Eliminate Vomit Odor for Good: Your Comprehensive Guide to Smell Removal in Vehicles

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Updated on:

July 10, 2023

Ultimate Vomit Smell Removal Guide for Your Vehicle

Children, adults and pets vomit in cars. People get motion sickness as passengers. Drunken friends get sick in cars. If you drive for a ride share service, you may have driven party-goers who vomit in your car. When it happens, vomit can create stains and foul smells in your vehicle. Vomit can get on the soft and hard surfaces in your car.

Cleaning the vomit from your car, and ridding your car of the stench is definitely possible if you follow a few simple steps. Most of the items you need to clean vomit from a car are common household items.

Key Takeaways:

  • Act quickly: Clean up vomit as soon as possible to prevent it from setting into surfaces and causing lingering smells.
  • Use protective gear: Wear rubber gloves, a dust mask, and protective eyewear when cleaning vomit to protect yourself from bacteria and viruses.
  • Follow a multi-step cleaning process: Combine different methods like vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and interior steam cleaning to effectively remove vomit stains and odors from your car.

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Table of Contents (Show)

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1. Essential Items for Cleaning Vomit from a Car

Collect the necessary items, and get ready to clean the interior. Some of the items for vomit cleanup serve a similar purpose, such as the sponge and a scrub brush. You can decide what items work best for your vomit clean up situation.

  • Buckets
  • Disposable cloth or rag
  • Sponge
  • Scrub brush
  • Baking soda
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Garbage bag
  • Activated charcoal
  • Paper towels or shop-style absorbent towels
  • Rubber gloves
  • White vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Hot water
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Plastic utensil
  • Safety glasses
  • Dust mast
  • Spray bottle
  • Round tooth picks
  • Ozone machine (generator)
  • Carpet odor remover (optional)
  • Essential oil diffuser (optional)

2. Protective Measures for Safe Vomit Cleanup

use gloves tthan youclean car from vomit
Use protection gloves

Vomit can contain bacteria and viruses.  Make sure you have protective gear when you clean the vomit deeper from within the surfaces. Wear rubber gloves, a dust mask and protective eye wear or eyeglasses. This may seem like an unnecessary precaution, but you should protect yourself.

3. Quick and Effective Vomit Cleanup Techniques

If you act quickly, the vomit clean-up will be easier. The vomit will have less time to absorb and set into the fabric upholstery and other areas of the vehicle. Clean up the vomit before it has dried if possible.

4. Removing Surface Vomit and Solid Chunks

Put your rubber gloves on, and get your garbage bag ready. Wear a dust mask to potentially dampen the smell. You can use a plastic utensil to pick up and scrape as many of the particles as you can off the upholstery and carpet. Fresh vomit will likely have multiple layers. Use paper towels to remove any remaining particles or solid material from the vomit.

5. Clean Surface and Mid-Level Vomit from Your Car

Use the paper towels to blot and absorb the fresh vomit and moisture. Do not use a back and forth scrubbing motion. Dab the affected area until it is virtually dry. You may have to use up to half of a role of paper towels to accomplish this.

6. Remove Remaining Vomit from Your Car

There are several ways and cleaning agents you can use to get rid of the vomit and vomit stains. There are advantages to each, and they can perform differently. You can use baking soda, vinegar, dish soap, or a commercial cleaning agent. If you have to clean vomit from your car more than once, you can determine which method works best.

7. Multi-Step Process to Thoroughly Clean Vomit from Your Car

To get the most complete results, you can often combine one method with another. Each home cleaning agent has different cleaning properties, and can interact with the soft surface and clean in a different way. You can begin with vinegar and continue with the baking soda treatment.

8. Vinegar Cleaning Method for Vomit Smell Removal in Your Car


This method for cleaning vomit involves combining distilled white vinegar, dish soap and warm water. Mix about three cups of vinegar, a tablespoon of dish shop in a bucket of warm water. The vinegar has cleaning and odor-eliminating properties.

Be sure to have on your protective gear including gloves, a dust mask and eyewear.

How-to remove vomit odor with vinegar

1. Use a scrub brush and a sponge dipped in the liquid mix you have prepared. Begin with the brush in a circular motion as you work the cleaning solution into the vomit-stained area. The brush will disrupt the fibers in the fabric upholstery and loosen the micro vomit particles.

2. Dab the area dry with a paper towel or disposable rag. Use as many towels or rags as necessary. Repeat the brush vomit-cleaning process one to two more times. Be sure to blot dry in between cleanings.

3. Soak the sponge in the cleaning mixture. Ring out the sponge a little. Scrub the area in a back-and-forth motion with the sponge. Blot dry the excess moisture with a towel or absorbent cloth.

9. Baking Soda Technique: Eliminating Vomit Odor from Your Car


Baking soda is a key agent to eliminate smells and provide a deeper clean. Baking soda is an inexpensive and effective product for cleaning.

How-to remove vomit odor with baking soda

Spread the baking soda on the wet vomit area. Do not be shy with the amount as you spread it up to ¼-inch thick. The baking soda will immediately go to work. Some experts recommend adding a spray of lemon juice to this mixture to eliminate vomit smells. Leave the Arm & Hammer or another brand of baking soda on the stained area for three to five hours.  The longer it sits on the moist vomit, the more it will absorb.

Vacuum the baking soda with a vacuum cleaner or shop vac. Be thorough as you make persistent contact with the vacuum end attachment against the car interior. This will also help remove the remaining moisture. Determine if the vomit aroma still exists. Repeat the process as necessary, and leave the baking soda on for a few hours to eliminate the lingering smell.

