Whether it’s a byproduct of a kid’s motion discomfort or an adult’s irresponsible drinking, it’s a nightmare for car owners to discover nasty vomit scattered all over their car. Even hearing someone throwing up in the passenger seat can send shivers down their spine.

Vomit isn’t like any other stain – it’s an acidic human waste that’s hard to get rid of and can be damaging to the car interior. What’s worse is, even if the surface vomit is removed, the awful stench remains, constantly reminding you of the night your friend went overboard with tequila and threw up in your car.

Fortunately, it’s possible to get rid of vomit, its residues, and odor. Follow these steps as soon as possible:

Step 1: Cleaning Up Fresh Vomit

The faster you clean it up, the better. Don’t wait until it’s all dried up.

1. Remove it from the surface

Put on your gloves and mask to protect yourself from bacteria. Using a disposable plastic utensil or putty knife, scrape up as much vomit as possible from the affected area, like your car seat or carpet. Place it in a garbage bag.

2. Blot

Get a paper towel or absorbent towel ready. Blot the vomit to get rid of excess moisture. Press on and soak it up with the towel until it’s visibly dry. Don’t press too hard or you’ll take the vomit much further into the underlying surface.

Car seat covers are lifesavers when situations like this arise. You can easily take them off, handwash or machine-wash them, and install them as soon as you’re done treating the upholstery.

3. Scrub or wipe off dried pieces or crust

Should you fail to clean up vomit while it’s fresh, you can still do something to get rid of them.

Use a soft-bristled brush to scrape off dried residues from leather upholstery, and a stiff-bristled brush for vinyl or cloth, plastic surfaces, and carpeting. Remove the dried crusts using a vacuum cleaner.

Step 2:Getting Rid Of The Remaining Vomit

At this point, the surface vomit has been removed but the moisture and odor are still evident. It’s time to move on to the next step: cleaning it with a disinfecting and odor-absorbing solution.

1. Create a liquid solution

Instead of using the most fragrant detergent you have, create an appropriate solution for the type of material you need to clean.

  • For leather upholstery and car seat covers: Make a paste using one-part warm water and three parts baking soda.
  • For vinyl or cloth upholstery and car seat covers, plastic surfaces, or carpeting: Create a solution using eight-part warm water and one-part vinegar. Add a half teaspoon of dishwashing liquid.

You may use the same solution to soften and clean dried up vomit.

2. Scrub the stain

Dip a sponge or a lint-free cloth into the solution and scrub the nasty stain with it. For tough stains that have penetrated in your carpet, you can use a hard-bristle brush to completely get rid of the remaining stain.

3. Rinse and blot

Use a wet or damp cloth to remove the cleaning solution. For leather upholstery, use a damp (not wet) cloth. For cloth or vinyl upholstery, plastic surfaces, or carpeting, use a wet cloth for rinsing. Blot the wet areas with a clean absorbent towel.

Step 3: Eliminating The Stench

You may not see visible vomit residues, but you know there’s something left – and your nose knows it. Luckily, getting rid of the bad odors is easier than you think.

Smother it with baking soda

Sprinkle a thick layer of baking soda, an excellent disinfectant and odor absorber, over the affected area. Leave the pile of baking soda for about 30 minutes. You can leave it overnight for a better job of absorbing the moisture and vomit odor.

Clean up the product with a vacuum cleaner. Repeat this process until you can no longer smell the vomit.

Let your car breathe

If you have a secured garage, roll down the windows or open the doors. Airing the car out helps dry wet areas and clear out any remaining vomit stench.

Store a bowl of vinegar, activated charcoal or coffee grounds

This trick works regardless of where the vomit lingers. White vinegar, coffee grounds, and activated charcoal (ground charcoal) are effective in neutralizing bad odors. Place a bowl or plate of one of these three in your car overnight. For the grounds, about 5 tablespoons should suffice.

Worrying about the sour smell? Don’t worry – the smell of the vinegar will disappear over time. Activated charcoal is also odorless, and may even prevent moisture buildup.

Coffee, however, may likely smell for a while. But having a car smelling like a coffee shop shouldn’t be an issue, right?

Try a car air-freshener

If all else fails and the smell’s still there, a good commercial car air-freshener is a quick fix for masking the odor.

Try the traditional ones that hang from your rearview mirror, a gel that sticks to your dashboard, or a powder you can sprinkle and vacuum up.

Mina Corpuz is one of the daytime writers for TuffSeat Car Seat Covers, a leading supplier of genuine accessory seat covers to the Australian car market, offering vehicle-specific covers for top brands including Toyota, Holden, Ford, Mitsubishi, Hino, Fuso, Isuzu Trucks, and more. She loves writing about automobiles, travel, and lifestyle.

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