From Mess to Clean: A Step-by-Step Vomit Cleaning Guide for Car Owners and Experts

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Updated on:

August 30, 2023

Vomit Cleaning 101: A Comprehensive Guide for Car Owners and PRO's

Sometimes, no matter how clean you try to keep your car, accidents inside the cabin. Carsick kids and pets and drunken friends that you are escorting home after a night out may suddenly become ill and empty the contents of their stomachs all over your seats and carpeting. Vomit creates an utter mess and vomit smell makes the problem even worse. Whether you have a big mess or a small one, we'll give you the lowdown on cleaning vomit and removing vomit smell.

Key Takeaways:

  • Act quickly: Clean vomit promptly to prevent damage and odors.
  • Follow steps: Remove solids, Blot excess moisture, Use appropriate cleaning techniques.
  • Address odors: Use baking soda, Air fresheners, or Ozone generating machines.

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Table of Contents (Show)

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What tools and supplies needed

  1. Cleaning Fresh Vomit
  2. Removing Dried Vomit
  3. Cleaning Carpeting
  4. Using Steam for Vomit removal
  5. Vomit Odor removal

5 steps of vomit cleaning out of car

1. Preparing to Remove Vomit

Essential Tools and Supplies for Effective Vomit Cleaning

You'll want to clean vomit from car seats and carpeting as soon as possible, but before you do so, you'll need to assemble some essential items to make this unpleasant job easier:

Optional items that will help get rid of the lingering smell in your car interior are hydrogen peroxide, enzymatic cleaner, air freshener, activated charcoal, and coffee grounds.

The best way to clean vomit from car interior is to complete the job with a steam cleaner. When you use one of Fortador's models with a built-in shampooer and extractor, you can even eliminate the need for a vacuum with an all-in-one unit. Besides that, commercial cleaning products add up in cost, not to mention the residue that these products will leave in your vehicle interior that you won't want your kids or pets to encounter.

Important Safety Measures to Follow for Car Vomit Cleanup

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):

  • Rubber gloves: Wear disposable gloves to shield your hands from direct contact with vomit and potential pathogens.
  • Face mask: Use a mask to cover your nose and mouth, reducing the risk of inhaling any unpleasant odors or airborne particles.

Hygiene Practices:

  • Hand hygiene: After handling vomit or contaminated materials, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Alternatively, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with a minimum of 60% alcohol content.
  • Avoid touching your face: Refrain from touching your face, particularly your eyes, nose, and mouth, to prevent the transfer of potential pathogens.
  • Laundering or disinfecting: If reusable cleaning cloths or gloves were used, ensure they are properly laundered or disinfected before future use.

2. Cleaning Fresh Vomit

Time is of the essence when cleaning vomit from the inside of your vehicle. If you are able to clean up the puke immediately, all the better as you will have an easier job. Leaving the mess to sit causes additional problems as vomit is acidic, so it can damage interior surfaces, and ultimately affect your vehicle's resale value, if not quickly removed. Before cleaning, make sure you put on a face mask and rubber gloves before cleaning. Vomit is often full of bacteria and viruses and you want to make sure to keep yourself safe.

2.1 Step-by-Step Guide to Removing Solid Vomit Materials

As we all know, you'll encounter solid material in vomit. Use a spatula or a spoon to scrape the solid matter off the seats or the carpets. Alternatively, you can use a rag or several layers of paper towels to remove pieces. Try to be as thorough as possible when removing vomit chunks. Place the chunks into a  zippered plastic bag or a trash bag and place the paper towels with the mess. Keep on cleaning in this manner until you have cleaned up as much as you can.

extraction vomit from upholstery car seats

Proper Disposal of Contaminated Materials:

  • Solid waste: Use a spatula, spoon, or paper towels to carefully remove solid vomit from car seats or carpets. Place the solid waste in a zippered plastic bag or a sealed trash bag to prevent leakage.
  • Absorbent materials: Any paper towels, rags, or cleaning cloths used to wipe or blot the vomit should also be placed in the sealed bag.
  • Double-bagging: Consider double-bagging the sealed bag to ensure an extra layer of protection against leaks and odors.
  • Dispose of the sealed bag in an appropriate waste disposal container or as per your local guidelines.

2.2 Blotting Techniques for Removing Excess Moisture from Car Interiors

Moisture will be part of the vomit. Press an absorbent rag or paper towels in a manner that is just hard enough to absorb the liquid but not hard enough to push it into the underlying surface. If you have  a wet-dry vacuum or a commercial-grade steamer with extraction capabilities, you can also remove smaller chunks and excess liquid. As you remove the liquid, you should begin to notice that the affected area becomes less discolored, which means your efforts are working. If you use this method, keep saturating the area with warm water until the water becomes clear.

