How To Clean Vomit And Vomit Smells From Your Car

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Car sickness has been shown to be the most common type of motion sickness, especially among children. Thus, parents will be more than aware of how difficult it can be to figure out how to get rid of the sick smell in a car. That revolting scent which seems to linger no matter how much you endeavour to get rid of it; that odour which persists despite your best efforts. Parents will also know that the specialised commercial products which one can buy are quite expensive and, in many cases, inefficient at keeping the smell of sick out of your car. Why waste good money on products which don’t solve your car odour issues when you can use household items to take care of the mess?

The following tips and tricks will teach you exactly how to clean the vomit smell from a car using household products. We’ll also provide a few tips regarding how to clean vomit from your car, since you never know when your child or pet will leave a nasty and smelly surprise on the backseat of your vehicle.

How to Clean Vomit from Car:

Before attempting to get rid of the foul smell, you’ll first need to clear all the sick from the inside of your car. This can be quite a dirty job, especially if the vomit has made its way in between or under the seats, so we recommend using a pair of Marigolds! The thick rubber offers protection when touching areas of your car which are covered in vomit.

The first step you need to take in order to clean the vomit from your car is to make sure you have all the necessary tools at your disposal. Depending on just how much sick you’ve got to deal with, you’ll need some or all of these:

  • Absorbent towels
  • Protective gear for eyes, mouth, and hands
  • Wide putty knife
  • Thick garbage bag
  • Vacuum cleaner

Step 1: Put on protective gear.

You might think that this is an unnecessary precaution, one reserved for germophobes or neat freaks. However, depending on what the underlying cause which made the person sick in the first place is, the vomit might be more or less dangerous for those cleaning it up.

The most serious cause of vomiting is a viral infection. Viral gastroenteritis, also known as stomach flu, is highly contagious and is the main reason why you need to take all the necessary precautions when tidying up someone else’s vomit. Touching the sick is not the only way you can contract the disease, breathing it in or having your eyes come into contact with any of the particles which are in the air around the vomit are also possible ways to get sick.

Use rubber gloves, protective goggles, and a dust mask in order to make sure that if the vomit is indeed contagious, you don’t suffer as a result of tidying it up. Also keep in mind that viruses aren’t the only microscopic foes you need to worry about; bacteria such as E. Coli are also extremely dangerous, and they thrive in vomit.

More information on properly disinfecting the area where someone has vomited will be provided in the next section. Again, this is especially important if you suspect the person who has vomited might have stomach flu.

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Step 2: Vacuum or scrape up excess vomit.

If the vomit is still fresh you should vacuum the excess, whether it be on the seats or the carpets. If your vacuum has a special replaceable head which allows you to reach whatever vomit might have built up in your car’s small crevasses, be sure to make use of it. Remember to replace the vacuum bag right after as not doing so will cause the odour to stick to your vacuum for a long time.

Naturally, your thoughts will initially turn towards the person who is sick and towards helping them feel better, especially if the person in question is your child. This will cause you to put off thinking about how to clean the vomit from your car and allow the sick to turn solid and become sticky. If this is the case, you won’t be able to vacuum it and will need to use a wide putty knife to scrape it off instead. Make sure to throw all of the excess you scrape off in a thick garbage bag to minimise the chances of leakage.

Step 3: Wipe up any remaining moisture using absorbent towels. If your car upholstery is covered in leather you might want to check out our other post on how to clean leather car seats, as these can be trickier to cleanse. 

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How to Clean Vomit Smell from Car:

The horror of having vomit in your car is only compounded by the foul smell which lingers for long periods of time even after all the vomit has been cleaned. Here are a few easy ways to get your car smelling better.

Sprinkle Cornstarch and Baking Soda onto your seats

Cornstarch and baking soda are both tremendously absorbent. Generously sprinkling either of the two on the affected area and letting it sit overnight will remove even the foulest of smells; that of your toddler’s vomit included. However, in most cases, you can just leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes and then vacuum, after which the awful vomit smell will have disappeared and any liquid which you hadn’t managed to get off before will have been soaked up.

