We all just love that new car smell, but when your dog has an “accident” in your car, that smell completely disappears! If the unthinkable has happened, and your dog has indeed peed on your car’s upholstery, you’ll want to get that cleaned up as soon as possible.
We go over the best methods for ridding your car of that offensive odor. This will include using commercial and homemade products that should all prove effective.
Before We Begin
First things first, get that pee cleaned up as soon as you can — the sooner, the better! Car upholstery can be absorbent (unless you have buttery soft leather seats or good old-fashioned vinyl seats), and the longer you wait, the more set in the stain and smell will become.
How you clean up the dog pee or try to get rid of the smell will depend on what kind of car seat and interior material you have.
We go over the best way to clean cloth and leather car seats, since that’s where the odor will be emanating from. We also give you tips for ridding your car of bad odors for good.
The 7 Steps for Cloth Car Seats
Step 1: Air Out the Car
Before doing anything, open all the car doors to stop the scent of both the urine and the cleansers from lingering in your car. Also, it’s a good idea to wear gloves throughout this process.
Step 2: Blotting
Nylon and polyester are probably the most popular materials used in cars. They are durable but also porous and will absorb liquid fairly easily.
If the accident just occurred and the seat is still wet, start by blotting it with paper towels or a clean towel to help absorb the excess moisture. Be sure to pat the towel lightly on the stain and avoid rubbing, or you’ll just press the liquid further into the seat.
Step 3: Create Your Cleansing Solution
If you don’t have a commercial cleanser on hand or can’t afford one, you can make your own with household items.
Mix the ingredients gently to avoid things bubbling up too much.
Step 4: Cleaning
Dip a clean and dry cloth into the cleaning solution, and dab it on the stain, or if you have a spray bottle, you can spray the solution over the stain. Go easy with the amount because you don’t want your seats taking a long time to dry, so just use a modest amount.
Use the blotting technique to dab the solution into the stain, starting with the outside and working your way in.
Step 5: Blot More
Once you feel that you’ve gotten the stain removed, use a clean and dry cloth to start blotting it dry. You’ll want to blot up the excess cleaning solution until the stain is relatively dry.
Step 6: Air Dry
Allow the seats to dry out completely before sitting in them again. If it seems to be taking too long or you need to drive sooner rather than later, you can sprinkle baking soda over the stain. This will help draw the excess moisture out faster, and then you can just vacuum up the baking soda. This won’t have an immediate effect, but it will work more quickly than just letting things air dry.
Step 7: Use a Cleanser
If you already own a cleanser or can go to the store and pick one up, aim to purchase an enzyme cleaner designed for pets. These cleaners are specifically designed to clean the mess and eliminate the odor.
Our top pick for cleaning up pet messes is the Hepper Advanced Bio-Enzyme Pet Stain & Odor Eliminator Spray.
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Just follow the directions on the bottle. With most of these cleaners, you spray the stain and let it sit for about 10 minutes, then blot it until it’s as dry as you can get it. You might need to repeat the process.
The 4 Steps for Leather Car Seats
Step 1: Air Out the Car
Just like with cloth car seats, start by opening all the doors and airing out the car.
Step 2: Clean the Leather
Start by dabbing up any excess liquid, so you don’t spread it around. You should use a cleaner that is meant to be used on leather.
Otherwise, you can gently mix a mild detergent and water, and wash the entire leather seat. If you use detergent rather than a leather cleaner, you should condition the leather afterward, so you don’t dry it out.
Step 3: Clean the Inner Foam (optional)
You might need to remove the leather and clean the foam underneath if the urine managed to seep inside. If it’s necessary to clean the foam, just use an enzyme cleaner and gently clean it by hand. Allow it to air dry completely — direct sunlight can make this part go by faster.
Step 4: Dry the Leather
You can use soft, clean towels to gently dry the leather, or if you would rather have it air dry, just keep it inside either the car or the home in a cool place.
Also, don’t forget to clean anything else that may have urine on it — the mats, in between the cushions, the seams, and so on.
Let’s Deal With That Smell
Now that you’ve cleaned up the mess, you can deal specifically with the smell. If you’ve used an enzyme cleaner to clean up the urine, the smell should disappear, but if it hasn’t, we have a few suggestions.
1. Baking Soda
Just like with your fridge, if you place a bowl or an open container of baking soda inside your car overnight, it does a great job of absorbing bad smells. This might need to be repeated for several nights if the odor is particularly strong.
2. White Vinegar
Vinegar is one of the best cleaners out there, and it also works as an odor remover. If you put equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle and spray the inside of your car (not too much, of course), it should help reduce or remove the odor.
Equal parts of vodka and water in a spray bottle can help act as an air freshener and odor remover. Be sure to open the windows and air out your car afterward, and maybe don’t give anyone a ride until the vodka smell dissipates, for obvious reasons.
4. Coffee Grounds
Like baking soda, coffee grounds can absorb odors, so you can leave some in a bowl in your car overnight. Just make sure you’ve had your morning coffee before getting in to drive — cravings might ensue!
If you have cloth seats and a steam cleaner, you can use it on the stain. Or if you own a wet/dry vacuum, you can use it with carpet cleaner on your seats.
You can also have the inside of your car professionally cleaned if you don’t have the time (or stomach) to do it yourself.
Consider investing in a water-resistant cover that your dog can sit on during a car trip. There are different kinds, such as hammocks. Just double-check that they are either waterproof or water-resistant. Buying one of these seat covers also has the advantage of protecting your seats from dog hair and drool.
Dealing with the site of the urine stain is the first and most crucial step. Don’t forget to air out your car (if you can — weather, wild animals, and neighborhood environment must be considered) and tackle the stain by gently blotting and dabbing first. Invest in a leather cleaner if you haven’t already, as well as an enzyme cleaner and seat protector for your canine friend.
As long as you have the tools and the knowledge and if your dog has another accident (or something else spills), you can confidently tackle the stain and save your car seats and your nose!
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