10. Hydrogen Peroxide Method: Removing Fresh Vomit Smell


Hydrogen peroxide has properties that can eliminate this problem in your vehicle. Mix the hydrogen peroxide with a 50/50 mix of water in a spray bottle. Be cautious not to leave the mixture on fabric upholstery to long as it can lighten some fibers.

How-to remove vomit odor with peroxide

Spray the solution on a low-profile area to test the action. After you spray it, leave it on for a few minutes, and thoroughly blot up the cleaning solution with paper towels.  

11. Steam Cleaning: A Powerful Solution for Vomit Cleanup

After you are done cleaning fresh vomit chunks and solid matter from the area, you can deploy steam as the next agent. Using a steam cleaner with an extractor will remove the liquid vomit, remove excess moisture and sterilize the surfaces.

12. Enzymatic Cleaners: Breaking Down Vomit Stains in Your Car

An Enzymatic cleaner is an off-the-shelf cleaning product that uses enzymes to break down stains. This type of cleaner will break down protein-based stains and get rid of the foul smell that comes along with it. Follow the manufacturer instructions on the bottle.

Learn more about cleaning air vents

13. Eliminating Lingering Odors: Effective Solutions for Freshening Your Car

The vomit smells from the odor causing bacteria can linger in your car. A car air freshener will simply mask the foul stench. For vomit, you will need to use more than an air freshener to eliminate the smell. Taking action with an overnight cleaning treatment is necessary to eliminate the unpleasant odors. You have great options on what to use.

13.1 White Vinegar

Pour white vinegar in a bowl. Leave the white vinegar in your vehicle overnight for at least 18-hours. If you have a larger SUV, you can use two or three bowls of white vinegar. The vinegar will naturally absorb the ambient odors.

13.2 Baking Soda

Vomit is acidic. The properties of baking soda allow it neutralize acidic odors. Open up the lid of the soda, and let it sit in the car overnight. Many soda boxes are designed with a “pull up” function that is made to absorb odors. You can leave that in your car for a week or longer and not have worry about spilling the box.

13.3 Coffee Grounds

Although black coffee grounds are less absorbent than other solutions, they are extremely cost-effective. If you want to get the vomit smell reduction job done fast, this is an effective technique. Coffee grounds will not entirely eliminate the smell, but they are effective in the short term.

13.4 Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is very effective at absorbing odors. You can purchase it in a package that exposes its large surface area. This allows for masses of pores to absorb the vomit smell. You can also use charcoal briquettes. Untreated charcoal briquettes are common. They also work to remove bad smells, including vomit. Leave the activated charcoal in and let it sit in your car overnight.

13.5 Another Choice On How to Remove Vomit Smell From Car Surfaces

There are carpet powders you can buy at your favorite department store. You can sprinkle these on the clean and dry carpeting or floor mats. The odor-absorbing properties of these can be effective. You simply vacuum them up.

14. Enjoying Your Rides Again: Final Steps after Vomit Cleanup

After you have applied an odor-reducer technique, you may want to introduce a strong fragrance to freshen the car. You can use an essential oil diffuser to effectively deliver a pleasant fragrance of your choice.

Also check you car on mold smell and learn more about getting rid of it.

15. Windows and Doors

windows cleaning from vomit

If you are treating the vomit smell in your garage, leave all the windows open overnight. This will allow the odor to dissipate. You can also keep all the doors open to allow fresh air in. Be sure to shut your dome lights off in your car so your battery does not drain.

Check this guide for car windows cleaning fast and efficient

16. Removing Vomit from Hard Surfaces in Your Car: Tips and Tricks

door panels cleaning from vomit
Cleaning of door panels

Seat belts, door handles and other controls can present special problems when cleaning up vomit. The vomit liquid can seep and cake in the cervices of these switches and buttons. Use a round toothpick to get the vomit out from the edges of the controls.

Use vinegar on a damp cloth to wipe the area. Do not soak this area. Use sanitizing wipes to clean and sanitize the hand controls and surrounding surfaces. If you use a steam cleaner, this will also sterilize the area.

Surfaces, such as door panels and dashboards can be easily cleaned. Use a paper towel to remove the vomit. Discard the towels in the garbage bag. Use a 50/50 vinegar and water mixture to finish the cleaning job on these hard surfaces.

Learn about washing microfiber towels to keep them ready

17. Special Care for Leather Upholstery: Dealing with Vomit Stains

Leather is especially absorbent. The acidic properties of vomit can discolor leather upholstery. Leather can also hold the foul smell longer, which can make removing vomit smell challenging.

You can rid the leather of vomit using 50/50 vinegar and water mixture. Some leather can discolor with cleaning solutions. Apply the cleaning mixture on a microfiber cloth to a hidden area of the leather to test the results. There are commercial leather cleaning products you can buy. If there are vomit stains in the seams and stitching of the leather seats, you can use a soft-bristle brush on that area.

Steam cleaning is also very effective in cleaning car leather.

Also chek our guide of smoke smell removal out of car interior.

18. FAQs: Common Questions About Vomit Odors Cleanup in Cars

Shampooing of carpets to remove vomit smell
Shampooing of carpets to remove vomit smell

Q. What neutralizes puke smell?

A. There are many great and common household solutions that will rid your car or truck of puke smell. You can use baking soda, vinegar, black coffee and activated charcoal.

Q. Will vomit smell eventually go away?

A. Vomit smell will not go away on its own. You will need to treat the surface of the vomit stain as well as the ambient air to rid the area of vomit smell. Keep the resale value of your car as high as possible by eliminating the vomit smell.

Q. How do you get the smell of vomit out of your car Reddit?

A. Clean the fresh vomit right away. You have great and effective options to treat the area. Use scrubbing techniques with odor-neutralizing agents, such as vinegar, baking soda and charcoal. You can use these products directly on the affected area and then later as an air-odor absorbent. Another great option is using ozone machine

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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