You may need to repeat this process four to five times to ensure that you have removed the staining liquid. Every time you leave rags or paper towels on the surface, let them sit for at least five minutes to absorb the liquids. Once you remove the excess liquid, you can begin working on measures to reduce stains and lingering odors.

If you have water spots on your paint, learn more in our guide

2.3 Eliminating Vomit Odor: Effective Strategies for Car Cleaning

Once you have cleaned up the messy chunks and the excess liquid, now it is time to make sure that no puke stains or nasty smells remain. After you have removed the puke, sprinkle baking soda in a thick layer over the area where the mess occurred and leave it for at least 30 minutes. Doing so will help absorb much of the awful vomit smell. The baking soda layer will also help neutralize any stain that you cannot say but may come out later. Once you have let the baking soda sit for the required time, you can vacuum it, soaking up the baking soda and much of the smell.

shampooing seats from vomit

2.4 How to Clean Vinyl, Cloth, and Plastic Interiors After Vomit Incidents

Don’t panic if vomit stains don't come out at first. You may need to use a combination of different cleaners to lift these stains from the fabric of your car seats. Keep repeating these steps, soaking the area in warm water and cleaning solution each time, until the vomit stains are no longer visible on the surface of your car seats. Be patient and persistent!

The more inexpensive the seats, the more likely that the fabric will quickly absorb vomit and moisture. The longer the liquid sits, the more likely it will discolor your seat. Vomit smells will also be more difficult to remove.  All of this means it's important to address the pue problem as quickly as possible so your interior can remain clean and stain-free..Be careful with scrubbing at vomit stains and avoid doing so unless your car seats are made of leather or vinyl material. to clean cloth surfaces. Vigorous scrubbing will only push vomit further into your car seats, making it more difficult to remove. To clean these seats, mix three drops of dishwashing liquid, 1/8 cup of white vinegar and one cup of warm water. Mix thoroughly and put into a spray bottle. You can now use this mixture to gently scrub the vomit stains.

cleaning leather seats with brush from vomit

2.5 Expert Tips for Cleaning and Disinfecting Leather Upholstery

Leather upholstery is easier to clean than cloth or plastic as there is less chance of the vomit liquid seeping into the surface to create stains. Mix together one cup of baking soda with 1/3 cup of water to create a paste, and then apply the solution to the area and scrub with a dry rag or a damp cloth. Switch to a microfiber cloth to blot and are and then let it dry. A toothbrush may also help when attempting to remove vomit that has absorbed into the fabric.

You may also clean leather with a vinegar solution. Add vinegar to a clean rag and carefully wipe until the stain is gone. Don't forget to rinse the area. If stains are set in, let the solution sit until it dries and then rewet with the same solution, waiting a few minutes before scrubbing and removing.

2.6 Rinsing and Drying: Finalizing the Vomit Cleaning Process in Cars

Although you can't run water on the seats, you can rinse them. Tke a dma cloth for leather and a wet cloth for all other surfaces to wipe down the affected area. Use a damp cloth for leather surfaces and a wet cloth for all others to wipe down the area and then blot with a dry cloth. You can also ue a blow dryer to hasten during, or simply leave the car windows and garage open.

3. Removing Dried Vomit: Proven Techniques for Stubborn Stain Removal

Dired vomit requires a slightly different yet similar method. Again, be careful not to scrub too hard on any surface. You may also have to repeat your method several times on stained areas as the liquid has had time to set.

Wipe or scrip off any dried pieces. You may be able to use a soft britled brush or a tooth brush, if needed. If you wish, use a vacuum cleaner to pick up the loose pieces. Some surface like leather or vinyl will scratch if you use a hard bristled brush, so use the softest, yet firmest, surface possible. Moisten the affected are with a solution of baking soda and warm water or a solution of eight parts water to one part vinegar. You may also add mild dishwashing liquid to the veingar solution.

Let the solution sit on the vomit stain until it dries, then rewet it and let it seit again for several minutes before scrubbing. Taking these steps will ensure that the solution penetrates the stain so you can remove all of the dried vomit when scrubbing. After scrubbing, dip a rag into clean water and blot it on the affected area, and follow by wring it out. Repeat until yu have removed all of the cleaning solution and most of the stain with it.

If you got mold in your car check this guide for mold smell removal

4. Vomit Stains on Car Carpets: Best Practices for Removal

Use the same method to remove any vomit that falls on the carpeting. Followw the same methods described above for dried and fresh vomit. You can also try the following natural carpet cleaner to help remove vomit stains:

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons fabric softener
  • 1/2 tablespoon dishwashing liquid
  • 10 to 15 drops of essential oils

Combine these ingredients in a spray bottle and apply to the stains. Allow the solution to sit for a few minutes and then scrub the carpeting with a brush. You can also use this solution on cloth upholstery, if you wish. Follow the same procedure for rinsing.