Use Concentrated Fabric Softener

A little-known remedy for getting rid of the sick smell in your car, or anywhere else for that matter, makes use of concentrated fabric softener. Diluting one or two small soft plastic cylinders in a bowl of water and letting it sit in your car overnight will leave your vehicle smelling lovely by the following morning. Quick and easy; cheap too!

 Soak with Hydrogen Peroxide

Step 1: Soak the affected areas in a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution and let it sit for a few minutes. The mild antiseptic properties of hydrogen peroxide will prevent the further growth of disease-causing micro-organisms, thus reducing the foul smell.

Step 2: After leaving the solution to sit for a few minutes on the affected section, press an absorbent cloth down on the area for no more than a minute. Repeat this process with a clean cloth as many times as necessary until the area is no longer moist. The smell should subside soon after this.

Clean with the Old-Fashioned Vinegar Bowl Remedy

This archaic remedy is surprisingly efficient, even though it will take a bit longer to rid the inside of your car of the smell of sick. All you need to do is fill a bowl with white vinegar and let it sit in your car overnight. It might take more than one night for the odour to go away; if you don’t normally use your car during the weekend it might be a good idea to leave the vinegar bowl in starting Friday night and take it out on Sunday evening. You will, however, need to replace the vinegar in the bowl after about 24 hours in order for it to fully absorb the smell.  

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Brew Some Black Coffee

Another cheap and easy remedy for suppressing this horrible smell makes use of many people’s favourite morning drink: coffee. Leaving an open mug or can of black coffee in your car overnight will absorb the odour and leave your car smelling lovely.

Leave Untreated Charcoal Briquettes in your Car

Like coffee, charcoal briquettes are a cheap and natural deodoriser which many people might have lying around their house anyway. Make sure the charcoal you use isn’t chemically treated as leaving it in a small space such as the inside of your car overnight could potentially be dangerous if you’re planning to go on a long drive the next morning.

You can either open a bag of charcoal and leave it in, or you could simply put a few briquettes on a metal tray. Either way, your car will be rid of the nasty vomit smell in about 12 to 24 hours, depending how strong it is. 

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Use a Homemade Disinfectant

The following homemade disinfectant spray will work well if you’re trying to get rid of the sick smell in your car, but it will also come in handy when you’re cleaning your home. For more tips and tricks on home cleaning, check out our other house cleaning tips. For now though, let’s focus on eliminating that foul odour in your vehicle.

Ingredients needed:

  1. One glass or plastic spray bottle
  2. One quarter cup of water
  3. One quarter cup of white vinegar
  4. One quarter cup of rubbing alcohol
  5. Peppermint, lemon or rosemary essential oil

Pour ingredients 2 through 4 in a spray bottle and mix thoroughly. Add 15 to 20 drops of an essential oil of your choice; we recommend peppermint, lemon, or rosemary for their antiseptic, antibacterial and antiviral properties. However, the vinegar and rubbing alcohol already present in the mixture boast these same properties. Therefore, you can just add a few drops of whatever essential oil you prefer. It is the odour of the essential oil which will linger on for a few hours after you’ve used the disinfectant, so choose wisely!

Once the mixture is complete, spray generously on the affected area and let sit for a few minutes before wiping it off with an absorbent cloth. Repeat the process a few times until the smell disappears.


These cheap and easy to use homemade remedies will allow you to rid your car of even the most persistent smells, vomit odours included. We guarantee that at least one of these remedies will work on your car, no matter how long you’ve been trying to neutralise the sick scent left by your toddler, your pet, or a drunk friend or family member. For more general car seat cleaning tips, check out our DIY guide to the best interior car cleaning products for car seats.

If you feel like you need some professional help, don’t hesitate to use an interior car cleaning service. They’ll leave your car in tip top shape and smelling as good as new.