshen up the interior anyway. Since you probably have dryer sheets on hand already, it’s also an inexpensive option.
- 1. Separate a few dryer sheets from the stack.
- 2. Place one or two sheets under each car seat.
- 3. Wait a day or two. The car should smell like freshly laundered clothes, without a trace of coffee.
The Professional Method
If none of the above options work for you, or if you just don’t have the time to devote to a DIY technique, consider having the car detailed by professionals.
Auto detailing costs range from around $50 to $150, depending on the size of the vehicle and the degree of service offered. The technician will likely apply a shampoo solution to the affected seat to remove the coffee smell and then wait for it to dry.
The total length of the process may vary, but the drying procedure alone can take up to four hours, so be sure to plan ahead of time. This is a perfect choice if you have heated seats and are worried about causing damage to the wiring and other elements.
The Bottom Line
No matter how much you might enjoy your daily coffee, you don’t want your car smelling like the stale remnants of your recent accident. Fortunately, several easy fixes can eradicate—or at least displace—the lingering odor once and for all.