Learn more about carpet shampooing.
using steam for complete vomit removal and odor

5. Deep Cleaning with Steam: Achieving Spotless Results on Car Carpets

For a more thorough job on how to clean vomit from car, finish with a steam cleaner after you have removed all the vomit. Follow our recommendations to clean leather upholstery or cloth car seats when detailing vehicles.  Using a Fortador commercial steamer is more efficient at removing vomit stains and unpleasant odors, and will also thoroughly remove any bacteria that may be left behind after you clean vomit with a natural upholstery cleaner.

An added benefit when you clean puke from car seats is that you may notice other nearby stains that you can remove at the same. You can apply the previously mentioned cleaning to a nearby stained area and use the steamer to remove those too.

Discover Why Steamer is the Best tool for Car Cleaning

6. Banishing Lingering Odors

Sometimes, no matter how thorough you are when cleaning,  that nasty smell remains. This situation is especially true in summer if you leave puke on a car seat because it will putrify. When that occurs, you'll need to take additional steps to get rid of the odor. Fortunately, we can recommend several natural odor eliminators that will restore your car air to normal.

Deep Clean Method: Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide Combo for Vomit Odor Removal

Try performing another deep clean with a baking soda and hydrogen peroxide combination by combining one teaspoon of the latter and one cup of the former. Let it sit for at least an hour and then remove it with a rag and vacuum or steam away the excess.

A natural enzymatic cleaner is an odor eliminator as it kills lingering bacteria. Pour the cleaner directly onto the affected surface and blot dry with an absorbent cloth.

cleaning vents system after vomit removal

Freshening Up with Car-Specific Air Fresheners: Combatting Vomit Odors

What if you still have a tell-tale odor after you've gone over the affected area several times? Hanging an air freshener in your car can help, especially if the airjust seems a little bit off.  Remember that an air freshener only masks unpleasant odors and doesn't rid them. A hanging air freshener can help odor until it dissipates entirely. You can even try a few drops of essential oil like lemon or orange placed in a diffuser if you want to give the interior a pleasant smell.

Learn more how to clean air vents for odor removal

Natural Deodorizers: Activated Charcoal, Coffee Grounds, or White Vinegar for Car Odor Control

Several other natural substances can help absorb a lingering smell. Fill a bowl with activated charcoal, coffee grounds on white vinegar. Leave the substance in there overnight and keep repeating until the smell is gone. Remember o change the bowl daily. Note that these substances will all have lingering smells also for a time, but it sure beats what you previously had.

Dampen the dirty spot with water and then sprinkle your essential oil and baking soda mixture on top. Let it sit for about ten minutes before vacuuming. You can also place some dryer sheets on top of the stain and place coffee grounds, an effective deodorizer, on top.

One task that you may forget is to keep you car windows open as much as possible before you clean and after, until the puke odors dissipate. There's nothing like a fresh breeze blowing through the interior to dissipate those odor causing molecules.

Check this complete guide for vomit odor removal

Harnessing the Power of Enzyme-Based Cleaners for Vomit Odor Removal in Cars

An enzyme-based cleaner is a highly effective solution for eliminating stubborn odors. When dealing with vomit odors in your car, these cleaners work by breaking down the organic matter and bacteria that cause the unpleasant smell. The enzymes in the cleaner target and digest the odor-causing molecules, leaving your car interior smelling fresh and clean.

By using an enzyme-based cleaner, you can ensure a thorough and long-lasting odor removal process, providing a more enjoyable driving experience for you and your passengers.

7. Conclusion: Maintain a Clean and Fresh-Smelling Car with Proper Vomit Cleaning Techniques

In conclusion, cleaning vomit from your car requires prompt action and the right tools and techniques. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can effectively remove vomit stains and odors from your car's interior. Remember to use personal protective equipment, such as gloves and a face mask, and properly dispose of any contaminated materials.

Do not forget to ventilate

Additionally, make sure to properly ventilate your car during and after the cleaning process to allow fresh air to circulate and eliminate any lingering odors. With these tips, you can restore your car's cleanliness and freshness, ensuring a pleasant and odor-free driving experience.

About the Authors

Sergey "Serg" Paskevich
Panama-based detailing pro, proud owner of Car Care Performance Detailing studio in Panama-City. Specializing in Paint Correction, Ceramic Coating, and comprehensive Car Detailing services
Ugur Sezmis
Renowned in the world of Professional Detailing, Fahrzeugaufbereitung is not only a master in restoring automotive brilliance but also a distinguished Rupes Trainer based in Germany. With a commitment to perfection, he enhances car aesthetics while sharing his expertise through top-notch training.

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