When you are the parent of a three-year-old, having to clean up various unwelcome substances from the inside of your vehicle is an unfortunate reality. My son has thrown up in the car a few times, although usually manages to keep it pretty well contained to his car seat, which has easily removable covers that can just be thrown in the washer.

That was not the case on Saturday, however, when he managed to cover pretty much the whole carpet of his side of the car (thankfully more or less contained to a removable floor mat that could be easily hosed off), as well as the door panel. Worst of all, he succeeded in filling the storage compartment in his door. I’ve never had to deal with this kind of coverage before, so as soon as we got home, I got online and tried to find out not just how to clean it all up, but crucially, how to remove the smell.

As unpleasant as it was, it actually turned out to be a rather simple process involving three basic steps.

  1. The first step was to wipe up as much of it as I could with some shop towels. Then, on the door panels and leather seats, I simply used the interior cleaner I have in my garage to clean and disinfect the surface, which did the trick.
  2. Next, I covered the carpeted areas (including the storage compartment in the door) with a thick layer of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), and let it sit for half an hour. The baking soda helps absorb whatever liquid remains in the carpet. I then thoroughly vacuumed it all up. If you don’t have leather, you will need to do this on the upholstery as well.
  3. Finally, I made a 1:1 mixture of vinegar and water, added a few drops of washing up liquid and a few drops of citrus oil, and sprayed the carpeted surfaces with the mixture. Vinegar is supposed to neutralise odours, citrus oil helps to break down bacteria, and washing up liquid is a strong detergent. After spraying the carpeted surfaces fairly liberally, I then wiped them down vigorously with a towel. I did this a couple of times just to make sure it was all clean.

After letting it dry overnight, I opened the door of the car the next morning and was pleased to find the smell had gone. There was a trace of the smell of vinegar, but a few squirts from a bottle of Febreeze took care of that. On the whole, the interior of the car now looks and smells fine, with no remaining traces of my son’s semi-digested lunch.


Yes, it’s just an ‘after’ shot, and I suppose some photos illustrating the process would have been helpful. But the last thing I was thinking of in that moment was taking pictures…


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